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Who pays for the damage when a water main breaks?

Sep 11, 2009 | | Comments Comments Off
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41711515@N00/3900631538/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/41711515@N00/3900631538/

You’re minding your own business when a city water main breaks, flooding your house/apartment/shop. Who the heck is going to pay to clean up and fix the mess?

A bunch of Los Angeles residents are dealing with this issue, thanks to two water main breaks in as many days. But the answer is more complicated than you might think.

I turned to Candy Miller, head of the Insurance Information Network of California, for the scoop. Short version? Talk to your insurer. Here’s what she said:

We’ve talked to several insurers about this, even had a little initial internal debate whether this would be considered a flood insurance issue or not, and here’s what we’ve found:

1. I realize this is our standard advice, but it merits repeating: Talk to your insurance agent or broker. They can go over your policy with you to determine exactly what your policy does or does not cover.

2. You may have a homeowner insurance claim. Why wouldn’t this be considered “flood,” which is only covered by flood insurance? Quite possibly because it is an accidental occurrence as opposed to a natural condition. (IE, rising waters from a storm are a natural occurrence, but water rushing from a broken pipe is sudden and  accidental). If this is the case, your insurer may very well cover the loss and then subrogate – ie, file a claim against – the appropriate agency to recover the loss.

3. There is a possible caveat, and that is whether the policy specifies that the sudden and accidental loss occurred in plumbing located INSIDE the home. Some policies state that, others do not.

4. Ultimately, the responsibility will rest with the city/DWP. If your insurance excludes damage from a broken water main, the homeowner should file a claim directly with the city.

Personally, I’d rather let my insurer deal with a city agency that do it directly…and flood insurance is a smart buy for most, anyway.

For more, read:

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