The OCABR and the Division of Insurance have prepared a series of tips for agents and insurers to share with their insureds
The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, along with the Division of Insurance, has decided to take a proactive approach this winter in order to help consumers prepare for the potential damage that often results from winter storms.
“We’re not waiting for the first storm or lengthy freeze to warn consumers about the risks of not being adequately prepared for winter weather,” said Consumer Affairs Undersecretary John Chapman. “Consumer’s homes and cars are their biggest assets. By spending a little money now to get them ready for winter, consumers could prevent needing to make expensive repairs later.”
Part and parcel of being prepared, adds Insurance Commissioner Daniel Judson, is making sure that your policy is adequately covering their property in the event that they need to file an insurance claim. “Being prepared also means policyholders should review their coverages and be certain they understand their responsibilities,” said Insurance Commissioner Daniel Judson. “If your policy doesn’t cover the type of damage your home or car sustains the expenses could be significant.”
Preparing your home for Winter
The following are nine tips that the Division says will ensure that your home is properly “winterized” and ready for when winter rears its ugly head.
- Walkways and driveways should be cleared of snow and ice and treated with ice melt. Use a pet-friendly alternative to avoid illness or injury to animals.
- Trim trees back from your house and away from power lines.
- Clear gutters and downspouts and keep roofs free of significant snow accumulation.
- Inspect the underside of the roof for signs of leaks.
- Make sure the chimney is clean and in good working order.
- All water pipes should be properly insulated to prevent freezing.
- Have a battery back-up for any electric smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Check the heating system and make sure heat is being delivered to all vents.
- Keep dryer vent unobstructed.
Preparing your car for Winter
Aside from the home, cars are often a policyholder’s second biggest asset. The following tips will help make sure your car will make it through till Spring.
- Have a mechanic check your vehicle to make sure all systems are running properly.
- Make sure tires have adequate tread and the recommended air pressure.
- Check your spare tire and make sure it, the jack, and lug wrench are all stored in the trunk.
- Keep jumper cables, a shovel, tire chains, a bag of salt or sand, basic tools, and a medical kit in the car.
- Carry a cell phone and have a flashlight, ice scraper, snow brush or broom, and signaling devices such as flares or reflective triangles in the vehicle. Bring along extra warm clothing, gloves, a blanket, food and water.
- Keep the windshield wiper fluid tank filled and make sure your wiper blades are in good working order.
- Maintain at least a half tank of gasoline.
- Clear accumulated snow and ice off your car as soon as possible.
When it comes time to file a claim
If ultimately, damage does occur and an insured needs to file a claim, giving your insured a game plan on how to do so may avoid many later complications and issues down the road. With that in mind, the Division has shared the following tips to help insureds make a claim in a timely and efficient manner.
- Report claims to your insurance company as soon as possible. Independent insurance agents should be notified of any claims as well.
- Protect your damaged property to the extent you can to prevent further damage and salvage what you can.
- Note and photograph all damage and losses. This will assist in settling claims.
- If temporary housing is necessary, check your policy for Loss of Use coverage. Your policy may cover such expenses up to a stated amount.
- Be sure everything is considered in the claim. Back-up your claim with written estimates.
The Division also notes that consumers with insurance coverage questions can always contact the Division’s Consumer Services Unit at (617) 521-7777. The Division’s also reminds us that its website at www.mass.gov/doi provides valuable information regarding all lines of insurance, including auto and homeowners.