Storms and weather-related incidents can cause extensive damage to your car, truck or SUV. Whether it’s the devastation of a tornado or flood or the annoyance of hailstones creating pockmarks on your car’s roof, storm damage can result in substantial damage that can be expensive to repair.
But does car insurance cover storm damage? That is a question that requires a more detailed discussion.
As with anything related to car insurance, the contract language can be tricky and is highly nuanced. We suggest you speak to one of our insurance professionals to discuss your auto insurance needs and whether your policy provides the right protection for your particular circumstance.
What does standard mandatory insurance cover?
In Ontario, everyone is required by law to maintain certain auto insurance coverage and limits. This ensures that there is insurance to cover damage to property in the event of an accident, as well as injuries to the driver of the vehicle, its passengers and any third parties who may be involved.
These mandatory coverages include:
Statutory accident benefits
Statutory accident benefits coverage pays for injuries to the driver and passengers. It also covers rehab expenses, attendant care and the hiring of a caregiver, should one be necessary. Statutory accident benefits also include some income replacement coverage if you are unable to work because of the accident.
Third-party liability will provide coverage if someone who wasn’t in your vehicle is injured or killed due to an accident. It covers legal costs as well as paying any awarded settlement. It also pays to repair or replace property damaged in the accident including the other vehicle as well as items such as telephone poles, shrubs or trees.
Keep in mind that the mandatory minimum for third-party liability coverage in Ontario is $200,000. However, it’s best to secure a policy with a third-party liability limit of at least $1,000,000. Your premiums will likely only slightly increase and you’ll have more coverage if you ever needed to pay for someone’s medical bills after an at-fault accident.
Direct compensation – property damage
This section provides coverage for your vehicle and its contents if you’re in an accident caused by a third party. It also pays for a rental car while the vehicle is being repaired or replaced.
Uninsured auto coverage
This coverage ensures that you are protected if you are injured or killed by a hit and run driver or someone who does not have insurance.
Together, these coverages make up the mandatory insurance required by law in Ontario. But you will notice the absence of any coverage related to storm damage. To understand how insurance can protect you against weather-related losses, we need to look at the types of damage caused by weather and how you can be protected.
Types of storm damage
The broad category of storm damage can actually be broken down into many different perils. Each with its own potential for damage.
Falling and flying Items
One of the most significant causes of vehicle damage caused by storms is that which involves flying and falling objects. This is a broad category that includes tree limbs that fall onto a car or branches that are blown by the wind towards a vehicle. It includes rocks that come loose on a mountain or hill that fall and hit a car as well as ice and debris that is thrown against a vehicle by the wind. It might even include an entire tree being uprooted and falling onto your car.
Falling and flying items also include non-storm-related damage, such as ice that falls onto your car from a roof above, a baseball that is thrown by a child or stones thrown at the car by the wheels of a vehicle driving in front of you on a dirt road.
Wind Storm Damage
In addition to the items listed under falling and flying items, strong winds can cause additional damage to a vehicle. In practical terms, this might be caused by strong winds such as a tornado or hurricane actually pushing or overturning a vehicle while it is parked. Strong winds can also break windows due to extreme pressure fluctuations.
The damage caused by hail to vehicles cannot be understated. A hailstorm passing through a neighbourhood has been known to damage literally hundreds of cars and trucks within just a few minutes. In some cases, the hail may simply crack windshields but in others, hail can cause extensive damage to the car’s body and destroy windows. While some of Canada’s western provinces bear the brunt of hail-related damage to vehicles, there is an increasing number of hail storms in Ontario that should concern car owners.
Storm damage & leaving your windows open
We’ve all done it at some point but leaving your car’s windows open before a major weather incident can cause extensive damage to the vehicle. Whether it’s an open window during a torrential rainstorm or a forgotten skylight before a blizzard, unclosed windows can cause extensive water damage to vehicle interiors and damage sensitive electronic equipment and wiring.
Perhaps the most devastating storm-related damage is caused by flooding. Climate change is causing more floods than ever, many in areas that never experienced a flood previously. When a car is trapped in floodwaters the damage can be catastrophic. The water can damage the car’s electrical system, cause wiring to corrode and destroy interior seats and finishes. So extensive is the damage, that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has declared that flood-damaged vehicles are ‘irreparable’ and cannot be registered for driving.
It’s also a good idea to talk with your home insurance provider about securing flood insurance to protect your home.
Driving through water
We’ve all seen the video footage of drivers who think the water covering the road is shallow enough to drive through, soon discovering it’s too deep to traverse. This error in judgement can be a costly mistake, as water as shallow as 14 inches can cause the same extensive damage to a vehicle’s electronics along with electrical wires that travel beneath the floorboards, as you would experience in a flood.
These are just a few of the ways that storms and weather can cause damage to your vehicle. With nature being unpredictable, and with climate change causing more extremes in weather, we can expect there to be even more events that damage vehicles in the coming months and years.
Does car insurance cover storm damage?
As stated earlier in this article, the mandatory auto insurance coverages do not protect vehicle owners in Ontario from weather claims. Weather claims are also not included when you buy collision and upset coverage.
But Ontario drivers can rejoice, as there is optional Comprehensive coverage that does pay for the types of events described above.
Storm damage & comprehensive auto insurance
Comprehensive insurance in Ontario not only provides coverage for many weather-related claims, but it will also pay if your vehicle is stolen or is the victim of vandalism, including damage caused by riots, demonstrations, and other types of civil disorder. Comprehensive coverage also responds if your car were to catch fire. It will even respond if your vehicle has the misfortune of being damaged by animals, such as deer, moose, or the occasional monkey in your local drive-through zoo.
The question does car insurance cover storm damage can be answered in the affirmative, but only if you purchase optional comprehensive coverage as part of your Ontario auto insurance policy.
We suggest you speak to one of our aha insurance professionals to review your current auto insurance policy and be sure that it includes all the coverages you need to protect yourself, your family and your finances.