To start off the new year there was a winter snowstorm, a big, impressive one. In some places along the eastern seaboard, the conditions reached blizzard status and temperatures dropped for days on end. While youngsters enjoyed sled riding, building snow men and school closings, did adults share their enthusiasm? Shoveling sidewalks and driveways and digging out cars? Those are the easy things to observe, but let me share with you a major problem that plagues homeowners in winter: freezing pipes that break and cause water damage.

A Burst Pipe Lead To Flood Damage

My daughter called me when water rushed into her laundry room and kitchen from her neighbor’s house. The culprit was a pipe in the neighbor’s house, attached to my daughter’s. The pipe burst, and water poured into her home and several of the other attached homes. My daughter was in a panic. She wanted reassurance for her two-year old son’s, my grandson’s, comfort and security. Her well-placed immediate concern was about the safety of the water and the later possibility of mold and mildew. She immediately called her homeowner’s insurer who took the claim.

Within a day, a remediation team arrived to dry out the sheetrock, remove the damaged flooring and kitchen cabinets. They set up a dehumidifier and fans, which stayed in place for four days. They moved the refrigerator, washer and dryer. Then they cut out the sheetrock, so they could siphon out the water and remove the damaged insulation.

After that, she needed new flooring, replacement of the removed insulation, and a parade of carpenters, painters, plumbers and other tradespeople.

Who Is At Fault?

During the incident and after, the homeowners’ association did nothing. The landlord/property owner wasn’t home, and their renter didn’t know what to do and was away for the holidays, too. The police came as did the water department, who shut off the water. One house had 3-4 feet of water, another house, like my daughter, had 1-2 feet. Who is to blame? It was not my daughter’s fault. Was it the original builder who installed the uninsulated pipe? Or was it the homeowners’ association who did nothing to contain the damage? Was it the actual owner who was not there? What about the renter who was away for the holidays? Who does what? Who pays? How long do you live with the stench or the damage caused by the flood?

What’s Next?

My daughter called the insurance company, and then called and hired an independent adjuster to inspect and list all of the damage. The adjuster would provide a professional record of the damage and someone to handle the insurance company’s adjuster.

She called a reputable contractor/repair person who would provide a detailed estimate, take care of all the repairs and keep her informed step-by-step. The insurance company adjuster did call after several days and acknowledged that the insurer would pay the remediation people directly. The adjuster also requested the completed independent adjuster’s report for review and payment.

The insurance company informed her of the most important item of all after health and safety. They – the insurer – would deal with however many people or entities were at fault. They would subrogate and collect not only the payment to my daughter, but the policy deductible as well.

She had adequate homeowner’s insurance and that successfully resolved her issues of damage, repair, replacement, and blame.

Things Happen – Are You Covered?

No one can stop a pipe from bursting, but adequate insurance from a reputable company can minimize your damage and anxiety. In case of an incident, allow a professional adjuster – who works for you – and your selected repair people handle the damage.

Double check your homeowner or renter insurance policy to be certain that you have adequate coverage for all your belongings and property. Coverage must contain replacement cost for both building and contents. Verify the liability limit for injuries to visitors and guests, or damage to another’s property to be sure it is adequate.

Insurance policy coverages are complex, not always easy to understand and not automatically stacked in your favor. Start by having a trusted agent/broker. But being well informed is still your responsibility. It is to that end I offer information. My intent is to shed light on these issues to help you become an informed insurance buyer and have the coverage you need for you and your family.

Do not consider this article insurance advice. You should consult a licensed and reputable insurance broker who is familiar with your needs before purchasing insurance.