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Comprehensive auto insurance will protect you if your car is damaged or destroyed in a tornado. However, comprehensive insurance is an optional addition to your policy, and liability and collision coverage alone will not pay for claims from tornado damage. Here's exactly how your comprehensive insurance will cover you during a tornado, as well as steps you can take to further protect your car from an oncoming storm.
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When Your Car Is Totaled by a Tornado: Total Loss
Comprehensive coverage will reimburse you up to the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of your car, less any deductibles, if your car is declared a total loss. (A total loss is declared when an insurance adjuster deems the cost to repair a vehicle to be greater than the actual value of the vehicle itself, and so declines to cover the cost of repairs.) If a tornado comes within close proximity of your vehicle, there's a high probability it could be damaged to the point of total loss.
Types of Tornado Damage covered by Comprehensive Insurance
- Severe Hail
- Flying debris
- Falling tree branches
- Downed power lines & electrical damage
Tornadoes have been known to riddle cars with debris, flip them over, and even pick them up and drop them in a different location. In addition, if your car is parked near the likes of lawn furniture, gravel, or trees during a tornado, it could easily receive significant damage when those items become airborne. Further, the rotating “supercell” thunderstorms that cause tornadoes often bring severe hail, torrential rain, and downed power lines that can cause still more damage.
Here’s an example of how a claim for tornado damage to your car might proceed. Let’s say you drive a 2016 Honda Accord in very good condition, with 20,000 miles on the odometer, and a tornado comes through your own. The tornado, rated as EF-4, a high rating that usually corresponds to serious damage, picks up your car, rolls it across your company's parking lot, and smashes it against several other vehicles. The damage to your car is severe—all of the glass is shattered, the entire body is smashed, and an axle was bent.
After you file your claim, an insurance adjuster comes out to assess the value of your car and the cost to repair the damage it sustained. For the valuation, known as the Actual Cash Value (ACV), the adjuster will take into account your vehicle’s make and model, age, accident history, Blue Book value, and potentially other data, such as the wholesale price of your vehicle, in order to come up with a figure. The repair cost will then be compared against that number, and expressed as a percentage of it. The percentage at which a vehicle is written off, a proportion known as the Total Loss Threshold, varies by state, but if the repairs to your vehicle exceed approximately 75% of the car's ACV, your insurance company will declare the car a total loss.
That’s what happens in your case. The Adjuster has set the ACV of your car at about $14,700, and declared it a total loss. However, your insurance policy includes a $1,000 deductible, so the insurance company cuts you a check for $13,700, which you can use to replace your vehicle, or for any other purpose you wish.
How You're Covered from Minor Repairs and Damage after a Tornado
If you have comprehensive insurance as a part of your car insurance policy, you will be reimbursed for any damage a tornado does to your vehicle, after your insurance deductible is met. Let's look at an example of this scenario, where your car is damaged, but not totaled, by a tornado.
Your car is parked in your driveway when a EF-1 Tornado comes through your town. Gravel from your neighbor's driveway is picked up, shatters two windows and riddles two of your doors with dents, to the extent that the doors will need to be totally replaced. A local bodyshop quotes the total cost at $3,000, including the new doors, paint, and labor. The cost of repairs is well under the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of your vehicle, so your insurance company reimburses you with a check for $2,000, after applying your deductible.
In addition, you needed to rent a car to get to and from work while your car was being repaired. Since you added the optional rental reimbursement coverage to your policy, you will also receive compensation for any rental fees (up to certain daily and claim limits) while your claim is being processed.
Best Practices for Filing a Claim
Regardless of the level of damage your vehicle sustains during a tornado, we recommend initiating the claims process as early as possible.The destructive weather that has damaged your vehicle has probably also damaged hundreds or thousands of other vehicles as well, and your insurance company, as well as local repair shops, will quickly be inundated with requests.
We also recommend taking photos or videos of the damage to support your case. For example, if debris dented your vehicle, take pictures of the scene before clearing it up. Documenting how the storm damaged your vehicle will help ward off any suspicion of fraud, especially if you're late in filing your claim.
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How To Protect Your Vehicle From Storm Damage
Certain precautions will help protect your vehicle if there are reports of an impending storm, or if violent weather is common in your area. If you live in an area that sees a high level of tornadoes, such as south-central Florida or "Tornado Alley" (which comprises parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio), try to find a garage or other enclosed structure in which to park. If you don't have access to a garage, follow these basic principles:
- Don't park your car near any trees, since limbs could fall on your vehicle.
- Don't park next to telephone poles.
- Avoid parking near gravel or loose furniture that might be picked up in heavy winds.
- Avoid low areas that are prone to flooding.