- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The collapsed roofs and fallen gutters that resulted from the Presidents Day weekend snowstorm caused a spike in area insurance claims, but there wasn't a big jump in automobile claims because most drivers stayed off the road during the storm.
Allstate Corp., the nation's second-largest personal insurance provider, had processed 1,911 claims from homeowners in the District, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia by Thursday. Figures from the comparable period in 2002 were not available.
"It can be anything from damage to a structure of a building to a damaged gutter. [Claims] range the gamut," said spokeswoman Shaundra Turner.
Most home insurance policies do not cover flooding.
Allstate has brought aboard extra staffers to process claims from snow-related damage, Ms. Turner said. She recommended that customers file claims now while the extra staffers are available.
Homeowners should avoid filing claims for damage that is not serious, said J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America.
Insurers often jack up rates for customers with as few as two claims, he said. Some companies, including Allstate, do not offer a reprieve to victims of events such as this month's snowstorm, he said.
"Right now, it's a hard market, so you don't want to file little claims," Mr. Hunter said.
When renewing claims, consumers should consider getting a higher deductible and paying a lower rate, he said.
Automobile insurance giant Progressive Corp. saw claims rise 3 percent in the Washington area last week, compared with the similar period last year. The storm hit on a holiday weekend when fewer drivers were on the road, and weather forecasters gave local motorists plenty of advance notice, spokeswoman Shannon Radigan said.
Rival Geico Corp. said between 3,000 and 3,100 of its automobile policy holders in the mid-Atlantic filed claims last week. That was about 400 fewer than usual.
"Usually when there's a couple inches [of snow], people keep driving, but in this case people stayed off the roads, and it worked out well for us," said John Izzo, a regional vice president.
There was a small increase of claims relating to ice yesterday, because the melting snow and rain caused roads to freeze, Mr. Izzo said.
Not all motorists who stayed off the road during the storm were safe. Some parked cars were damaged when snowplows struck them.
Eighteen car owners in Fairfax County filed complaints with the Virginia Department of Transportation because of snow-related damage, spokesman Ryan Hall said. The complaints included cars that were struck by plow trucks and cars that were damaged by potholes.
If a motorist believes his or her car was damaged by a state snowplow, the motorist should record as much information as possible about the accident and then file a claim with the insurer, Mr. Hall said.
It will take the state two to three months to determine if it was responsible for the damage, he said.
A spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works said she did not know if any D.C. residents had complained about cars damaged by city plow trucks.
Representatives for other local transportation agencies, such as the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works, said they could not provide information on the number of cars damaged by government vehicles during the storm.
Several health insurers said it's too early to tell if there will be a spike in customers who file claims because of snow-related injuries.
"It will take those claims a while to work their way through the system," said Lynn Forsyth Shepherd, spokeswoman for Cigna Corp., one of the nation's largest health insurers.

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