If you've just spent a few harrowing moments spinning out on ice or desperately trying to see through buckets of rain, insurance claims might be the last thing on your mind. But many insurance companies cover weather-related accidents, particularly if you weren't driving in a way that was unsafe for the conditions. Documenting the damages to your car early, as well as any injuries, can save you a long fight with your insurance company.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Your specific insurance policy determines whether you have coverage for weather-related accidents and how much. Your policy could include coverage for all weather-related incidents or none at all, or it may offer only limited coverage that excludes single-car accidents.
Insurance Policy Basics
Your first source for figuring out whether weather damage is covered should be your insurance policy. Your coverage will primarily depend on the type of insurance you have and the specific exclusions listed in your policy. Some insurance companies – particularly those offering discount policies – might not cover any weather damage, but others will pay on almost all types.
Most auto insurance companies won't cover weather damage that occurs when you're not driving. For example, if your garage roof caves in because of a heavy snow load, this would likely be covered under your homeowners policy.
Coverage for Safe Driving
If your auto insurance covers weather-related accidents, you'll likely be covered as long as you were driving responsibly. But if you get in an accident because you were speeding or following too closely, you might not be covered, particularly if you receive a ticket.
Your coverage will depend on whether your car insurance covers single-car accidents when you are at fault and how your policy defines safe driving. Most insurance companies determine who was at fault in an accident, and if you're the only one in the accident due to icy conditions, severe rain or other weather challenges, you'll automatically be at fault.
Negligence Not Covered
If you're extremely negligent in deciding to drive, you might not be covered, even if the accident isn't your fault. For example, choosing to drive over an icy pond might be considered negligent. Even if you drive safely, your insurance might not cover damages if you shouldn't have been driving in the first place, or if you should have known road conditions were unsafe.
Pursuing a Claim
Immediately after your accident, document all damages to your vehicle as well as any injuries you experience. Keep your medical records and any car repair bills you receive, and contact your insurance company to notify it of your accident. If your insurance company appraises the damage to your car or assesses the cost of repairs, get an independent estimate. Hiring an attorney can help you recover more money, and many auto accident attorneys work on contingency, which means you'll pay only if you win.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.