U.S. auto, home, and business insurers are assisting disaster victims after dozens of deadly tornadoes tore across multiple states in the past 72 hours, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). 

Insurers are the nation’s financial first responders and will be there to help their policyholders recover

Sean Kevelighan, CEO, Triple-I

The widespread damage the U.S. experienced in the past few days due to extreme tornado activity highlighted the importance of being financially protected from catastrophic losses by having the right types, and amounts, of insurance.

Standard homeowners insurance protections

Property damage caused by tornadoes is covered under standard homeowners, renters, and business insurance policies, and under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy (see about Global Insured Losses from Natural Catastrophes).

Nearly 80% of U.S. drivers opt to purchase comprehensive coverage. 

Policyholders should contact their insurer to obtain the assistance they need. Many claims-filing services are available via either a mobile app or online. 

The Triple-I offers these recommendations when tornado-caused property damage occurs:

Checklist for Homeowners, Renters, and Auto Policyholders

  • Contact your insurance professional and start the claims filing process. 
  • Take photos of damage. A photographic record eases the insurance claim process. 
  • Make temporary repairs to prevent further loss from rain, wind, or looting; these costs are reimbursable under most policies, so save repair-related receipts. 
  • Compile a detailed list of all damaged or destroyed personal property.  Do not throw out damaged property until you meet with an insurance adjuster. If you have a home inventory, it will make the claims-filing process easier. 
  • Hold off on signing repair contracts. Deal with reputable contractors and get references. Be sure of payment terms and consult your insurance adjuster before signing any contracts. 
  • Check to see if you’re eligible for additional living expenses (ALE). Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies pay for the extra charges you incur over and above your customary living expenses if your home is uninhabitable because of an insured loss. Save all related receipts and, if you have vacated your home, make sure your insurer knows how to contact you.   
Standard homeowners insurance protections

Checklist for Small Business Owner Policyholders

  • Follow the same advice as above when it comes to filing a property damage claim. 
  • If your business is forced to close temporarily or relocate because a tornado caused physical damage to your premises, file either a business income (interruption) or extra expense claim if you carry these coverages. 
  • Before filing a business income (interruption) policy claim, document your net income and operating expenses, including payroll, both before and after the business was disrupted. 
  • Keep detailed records of all business expenses and transactions as your business recovers. 
Standard homeowners insurance protections

Tornado data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information, and data on the states that received federal funds after a tornado from OpenFEMA (see Impact of Natural Catastrophic Risks for the US P&C Insurance Market). 

All tornadoes produce damage, but the most violent ones can cause automobiles to become airborne, rip homes to shreds, and turn broken glass and other debris into lethal missiles. The biggest tornado threat to human beings is from flying debris in the wind.

The Most Tornado-Prone States in America

StateStormsDamages, $mnDeaths
North Carolina157$61829
North Dakota131$332
South Dakota120$281
South Carolina110$13712
New York70$576
New Mexico69$60
West Virginia24$61
New Jersey20$0.60
New Hampshire13$0.050
Rhode Island3$10
Source: NOAA

Tornado Alley is a nickname given to a region in the U.S. where tornadoes are common. Tornado Alley generally begins in the Southern plains and extends northward through the upper Midwest to the Canadian border. States commonly associated with Tornado Alley include Texas, Kansas and Nebraska.

Standard homeowners insurance protections

Standard homeowners insurance protections

A standard homeowners insurance policy insures your home’s structure (house,) and your belongings in the event of a destructive event, such as a fire.

In addition, homeowners insurance policies are generally “package policies.” This means that the coverage includes not only damage to your property, but also your liability—that is, legal responsibility—for any injuries and property damage to others caused by you or members of your family (including your household pets).

Insurance for condominiums and co-op- apartments generally covers your belongings, liability and certain parts of the interior structure as defined in the by-laws or proprietary lease.

Renters insurance provides similar property and liability protections to those who don’t own their home.

All forms of home insurance also provide additional living expenses (ALE) coverage for the extra costs of living away from home if it is uninhabitable due to damage from an insured disaster.

What is not covered by a standard homeowners policy

While homeowners insurance covers many types of disaster related damage, there are exceptions. For example, flood insurance and earthquake insurance are both separate types of policies, which may be desirable depending on where you live.

Poor home maintenance often contributes to disasters or accidents. Maintenance related problems are the homeowners’ responsibility, though there are niche insurance products on the market that may be available to protect against appliance wear and tear.


AUTHOR: Loretta Worters – Vice President, Media Relations at Insurance Information Institute New York Press Office

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