Feb 3, 2023 - News

Insurance claims set to mount as Austin thaws

A fallen limb rests on the back of a car.

A fallen limb atop the back of a car in South Austin. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

You parked your 2015 Toyota Corolla on your pretty Austin street innocently enough, but a pecan tree branch, heaving with ice, gave up the ghost due to the ice storm this week. Now your car looks like a John Chamberlain sculpture.

Driving the news: A lot of Austinites, despondent over roof or car damage from falling trees, are now looking for help.

What they're saying: "I don't have tree insurance, what am I gonna do?" one person in West Campus lamented on Tik Tok about his devastated truck.

Be smart: If a tree falls on your house or car, take photos of the damage before you do any repairs, per the Texas Department of Insurance.

  • After you make temporary repairs to prevent further damage, contact your agent or insurance company.

Details: Many homeowners policies pay to fix damage from falling objects, like trees, and offer at least some coverage to remove trees or limbs that fall due to storm damage, per TDI.

If a neighbor's tree falls on your house, your neighbor's homeowners policy probably won't cover the damage — unless your neighbor was at fault.

  • The thinking: Your neighbor isn’t responsible for acts of nature.

Between the lines: "The big question for this storm — an ice storm where primarily damage is caused by trees or branches falling on houses or other buildings — is it enough damage to exceed the deductible on the policy, which has increased over the years," Jim Beneke, president and founder of Austin-based Beneke Company/Adjusters International, tells Axios.

  • Most policies have a 2-3% deductible, so it "takes pretty sizable damage to make a claim. If a tree falls on a power line causing a house to burn, then obviously you have a significant claim."
  • On a house valued at $500,000, that could mean the claim needs to exceed $10,000-$15,000 before it vaults the deductible, Beneke observed.

And as for your scrunched up car — your auto policy will pay for damages if you have comprehensive coverage, which typically carries a flat deductible of $250 or $500.

Bottom line: Finding your car or home damaged is awful — and scary — but this is what insurance is for.


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