Question: If somebody slips and gets hurt on the icy sidewalk outside of my home, will my homeowner’s insurance cover medical bills?

After last week's blizzard, I got a lot of questions related to homeowner's insurance coverage, so I reached out to a reliable professional to address your questions. This week's column is brought to you by Max Olson, a third generation insurance professional who owns the Olson Insurance Agency in Arlington VA. More information can be found at www.NationwideMax.com. Take it away Max...

Homeowners Insurance can cover most winter-related claims if the policy is set up properly. Considering the average home insurance claim is over $8,000, it's important to know what is and isn't covered. Lets look at the most common claims and how coverage can be extended from your home insurance policy. 

Trip & fall lawsuits

Make sure to properly clear your sidewalk area once safe to do so because ultimately you could be liable for someone tripping and falling on the sidewalk outside of your house. Your home insurance should provide some coverage for this (typically around $300,000) under the personal liability coverage. If you desire more coverage than this, you may want to talk to your insurance agent about getting an umbrella policy. 

Burst pipes due to freezing

The home insurance policy will cover the damage that the water causes but it generally won't cover the damage to the pipe itself. If the pipe is damaged and a slow leak is found weeks later, generally most policies will exclude coverage saying that the damage is a maintenance issue. 

Wind damage

Whether wind directly damages your home or causes a tree to fall on your home, most policies cover the resulting damage. The deductible that you pay for this type of claim may be different than your normal deductible. Depending on your policy, this could be 2-5 times larger than your normal deductible. Some insurance companies have raised these deductibles across the board and unless people have actually read their declaration pages at renewal (not common) they aren't aware of the changes. 

Water backup

Often, after the snow begins to thaw it can create a large amount of water around the house. If you have a sump-pump, make sure that your insurance policy covers "Water/Sewer Backup" or the damage caused if your sump pump fails might not be covered. This is one of the most common home insurance gaps that I see. 

Overall, homeowner's insurance is a great way to protect yourself from the damage that Mother Nature can do to your home. Every few years just make sure to review your coverage and deductibles with your insurance agent so when something does happen, you won't be surprised that the coverage is different than you expected. 

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