Skip to main content

Storm damage insurance claims are on the rise

April 10, 2023

Help your customers mitigate the risks of rising storm damage losses

Among the most common natural hazards are thunderstorms, also referred to as severe convective storms.1 Lightning, tornadoes, straight-line winds, hail and torrential rain from these weather events result in substantial property damage.

Research shows that advanced preparation can reduce the financial impact of storms. A study by the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration found that for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation, $6 could be saved in future disaster costs.2 In 2022 alone, losses from natural, storm-related catastrophe damage totaled around $120 billion.3

Nationwide and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) have partnered to provide you with resources to help your customers protect and prepare their homes from inclement weather.

Common types of storm damage insurance claims

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), some of the most expensive and common homeowner losses related to storms are caused by:

  • Wind and hail – Every year, one in 35 insured homes has a hail or wind damage insurance claim, making them the leading causes for claims. In 2022, hailstorms are expected to result in $1.1 billion worth of damage across the United States, with 21 states anticipating losses ranging from moderate to extremely high.4
  • Water damage – Water damage is a significant and costly issue affecting many United States households. According to recent estimates, the annual cost of household water damage can reach up to $20 billion across the country. Floods can cause significant damage to homes, buildings, and personal property, resulting in expensive repairs and replacements. In the United States, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is designed to provide financial assistance to those affected by floods, helping to cover the costs of damages and repairs. According to NFIP data, the average flood claim payout following a severe storm is around $52,000.5
  • Lightning – In 2021, lightning strikes resulted in $1.3 billion worth of homeowners’ insurance claim payouts across the United States. Lightning strikes can cause significant damage, such as fire, electrical surges, and damage to appliances and electronics. The cost of repairs and replacements can be quite high, depending on the extent of the damage incurred.6

Beyond these storms, insureds need to familiarize themselves with La Niña conditions, particularly as severe weather can start sooner. La Niña is a climate phenomenon that occurs when cooler-than-average ocean waters develop in the Eastern Pacific near the equator. This can lead to significant changes in weather patterns across the country, particularly during winter. For the third consecutive year, the United States is experiencing La Niña conditions—something that has only happened twice in the last 50 years.7

One of the most notable effects of La Niña is its impact on the jet stream, a narrow band of fast-flowing air that circles the Earth. The cold waters created by La Niña cause the jet stream to shift north, which leads to drier and warmer winters for the southern parts of the country, and cooler and wetter winters for the northern parts.

The effects of La Niña on the climate do not stop in winter. During late winter through spring, the phenomenon is also linked to a higher frequency of severe weather, including rainstorms, tornadoes, and hail. In fact, some of the most significant tornado outbreaks in the U.S. have occurred during La Niña years. This increased frequency of severe weather can lead to significant damage to property and loss of life.

Share new guidance to help homeowners reduce storm damage

With storm-related losses on the rise, there’s never been a more important time to help your customers prepare for spring weather. Below are the latest research-backed spring storm preparedness tips for before, during and after a storm:

Before a storm

  • Trim your trees. Remove branches that overhang the house and remove dead, dying or diseased trees.
  • Get a home lightning surge protector. Install a home lightning surge protector to help keep electrical equipment safe from power surges.
  • Install protective screens on HVAC units. In hail-prone regions, install screens around your home’s air conditioning unit to help reduce the chance of hail damage to coils and fins.
  • Organize your garage. Organize your garage so you can easily park your car under cover when severe weather, especially hail, is in the forecast. It’s also a great place to store loose items that could become projectiles with high wind.
  • Locate and prepare a safe place. Designate a safe room, cleaning and organizing it to make it easily accessible. Choose an interior room with no windows on the lowest floor of your home, such as a basement, storm cellar, bathroom or closet. Consider storing head protection and shoes in this location.
  • Create a home inventory. Documenting your belongings is easier before a storm. Create a detailed list or video of your belongings if an insurance claim is needed.
  • Review your insurance policy and assess your risks. Review your insurance policy and store your insurance agent’s contact information on your phone. Your insurance agent should be the first call if you experience damage.
  • Add head protection to storm kits. Researchers now recommend storing head protection with storm kits, such as bike helmets or pillows.
  • Shut windows. A common severe weather myth instructs people to open windows to “equalize pressure.” The opposite is true: Shutting windows strengthens the structural integrity of a home.
  • Close interior doors. Keep inside doors closed to help compartmentalize the pressure forces of the wind should a window or exterior door fail.
  • Turn on your phone’s emergency alerts. Alerts delivered by phone are more reliable than storm sirens and should be turned on during a storm, even at night while sleeping.
  • Consider using FORTIFIED Home, a voluntary construction program, during renovations. Reduce weather risks by incorporating recommendations during renovations and repairs. For example, consider remodeling your roof, as it’s often your home’s first defense against severe weather. While you don’t need to re-roof often, when you do, ask your roofing contractor for a FORTIFIED Roof. FORTIFIED Roof was specifically designed to prevent damage that commonly occurs during high winds, hurricanes, hailstorms, severe thunderstorms, and even tornadoes. Also, ensure you choose shingles rated “good” or “excellent” by IBHS shingle performance ratings.
  • Select a wind-rated garage door. Garage doors are one of the most vulnerable parts of the home in high winds. High winds can push a garage door inward, allowing pressure to push up on the roof and surrounding walls and damage your home. Wind-rated garage doors have been tested to withstand these pressures and can help protect your home. We recommend those rated 130 mph or better, which most codes in the wind-borne debris region require. If you’re unsure whether your garage door is wind-rated, it’s best to purchase a new one.
  • Upgrade to steel gutters and downspouts. Steel is stronger than its more popular counterparts, vinyl and aluminum. In hail-prone regions, upgrade to steel products, which are more durable against hail impacts and less likely to leak.During a storm, secure outdoor items, close windows and shut interior doors.

When a storm is imminent

  • Shut your doors. In addition to closing exterior doors and windows, closing your garage and interior doors can give your roof a fighting chance in high winds. If a window is broken by flying debris or a door has blown open, your house will rapidly fill with air. This will cause a dangerous increase in the forces pushing up on your roof―imagine a balloon inflating inside your house. IBHS research reveals that closing interior doors help compartmentalize the pressure inside a home into smaller areas, reducing the force on the roof by as much as 30%.
  • Tidy up outdoors. Items on the lawn or patio could become flying debris and damage your home. Move items like patio furniture, potted plants, bicycles, grills, garbage cans, and children’s toys into a garage or storage building before you leave home for the day.
  • Be weather aware. Have at least three ways to receive weather alerts, including options that do not require electricity or wireless services and options you can hear at night.

After a storm

  • Assess safety. Assess the safety of your home and property before entering. If there is any damage or concern about safety, contact local authorities or a professional inspector.
  • Document damage. Document any damage incurred by taking photos or videos of affected areas and belongings. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the damage and start the claims process.
  • Mitigate further damage. Take steps to mitigate further damage, such as covering broken windows, drying out wet areas, and removing debris if possible.
  • Keep receipts. Keep receipts for any repairs or expenses related to the storm, as your insurance company may reimburse these.
  • Beware of scams. Be cautious of potential scams or fraudsters posing as contractors or insurance adjusters. Only work with reputable and licensed professionals.
  • Keep documents organized. Keep all relevant documents and communication with your insurance company organized and easily accessible for future reference.

In addition to sharing information with your customers, you can help them prepare for storms by encouraging them to review their homeowners insurance policy. Customers will want to consider the storm forces they are most likely to experience in their area in light of their current policy selections.

Support you and your customers can count on for storm damage insurance claims

While severe storms can be unpredictable, Nationwide’s support for you and your customers never wavers. Count on us to share valuable insights that may help protect your customers from nature’s wrath and minimize their time to return to normal should storm-related damage occur. By sharing tips like the ones found in this article through your social media presence or via email, you could help mitigate losses.

Discover more ways to help customers prepare for natural disasters at the Nationwide Learning Center.