Car Insurance Guide: Storm Damage

While storms might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Car Insurance, the damage one can cause to your vehicle can be substantial. If you’re caught in a storm, you may need to make a claim on your Car Insurance for the damage it causes to your car, directly or indirectly

But how do you know what’s covered? More importantly, how can you reduce the risk of damage to your car altogether?

In this guide, Swinton Insurance breaks down everything you need to know about storms, from the various types there are to what counts as storm damage — and what you need to know to make a claim.

 

 

1. The dangers of storms

The arrival of a storm can be a particular worry for motorists because there’s always a chance your vehicle could suffer damage.

While the weather can’t be controlled, it’s important that drivers prepare properly by making themselves aware of the dangers that storms bring about — and how it might affect their car insurance.

How dangerous can storms be for motorists?

The threat posed by storms was demonstrated by Storm Dennis in February 2020, which led to flooding and debris damage in many regions across the UK. It was issued a red weather warning by the Met Office, meaning "danger to life" which underlines the importance of taking precautions when storms are forecast.

What types of storms are there and how do they affect my car?

Rain and flooding

Heavy rain often leads to flooding, which can impact cars in affected areas. Here are some likely situations and how to prepare for them if you know a storm is coming:

  • Watch for warnings — Where possible, closely monitor weather forecasts and look out for flood warnings on the news. Try to move your car to higher ground until the storm has passed if it’s parked somewhere that may be affected; for example, a low-lying riverbank.
  • Avoid driving through high water — Driving through a flood could suck water into the engine, or cause your vehicle’s electrics to stop working - both of which could affect an insurance claim.
  • Assess the depth of floodwater — If encountering floodwater is unavoidable, try to look into the depth of floodwaters before deciding to try and pass through. Watching other vehicles’ attempts to navigate them can be a useful guide.

To learn more, read our guide to car insurance and flooding.

Snowstorms

Snowfall can lead to particularly hazardous driving conditions. For your own safety, you should always consider whether your journey is strictly necessary if the roads are icy.

If you have to head out in wintry conditions, remember these pointers:

  • Take warm clothing and blankets with you
  • Keep your phone charged in case you encounter difficulty.
  • Make sure your car is completely cleared of snow before heading out (including the roof)
  • Use extra caution while driving

To learn more about dealing with snowstorms, read our guide to driving in winter.

Hail storms

During winter, hailstorms are fairly common. Occasionally freak storms bring larger hailstones, potentially causing hail damage to cars that are exposed to the elements.

Often, these severe storms are unpredictable and can strike without warning, leaving little or no time to prepare. Still, it's always worth monitoring the weather forecast. If you do get caught driving in a hailstorm, pull over where safe and remain inside your vehicle until the storm has passed.

Should your car be damaged, there’s no need to worry: hail damage is usually covered as part of a comprehensive Car Insurance policy.

Heavy winds and lightning

Heavy winds and lightning can often result in debris, such as fallen trees or bricks from a damaged building, which could affect cars parked nearby.

In the event of this kind of storm damage, it’s important to call your insurer immediately and to take plenty of photos of the scene. This will help for quick and efficient processing of your claim.

 

is-your-vehicle-dented-car

 

2. How to drive in a storm

Storms include high winds, heavy rain, lightning, thunder, snow or hail, which can cause anything from broken windscreens to damaged bodywork. So, we’ve pulled together a guide on some important things to know that may help you if a storm is on its way.

Is it safe to drive in a storm?

Driving in a storm is never to be advised, as there’s no way of guaranteeing your safety.

However, if you do need to drive for whatever reason, keeping track of storms is one of the best ways to ensure you’re not caught out in one. The Met Office website provides up to date information on the latest storms, helping you to be prepared for adverse weather, and the potential damage it can cause to your car.

How should I drive in a storm?

If driving is unavoidable, there are a few ways you can stay as safe as possible on the road:

Slow down

Driving below the speed limit allows you to come to a complete stop more quickly in the event of an emergency — for example, a tree collapsing across the road in front of you. It also reduces the risk of skidding on water or snow and allows you more time to brake if the car in front of you stops or gets into a collision. The DVLA recommends allowing twice as much braking distance as normal for wet weather and even more than that in icy conditions.

Keep an eye on wind strength

Always look ahead for gaps between buildings, which can act as wind tunnels. Take care when overtaking large vehicles like lorries, which could be taking the brunt of high winds. The amount of movement shown by trees lining the road can be a great indication of wind strength and can help your driving judgement.

Avoid hills and high roads

Consider investing in winter tyres, which have deeper treads than regular tyres, and take extra care when travelling on exposed routes like bridges especially if there’s a strong wind which could cause difficult driving conditions. If there are alternative routes, take them and avoid any high open roads.

How can I prepare for driving in a storm?

If you do find yourself caught in a storm while driving, it's important your car is in top condition to avoid complications like breakdowns or skidding.

Here’s some advice on how to get your car storm ready:

  • Check your antifreeze levels: Make sure you have enough antifreeze in your car’s system to avoid your engine freezing in cold conditions.
  • Clean your car battery: Replace your battery every five to seven years at least (or more frequently than that, depending on its condition) and regularly clean the battery terminals.
  • Check your brakes: Keep an eye on the wear of your brakes to avoid longer braking distances.
  • Heat and defrost: Regularly check that you can warm up your car’s heater and defroster. If you have to pull over in a storm, it’ll give you some comfort and will help windscreen visibility when driving by reducing frost or ice on your windscreen.
  • Examine your windscreen wipers: If you notice any problems, get your windscreen wipers fixed straight away and ensure your washer fluid level is maintained.
  • Check your tyres: The tread pattern on your tyres gives you grip, so check all tyres once a month to make sure it hasn’t worn away. Stick a 20p coin into the tread to measure the depth. If the outer border around the coin is still visible, your tyres may be unsafe and need replacing.

Are there any other ways I can prepare?

Pulling together useful items to keep in the boot of your car can be an effective way to help you deal with stormy conditions, whether you’re stuck on the road or have found somewhere to park up safe.

Here’s a list of practical items to make a kit:

  • A car mobile phone charger
  • Water and non-perishable snacks
  • A torch
  • An ice scraper
  • A first aid kit
  • Extra clothing (warm shoes, gloves and a fleece)
  • A blanket
  • Jump cables
  • Spare petrol or diesel
  • A tow rope
  • A bag of cat litter (to help grit roads)

 

is-your-vehicle-fallen-tree

 

3. What counts as storm damage for insurance

Incidents caused by the elements are often considered an ‘Act of God’. This means it’s generally accepted that any damage incurred was unavoidable, and you are likely to be covered if you have a comprehensive policy, with no add-ons required.

In the following section, we explain what qualifies as storm damage to your car, and what you need to know before making a claim:

Types of storm damage your car insurance can cover

After a storm, it’s important to inspect your vehicle at the earliest available opportunity to see if it has been damaged, and to take photographs as evidence.

Here’s the lowdown on some of the most common forms of damage caused by storms:

  • Engine damage: Floodwater which enters a vehicle’s engine can do serious damage, often requiring costly and complicated repairs, or even causing it to be written off. While this can be a frustrating inconvenience for drivers, it’s covered by a fully comprehensive policy. This type of damage often affects parked cars that get caught in rising water. However, if you attempt to drive through a flood, you may negatively affect any claim you make. Be sure to contact your insurer immediately upon discovering the damage.
  • Damaged electrics: Water and electrical equipment don’t mix well. If your car has been caught in a flood, it could affect the electrics in your vehicle, making it unusable. Similarly, serious damage to your car’s interior upholstery can be a huge inconvenience. However, this type of damage is covered by most fully comprehensive policies.
  • Damage to vehicle contents: Another potential problem caused by a storm (in particular, flooding) is the damage it causes to the personal contents within your car at the time. This type of damage is likely to be covered in the ‘personal effects’ section of your policy and may have a separate excess to any damage excesses that normally apply. Check your policy or contact us to find out more about your cover.
  • A fallen tree: Lightning or high winds can often cause trees or branches to fall on vehicles. This type of damage is typically covered by your fully comprehensive policy. However, if a tree located on your property falls and is found to be diseased or dead, your claim could be invalid. If the tree is located on someone else’s property, you may be able to claim your costs through their home insurance.
  • Scratched, smashed and dented windows or bodywork: Freak hailstorms can see vehicles pelted with stones the size of golf balls, an event which can cause severe damage to bodywork and windows. These instances of hail damage to your car are rare, but you can rest assured should you ever be affected, most fully comprehensive policies protect you against this kind of damage.
  • Crashes caused by snowy or icy conditions: Snow and ice make for particularly hazardous driving conditions, and you should always think carefully about whether your journey is completely necessary. If you do decide to drive in icy conditions, your fully comprehensive policy will cover you, but it’s never advisable to do so.
  • A parked car hit by another vehicle: One of the most common forms of damage caused by snowstorms is when a parked car is struck by another vehicle - if your parked car is hit and you can identify the vehicle which hit your car, you should be able to claim on the other driver’s policy. If you don’t know who hit you, take photos of the damage and call the police to report the collision before calling your insurer to update them.

4. How to claim for storm damage

If a storm hits and it damages your car, you’re likely to have to make a call to your insurer. But, as long as you have comprehensive insurance, you should be covered.

Check you have the right insurance

There are three types of car insurance:

  • Third Party
  • Third Party, Fire and Theft
  • Comprehensive

It's only a comprehensive policy that is likely to cover your car for storm damage. If you’re not sure what kind of insurance you have

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to make a claim:

1. Consider where the fault lies

If your car is hit by falling trees and debris, such as tiles from your roof, you’ll need to make a claim on your insurance.

However, if your car is damaged by tiles from a neighbour’s roof, for example — specifically, ones that should have been repaired — you could claim against them instead due to negligence. In this case, your insurer will want to check where the fault lies and potentially recover the costs from your neighbour’s home insurance provider.

Before deciding whether to claim on your insurance or someone else’s, always check with your insurer first, as they will be able to advise on the next steps to take.

2. Take photographs to back up your claim

When it’s safe to do so, take some clear pictures of storm damage on your phone or camera. This will help provide your insurer with the evidence needed to process your claim.

Try to take the photos before any clean-up process has begun, so the insurer can assess the full extent of the damage caused by the storm.

3. Pick up the phone to your insurer

If your car has been damaged in stormy weather, it’s important to contact your insurer as soon as possible so they can start processing the claim. Most insurers have a 24-hour emergency helpline, with people who can talk you through the claims process.

Having your policy documents to hand can make the call easier, and your insurer can check that you’re covered to approach one of its approved contractors, who can remove debris or start repairs on your car.

4. Plan repairs and keep receipts

It’s best to contact one of your insurer’s approved repairers for ease, as they’ll work with them on a regular basis. If your insurer has stated it will pay for repairs following your initial call, ensure you keep any receipts to prove payment. With an approved repairer, it’s likely that you’ll only have to pay your excess, as they’ll recoup the rest of the bill directly from your insurer.

If your car is going to take a while to fix, your insurer may provide a courtesy car from one of its approved repairers, but this will depend on the claim and your policy. For instance, if your car is written off, it is unlikely that a courtesy car will be provided.

For more information about how you can make a claim with Swinton, see our Car Insurance claims guide page.

What will my insurer do next?

After your initial call to make a storm damage claim, it’s likely that your insurer will check if there was a storm in the area you live. After this, your insurer should be able to give you a timeline of when they’re likely to be able to settle the claim and can advise you on contacting its approved repairers if needed.

The best protection from storm damage

You never know when a storm might hit next, which is why you need an insurance policy that covers you for anything that might happen.

With a Swinton Car Insurance policy, you get fully comprehensive insurance as standard. That means you're covered for the vast majority of damages your car might incur as a result of a storm, giving you the peace of mind you need.

Get a Car Insurance quote with Swinton today.

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