When you read your insurance policy after a tornado, it may seem clear to you that the property losses you suffered in the storm will be covered. However, when your insurance company reads the same policy, it says that you’re not covered. How can there be so much confusion over a single policy when the words you’re looking at are the same?
Unfortunately, these kinds of misunderstandings happen more than you might think. Differing interpretations of policy wording, unexpected exclusions, and even subtle gaps in coverage can mean that many seemingly legitimate tornado claims are instead denied outright. Here are some things you should know.
Common Misunderstandings About Insurance Coverage After a Tornado
Many property owners misunderstand the coverage their insurance policies really provide. Despite efforts to make policy terms easier for consumers to understand, these documents are often still filled with confusing industry terms and unusual definitions. While many people have read their basic declarations page, they often haven’t read deeper into their policies—and they may not be aware of important exceptions to their coverage. For example, although most standard policies will include some coverage for tornado losses, they don’t always cover:
- Inflation adjustments. Inflation can mean that the cost of repairs or replacement has increased significantly compared to when you first purchased your insurance policy. However, insurance companies don’t always account for the most recent fluctuations in price.
- Changes in building codes. Building codes and regulations change over time, but insurance companies won’t always cover the costs of bringing a property up to new codes. This can particularly be a challenge in areas that have suffered very heavy damages from tornados and may need to completely rebuild properties.
- Access for repairs. Although your insurance policy may cover the repair of tornado damages, it doesn’t always cover the cost of getting in to do the job. While the costs of access lines and drywall patches may not necessarily add a lot to the final cost of a repair, they can add up quickly and come as surprise when payment is due.
- Losses caused by flooding. Although floods often accompany tornados, the damages they cause aren’t usually covered in standard property insurance policies. Instead, most home and business owners have to submit these claims through their separate flood insurance policies. There can also be confusing exclusions or gray areas when it comes to coverage for losses due to sewer backup and overwhelmed drains in heavy rains. Insurance claims for water damage are often complicated, so make sure you understand how your coverage works.
Another common source of misunderstanding is that insurance coverage can also vary depending on where you live. For example, in some tornado-prone regions of the Midwest, insurance coverage for tornado losses may be much more limited than in other areas of the United States.
Clearing Up Misunderstandings About Tornado Insurance Policy Terms
To avoid misunderstandings, the best thing you can do is make sure you carefully read through and understand your insurance policies. You should ask questions about what might be covered, and pay attention to deductibles, coverage limits, and exclusions. Don’t be afraid to ask the insurance company for help if there are sections or exclusions you don’t understand. You should also make sure to check your insurance coverage regularly and notify the company any time you’ve made major changes to your property. All of this helps you avoid surprising claim denials when you need help the most.
However, keep in mind that there are also situations where the insurance isn’t playing fair, so don’t automatically assume that a denial or delay is your fault. There are many tricks insurance companies use to avoid paying the maximum amount for tornado claims, and there are times when insurance companies unfairly interpret policy terms to their benefit. It’s worth taking the time to talk over any major surprises in your coverage with an experienced professional.
Insurance companies deny tornado claims for a number of reasons, and it’s not always the policyholder who is wrong. If you’ve read over your existing policies and just can’t seem to spot the problem, the next step is to take your concerns to an experienced policyholder attorney. With professional legal help on your side, you can work through your policy—word by word, if necessary—to dig out the truth about your coverage and make sure the insurance company is treating you fairly and acting in “good faith.” If you have questions, reach out to the Voss Law Firm at 1-888-614-7730 for a one-on-one review of your situation and real answers about moving forward.