The Big Freeze Broken Pipes and Snow… the Way It Was
While looking for some information in my office library yesterday, I pulled a book from a shelf titled The Policyholder Advisor authored by Eugene R. Anderson, William G. Passannante, and Robert M. Horkovich. These three gentlemen, all attorneys, and at the time of publishing in 2002, shareholders at Anderson Kill & Olick P.C. now Anderson Kill P.C. one of the nation’s leading law firms for policyholders. The book jacket noted that the book is a collection of articles published in the firm’s newsletter, “The Policyholder Advisor.”
It was a little uncanny when I opened the book, and it opened to page 181 and the chapter title was “Insurance Coverage Available for Property Losses from The Blizzard of 96.” While no two storms are ever the same, there sure are a lot of similarities between the 1996 blizzard and the current polar vortex malaise of 2014; especially when it comes to insurance coverage issues and disputes with insurance carriers.
What was interesting to me, was that some of the material and advice these gentlemen covered is still applicable today. While all the advice covered in this section of the book is too lengthy to deal with here, I thought a couple of points may be of interest to policyholders struggling with today’s water, frozen pipe leak and snow accumulation claim issues.
As an example, water damage losses are often denied because they are reported or categorized by claim departments as a flood. Generally, flood is excluded in most standard property insurance policies, but water damage from broken pipes or melting snow is not a flood, it is water damage which is almost universally covered in today’s property insurance policies. The same thing with thawing ice or accumulated snow which can result in collapsed of roofs. Even though the insurance carrier may not always say so, this type of loss will most likely be covered.
Have a personal property or contents loss from water? Most likely it is not from a flood but water that may have entered through an opening in the building. While contents or personal property may only be covered for a named peril unlike the all risk coverage for a building structure, it may not be hard to make a claim for water damage if the likely source was water from melting snow or ice.
What about the “water damage exclusion?” Here is how The Policyholder Advisor addresses that question; “The standard homeowner policy does contain a “water damage exclusion” which purports to bar insurance coverage for property damage resulting from (1) a flood, (2) a sewer back up, or (3) water below the surface of the ground which seeps into a building. The insurance industry would like you to believe that this exclusion bars coverage for claims brought as a result of the blizzard. The insurance industry argument fails however because the “water damage exclusion” does not apply to melting snow and ice.
The “water damage exclusion contained in the standard homeowner’s policy is directed at damage arising from floods. Melting snow is not a flood. Courts have defined “flood waters” as those that escape from a stream or other body of water, not melting snow. Moreover, the third prong of the water damage exclusion does not expressly pertain to water that accumulates on top of the surface of the ground such as melting snow.”
The Policyholder Advisor is full of examples of insurance property coverage issues and should be a part of any policyholder advocate’s library. I have the 2002 edition, which was published by Juris Publishing Inc. 71 New Street, Huntington, N.Y. 11743. The book is available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Policyholder-Advisor-Anderson-Kill/dp/192944625X
My firm is pleased to be a part of the Anderson Kill Loss Advisors Network.