What Happens if You’re Injured by a Tornado and You Don’t Have Health Insurance?

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Tornadoes are some of nature’s most powerful and devastating forces.  When a tornado strikes, its deadly winds can tear apart homes, blow away cars, and wreak havoc on the human body.  But what happens if you suffer a personal injury from a tornado and you don’t have health insurance?

Tragically, reports are saying more than 30 people have been killed by a deadly storm system of tornadoes tearing across the southern United States.  Arkansas has been among the worst impacted states, with at least 14 dead and countless more injured.  However, not all those who have been injured are protected by health insurance.  If you don’t have health insurance, how can your homeowners insurance help cover you?

What Property is Covered?

Generally speaking homeowners insurance companies divide covered properties into four categories:

  1. Dwelling.  Refers to the structure of the home itself.
  2. Personal Property.  Refers to what’s inside the home: furniture, clothing, etc.  It should be noted that not all personal property is necessarily covered (e.g. artwork, instruments).
  3. Other Structures.  Structures besides the home: garages, sheds, etc.
  4. Loss of Use.  Refers to coverage for the cost of living expenses when a dwelling is no longer inhabitable.

Open Perils vs. Named Perils

In the context of insurance, perils are any events which result in a loss to the insurance holder — in this example, a tornado.  However, homeowners can choose between coverage for open perils, and named perils.  As the terms suggest, open peril coverage is more extensive than named peril coverage, which is more specific and limited in scope.

Usually, homeowners insurance covers all perils to the actual dwelling, but only named perils for the personal property.

Are Tornadoes a Covered Natural Disaster?

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The standard basic homeowners policy covers a variety of natural disasters as named perils. These natural disasters include:

  • Fire
  • Lightning
  • Wind
  • Storms
  • Smoke
  • Ice
  • Hail

In addition to these natural events, other named perils which are typically covered include theft, vandalism, and damage caused by airplanes and ground vehicles.

You may have noticed that the list of covered natural disasters does not appear to include tornadoes.  Fortunately, that’s only a matter of semantics: while “tornadoes” may not be explicitly mentioned, “wind” is.  The damage resulting from tornadoes is lumped into the wind category, and as a result, tornado damages can be covered.

If the tornado is part of a greater storm with rain and hail, hail and water damage can be covered as well.  In fact, as recently as 2010, tornadoes (along with severe thunderstorms) were the nation’s leading cause of insured losses in the natural disaster category.

Federal Aid for the Underinsured

There’s good news, and there’s bad news.

First, the bad news: while a whopping 96% of Americans have homeowners insurance, studies indicate that as many as 64% of homes in the U.S. are underinsured.  As a result, homeowners may find themselves financially struggling to rebuild.

Now, for the good news.  In states where President Obama declares a natural disaster, the underinsured may be eligible for federal aid.  Obama has declared a natural disaster in Arkansas, meaning that federal funding may be available to you.

To quote a statement from the White House: “Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.”

If you or a loved one have suffered from the effects of a tornado, Bella Vista personal injury lawyer Kenneth Kieklak may be able to help. For more than 20 years Ken Kieklak has fought on behalf on injured people in northwest Arkansas. To schedule a free and confidential injury consultation call us at (479) 251-7767 or contact us online today.

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