In most parts of the country, it’s cold outside, with snow and icy conditions already here or on their way. With Old Man Winter rearing his head again, it’s wise to take stock of some of the most common claims during this time and prepare your clients for risk.
Slips and Falls
While slip-and-fall claims are common all year round, the risk of falls is heightened by winter weather conditions. These conditions include the presence of ice on walkways, driveways, stairs, and other surfaces; snow accumulation, which can conceal hazards, such as uneven ground or icy patches; freezing rain that creates a layer of ice on surfaces, making them highly hazardous; fluctuations in temperature that can lead to melting and refreezing cycles, creating icy patches that are not immediately apparent; inadequate snow and ice removal; reduced visibility; lack of warning signs where slippery hazards are present; and uneven surfaces.
Property Damage: On Construction Sites
Adverse weather conditions, such as heavy snowfall, ice accumulation, or freezing temperatures, can cause damage to construction sites, equipment, and materials. Be sure clients are properly insured to help cover the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property, including having Builder’s Risk and Contractors Tools & Equipment coverages.
Frozen Pipes: In the Home
Plumbing issues in the home occur throughout the winter. When the weather becomes cold, the water flowing into a residence might freeze if the faucets are turned off for several hours or more. The issues can be exacerbated in cold buildings where indoor temperatures are not kept adequately high. When water pipelines freeze, the ice can cause pumps to crack, especially if the steel is aged and frozen. These cracked pipes can cause interior damage and flooding once the water loosens and runs again. Homeowners should remember to turn off the water and drain pipes by going to the lowest supplied sink and letting the water out the next time they leave the property for a lengthy amount of time.
Heating, holiday decorations, winter storms, fireplaces, and candles all contribute to an increased risk of fire during the winter months, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). The NFPA provides an excellent resource for safety tips to help prevent housefires.
Falling Trees in the Neighborhood
There are several conditions common to winter that can cause a tree to partially break or outright fall, including the weight of snow on weak branches, which can cause them to fall onto rooftops and windshields; wind and hail; and lightning during a thunderstorm that strikes a tree. Trees can fall on a house, vehicle, or passerby. Property owners should reduce the possibility of falling trees by trimming and removing any structurally unsound or overextended tree along any branch.
Home Roof and Siding Damage
Winter weather can be unpredictable due to heavy snowfall, sleet, hail, and dangerous winds. Because roofing and siding take the brunt of the damage, they account for many homeowner losses during winter. Homeowners should increase the insulation under their roofs to prevent heat from the home from melting the bottom layer of frozen material only for it to refreeze at the roof’s edge. If the roof is prone to ice damming, use a roof rake to remove as much snow as possible after a storm, even if it’s just around the gutter line.
Winter weather is more likely to cause traffic accidents than any other season. A typical collision in subzero temperatures could entail a car or truck skidding on ice or sleet. Many collisions are also caused by drivers’ impaired ability to see the road ahead — or their immediate surroundings — in times of severe rain, snow, and fog.
Remind property owners and individuals to prioritize safety measures to mitigate the impact of winter weather on the risk of injuries and property damage.