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Winter Woes

Melissa Topey • Aug 27, 2014 at 2:40 PM

Mother Nature has not been kind this winter, and it’s left Allstate agent Jarrod Gennari with little time to chat.

“I’m sorry, I’m so busy,” Gennari said on Tuesday morning. “I’m by myself today, and the phones are ringing off the hook with claims”

On Tuesday it was mostly callers who slid off the road or into another vehicle because of the weekend’s treacherous roads that continued into the week.

The week before, it was claims from burst pipes in the wake of the Polar Vortex.

“This is one of the worst winters I have seen,” Gennari said of the number of claims he’s fielded this season — and that’s saying something, as he’s been an insurance agent for 20 years.

Burst pipes or other catastrophes caused by freezing conditions are typically covered under homeowners insurance, but how much of the resulting damage is covered — for example, waterlogged belongings — depends on the individual plan.

The water damage to the walls and ceilings, as well as the cost to repair or repaint, are fully covered. Homeowners who are dealing with burst pipes should make sure to ask the contractor to test for trapped water inside the walls or between the floors, as their insurance should cover those costs as well.

Beyond that, an adjuster has to figure out if a homeowner’s policy covers the loss as well as the value of any damaged property. Some policies pay to replace a destroyed item, while others only cover the item’s depreciated value — its worth at the time of the damage — which might not be enough to replace it.

As for all the car repair claims, there is no blaming God.

Gennari understands drivers can’t always keep from losing control on ice-covered roads, but an accident is still ultimately the driver’s fault.

“An act of God is if a deer runs out in front of you” Gennari said.

No matter who or what is at fault, Norman Family Collision in Bellevue is busy this week fixing those smashed-up cars.

“On Monday, people started stopping in saying they went to slow down but their car kept going,” said Stacey Norman, who along with Brian Norman operates the family-owned business.

They have since had 12 cars brought in, most with left front-end damage.

It’s the most cars the repair shop, which has been in the area 10 years, has seen in the last few winters.

The freezing temperatures didn’t help anything.

“With the cold, all it takes is a little bump and it shatters the bumper — it’s plastic” Norman said.

But it’s not just physical damage these area business people deal with. It’s also up to the insurance agents and contractors to play therapist in these moments of crisis in people’s lives.

Between car damage and a burst water pipe, Gennari says a burst pipe seems to cause more emotional turmoil.

“Damage goes all the way down to the floor. It creates a mess,” Gennari said. “I reassure customers to relax — you have coverage. It is going to get fixed”

The Ohio Insurance Institute is still collecting data from the claims made so far this winter, so it’s unknown how much the icy turmoil has cost the state, said Mary Bonelli, spokeswoman for the institute.

Burst pipes have accounted for more than 7 percent of all catastrophic losses for the past 19 years, Bonelli said, citing a report from Verisk Insurance Solutions.

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