PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Car crashes, broken tree limbs and pipe bursts are just a few things that have kept insurance agents busy since snow began falling on Wednesday.
The recent snowstorm dropped 10.8 inches of snow in a single day, creating weather-related problems people in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington had never experienced before.
Stephanie Saetern has been an agent with Farmers Insurance in Portland for 15 years. She said this snowstorm stood out over others because so many people abandoned their vehicles and then many of those abandoned vehicles were hit by other drivers who slid into them.
“In insurance, if your vehicle is hit and there’s nobody to kind of go after for the insurance, unless you have full coverage with collision for uninsured motorists on there, a lot of times, people don’t have the money to get the damages repaired,” she said.
That means vehicle owners who only have liability coverage will be responsible for paying for any damage to their vehicles, even if it was caused by someone else.
Even people who have full coverage often have some sort of deductible they’ll need to pay before the insurance company covers the rest.
Saetern said none of her clients experienced anything too horrible in the latest winter storm, but she’s heard about other people’s experiences. She said Farmers Insurance’s towing policy helped a lot of people who were stuck.
If a person is in a car crash in snowy conditions, whether it’s with another vehicle, a single-vehicle crash or a collision with something like a fallen tree branch, Saetern said it’s important to first get to a safe location before filing an insurance claim.
“Get yourself to safety and go home first. Reporting the claim is not the number one thing, but if there’s anything urgent then definitely call the non-emergency number and let them know where your vehicle’s at, where the damage or the injury, the large area where stuff is at,” she said.
If someone is seriously injured or in an unsafe situation after a crash, call 911.
In the case where a tree or a branch falls on a vehicle, Saetern said it will often fall under comprehensive insurance. If the owner of the property the tree is on was not caring for their tree properly, they could be found liable for the damage, but the insurance company will determine that.
Saetern said that serves as a reminder for homeowners to keep their branches trimmed and off the main street area to help protect anyone walking or parking under the trees.
The same goes for homeowners and their sidewalks. If homeowners don’t shovel snow or treat ice on a sidewalk near their home, it’s possible someone could sue them if they fall and injure themselves on the sidewalk.
Burst pipes are another unexpected issue people face when the temperature drops. When pipes burst, they can sometimes flood homes and cause significant damage.
Oftentimes, Saetern said this damage is covered under most homeowners insurance policies, as long as it’s sudden and accidental. Homeowners aren’t expected to have flood insurance to cover the cost of these repairs. Flood insurance, she said, is meant to protect against things like natural disasters.
Saetern hopes the winter weather serves as a reminder for people to review their home and auto insurance policies to make sure they’re prepared for a storm like this again in the future.
“Make sure you have the right coverage in the event that something should happen. The last thing you want is to have an accident, vehicle-wise or home-wise, and not have adequate coverage,” she said.