Are You Sure You Have Full Insurance Coverage? Time to Fill in the Gaps!!

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Mar 16, 2021 in Firm News

redhead little girl missing two front teethBy Richard Rizk

After a nice dinner, you are ready to go home, but something seems off. As you get closer to your car, you notice a cracked window, a busted-out glovebox and your briefcase and sports bag are gone.

The next day you discover that surveillance films from the restaurant captured the whole event on video. Four unidentifiable young men in masks smashed the glass using an emergency window-breaking tool, quickly bagged the contents of your car and took off.

Thankfully, you think, at least I am fully covered. But are you really?

Will Your Insurance Pay for the Damages?

While your auto insurance will probably provide coverage for the broken window, few are likely to reimburse you for the stolen personal items inside the car.  However, your homeowner’s or renter’s policy might.

Call Police

If this happens to you, call the police and make a formal report. Keep the police report number as you may need it to substantiate your insurance claim(s). Having a police report number may also reduce the amount of your deductible.

Get Copies of Your Insurance Policy

First, be sure of any rules that may apply to the potential claim(s) as set out in the terms of your insurance policies. You can request copies of your auto insurance policy as well as your homeowner’s policy from your insurance agent or insurance claims representative. In writing, assert claims under “any potentially applicable coverage”.

For Oregon claims, label the communication, “PROOF OF LOSS PER ORS 742.061”. In the letter provide enough details so the insurance company can initiate an initial investigation. Attach relevant, substantiating investigative reports (expert reports, police reports, fire reports etc.). This step is designed to support your attorney fee claim down the road, should your insurance company blow you off or deny the claim.

The above story brings home a larger point: sometimes the insurance coverage you need is not where you would expect it to be. And some coverage gaps are not obvious until after a loss has occurred.

Auto Insurance Coverage Gaps

The rest of this blog discusses common insurance coverage gaps, including some optional coverages you should know about.

The Depreciation Coverage Gap

Ah, that new car smell, I love it! After just a few miles you may notice the loss of a much different cent—dollars and cents. The sad truth is that new cars depreciate faster than greased lightning. Should you crash your new shiny car you will quickly discover just how quickly new cars depreciate. To protect yourself against this bad news buzz kill, you will need to purchase gap insurance before the loss. Gap insurance is not required coverage by law in most states.   

The Rental Car Coverage Gaps

Many auto policies do not cover the cost of renting a vehicle while yours is in the shop getting fixed. So, if you would like rental wheels during this time, specifically ask for car rental insurance – typically not required under most state laws.

You probably will not need separate coverage should your rental be damaged while you are using it, as your primary car insurance should cover that. However, you may need additional coverage to pay for the time the loaner vehicle is in the shop. Check your policy’s fine print for details. 

Hit-and-Run Coverage Gaps

You return to your car to discover that some “friendly absent dude” smashed into your car and left the scene without a trace. Some insurance policies will not pay un-insured motorist claims without at least one “independent” witness. As a result, you may be forced to use your own collision coverage to pay for the repairs. But collision insurance is not required in most states so you may not have purchased that coverage. Even if you do have this optional protection, collision claims are usually subject to a deductible, which sometimes can be lowered if a police report has been filed.

No “Original Part” Replacement Coverage

Did you know that most auto policies allow repair shops to install subpar aftermarket parts not manufactured by the original part creator?

PROBLEM: Installation of such aftermarket parts can devalue your car.

SOLUTION: Before a loss occurs, ask your auto insurer if it can offer you an endorsement requiring use of parts made by the original equipment manufacturer or OEM parts.

 Homeowner’s Coverage Gaps

As with car insurance, there may be certain gaps in your homeowner’s coverage that you should be aware of:

Normal “Wear & Tear” Exclusion 

Homeowner’s insurance typically covers damages caused by wind, fire, and hail. But what if, for example, such a loss occurs but your roof also needed repairs? In that case, your insurer may deny or limit coverage by claiming that the loss was caused by your failure to properly maintain the roof.

SOLUTION:  Keep current on home maintenance, particularly roofs, foundations, and places where water or moisture usually gathers. And regularly clear your property of flammable debris.

The Big Ones

Some losses are potentially too big for insurers to regularly absorb. As a result, standard homeowner policies typically exclude coverage for:

  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • War
  • Nuclear hazards
  • Rats
  • Termites
  • Many other types of water losses

Water damages are tricky though. Whether you are covered may depend on the source of the water that caused the damage.

For example, rain damage is often covered, while flood damage is not.

Earthquake coverage is available in many regions, but generally, coverage for earthquake losses are limited, and premiums are rising as the frequency of big loss events increase.

You can find more information on obtaining flood insurance in Oregon here.

Poop Runs Downhill

Most homeowner policies limit coverage of sewer plumbing to pipes inside the home. Additionally, municipalities generally do not maintain or accept responsibility for sewer lines leading to public sewers.

POTENTIAL PROBLEM: Should the waste breach piping from your home to the sewer line, neither the city nor your insurance carrier will cover the loss.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Some cities have partnered with one or more insurers to help close this gap.  Portlanders can additional information on this topic here.