Car Insurance And Natural Disasters

Are You Covered, and What should You Do After a Disaster?

Car Insurance And Natural Disasters
February 17, 2016

Your car was just inundated in a flash flood, consumed in a fire, blown away by a tornado, or crushed by falling debris. After you make sure that all of your loved ones are okay and your house is intact, you turn your attention to your now-useless car. Does your policy cover natural disasters? If so, what should you do?

The obvious first step is to make sure your car is covered before a natural disaster strikes. For cases like this, you need comprehensive coverage, which is often sold in packages with collision coverage. “C&C” policies are truly comprehensive, since the collision component handles collision-based damages, and comprehensive covers accidents like natural disasters that are not the result of a collision.

Whether you have comprehensive coverage separately or as a package, check the exclusions in your policy and make sure that you understand the terms.

Comprehensive insurance is generally held with newer cars. However, people tend to drop C&C policies when cars age and the yearly premiums approach a certain percentage of the car’s value, often around 10-15%.

Without comprehensive coverage, you are generally on your own for natural disasters — although sometimes homeowner’s or renter’s policies will provide some coverage. If you live in a flood-prone area or an area with frequent tornadoes, for example, you may place a higher value on comprehensive coverage.

Assuming you do have comprehensive coverage when disaster strikes, what are your next steps?

  • Document Evidence – The very first thing to do is to document the damage. Take photos from multiple angles, including the inside of the car as well as areas such as the engine compartment and the trunk.

If you can, optimize the lighting to make sure the damage is visible and obvious. If that requires taking photos the next morning, do so. The important point is not to clean it up or alter anything until you have obvious and clear photographic evidence of the damage.

  • Contact Your Agent Immediately – It is important to file your claim quickly during natural disasters. You probably aren’t the only one with a totaled vehicle, and you could be stuck in a significant queue if you don’t contact your agent quickly — and the longer an evaluation takes, the longer it takes you to receive a check.
  • Be Persistent – Insurance companies are often overwhelmed, so it is important to keep in regular touch about the status of your claim. You don’t have to be unpleasant, but you do have to be persistent.
  • Research the Value – Knowing the true value of your totaled car can help you to judge whether your claim is fair. Research the value of your old car on sites such as Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book.

If you receive a settlement offer that is too low based on your search, do not hesitate to push back, but push back with your facts. Ask to speak to the claims office manager or to upper level managers if required.

As a last resort, you can file a complaint with your state insurance commissioner and/or seek an attorney. Keep the attorney’s fees in mind if you decide to go down that path.

Congratulations! You have received your check and are ready to replace your car. Do the same type of research on your new car that you did to get that replacement check.

While you’re at it, check out your insurance options for your new car, and don’t forget the comprehensive coverage. You now know just how valuable that is.


Photo ©iStock.com/Chimiel

  Conversation   |   10 Comments

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Nancy | 02.17.16 @ 16:17
With all of the flash floods that have been occurring even people who don't live in normal flood areas need to look into this.
Irene | 02.17.16 @ 16:18
Great info, even though we pay for insurance some companies act like it's their money and not ours!
Erin | 02.17.16 @ 16:18
Having photographic evidence and lots of it is such an important tip. Insurance companies will do whatever they can to get out of paying, unfortunately.
Carla Truett | 02.17.16 @ 16:19
We live in tornado alley so I will definitely be reviewing our policy.
Steffanie | 02.17.16 @ 16:20
We usually have older vehicles, so this insurance is just not economical for us.
Elaine | 02.17.16 @ 16:20
Seems like insurance companies are always thing to find ways out of paying. So this is some great advice to remember when things come up and we need them.
Meredith L | 02.17.16 @ 16:24
These are great tips especially since no one really considers that it really CAN happen to you. Document everything. Take pictures. Be an advocate for yourself! It's so important.
Alec | 02.17.16 @ 16:24
A natural disaster in Florida seems like it's very possible. My husband and I keep our insurance up to date and always document and photograph any damage in order to keep our vehicle in good working order!
Kamie | 02.17.16 @ 16:26
I have seen too many people suffering from small print things in their insurance for natural disasters, I think now is the time to actually look at exactly what kind of natural disasters is covered, because we are having earthquakes where we should be having them, tornadoes where you would least expect them.
gracie | 02.17.16 @ 16:28
I am glad I have never been in a natural disaster that did damage to my car! I hadn't thought much about it until reading this list. Good to keep the steps that need to be followed with our insurance paperwork so we are prepared just in case!
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.03.16 @ 02:26
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