There have been 11 named storms in the Atlantic in 2019 so far. The first hurricane was Barry, which made landfall in Louisiana back in July. August followed with Dorian, which reached Category 5 status.
The Atlantic hurricane season lasts until November 30, and it’s important to know your belongings are safe - and that includes your car. A hurricane can mean one moment your car is locked up securely inside your garage, then the next moment it's stuck in your neighbor's tree.
Knowing how much damage a hurricane can cause, it may leave you wondering if your car insurance coverage is adequate. If you live in a hurricane-prone region, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that most auto insurance policies will cover hurricane damage. However, it’s essential to familiarize yourself first with the restrictions and requirements of this type of coverage.
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Hurricane season in the United States
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. The Atlantic and Eastern Pacific regions of the U.S. have the highest chance of being affected by hurricanes. According to an analysis conducted on data from 1851-2015 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, most hurricanes strike the U.S. throughout August, September and October.
If you live in one of these regions or are traveling to these regions during their designated hurricane season, be sure that your car insurance will cover any hurricane-related losses.
Atlantic: June 1 - November 30
Many Atlantic cyclones form anywhere between the North Coast of Africa and inside the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes traveling into Eastern parts of the United States.
Eastern Pacific: May 15 - November 30
Eastern Pacific cyclones range along the western coast of Mexico, which have been known to swing upward into the West Coast of the United States.
According to one prediction made by scientist Dr. Phil Klotzbach and his team at Colorado State University, 2019 Atlantic hurricane season will remain about average in terms of storm activity.
2019 Atlantic Hurricane Forecast
*Major hurricanes are those that reach Category 3 or higher.
Source: Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University
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Car insurance for hurricanes
While car insurance companies don’t specifically offer hurricane coverage, the damage caused by hurricanes is typically covered. The damage from the winds, rain and floods are considered a peril or “act of God,” and you are covered for damage from these by insurance that most policies include:
While the majority of hurricane-caused damage falls under comprehensive coverage, there may be some occasions where your auto insurance company would classify the damages under your collision coverage. For example:
- Parked vehicles that have been damaged purely by the storm or natural occurrences may most likely fall under comprehensive coverage
- If someone were operating your vehicle (or theirs) and lost control during the storm, the damages would fall under collision coverage
Having both types of coverage may be necessary to receive a payout or reimbursement by your insurance company. If your vehicle becomes totaled, you may also require rental car reimbursement or gap insurance to pay the difference of what’s owed to a financial lender or rental service.
Hurricane damage comes in many forms
During hurricane season, everyone is subjected to potential loss. If you own or rent a home and have a vehicle, you may deal with significant property losses in a hurricane. Hurricane damage can be extensive and varied, and it can include:
- Wind - force wind gusts, flying debris, or overturning vehicles
- Hail - rare, but covered by comprehensive
- Floods - intense rainfall or broken water structures
- Falling objects - trees, buildings, etc
- Vehicle collisions - loss of control caused by the storm
Ensuring your insurance coverage is up-to-date and meets your needs is important.
Stay ahead of the forecast
One of the most common issues for vehicle owners is not receiving the coverage they need after a hurricane strikes. The issue tends to happen most when car owners don't realize they have a tiny window of opportunity to get insurance before a storm hits. The majority of insurance companies place temporary restrictions on policy changes or new policy enrollments.
You can expect a freeze on your ability to make policy limit changes, lower your deductibles, or add physical damage coverage to your vehicle for up to 72 hours after a storm watch/warning has passed. That’s why it’s so important to set up your coverage up before the hurricane season starts and make sure your policy doesn’t expire in the same timeframe.
If you haven’t checked your auto insurance lately, review your policy and coverage limits. Compare auto insurance quotes and get the best deal on the level of coverage you are most comfortable with. You can switch your insurance provider at any time at no cost to you.
Making a claim after a hurricane
Most often, insurance companies will require you to wait until the storm has fully passed to evaluate the complete and total damage caused to your vehicle. You'll want to make a non-emergency call to find information about hazards in your area before you head out to evaluate any damage.
If you were involved in a vehicle-operated accident, you might need to file a claim on the spot. This type of accident can be tricky if you’re right in the middle of a storm, but in any case, try to find an area where everyone is safe before reviewing the damage.
Once the area is clear, you’ll want to take pictures of the damage from several angles of the vehicle and call your insurer to make a claim. If you determine that the cost of damage is higher than the deductible amount, the insurance agent may ask you to protect the vehicle and prevent further damage until you receive coverage.