December 26, 2015 • By Dennis Beaver

Daily, now, we are hearing warnings of the approaching El Niño weather system which is predicted to be one of the most destructive in decades. The insurance industry is facing the prospect of claims on a scale not seen since the 1997-98 — which was the strongest ever recorded.

“We know that a variety of damage and destruction will occur to impacted residents,” Emeryville-based State Farm Insurance spokesperson Sevag Sarkissian told You and the Law, and stressed that: “There are a number of things which should be done now to prepare for the coming storms which help people respond and recover in the months ahead as extreme weather events on the west coast are common.”

Meet with your insurance agent

From a legal perspective, this is an excellent time to meet with your insurance agent and obtain an insurance review, discussing your policies, coverages, deductibles and other details which could be especially important now, “For example, the importance of understanding how auto comprehensive coverage can be so valuable this season,” as Sarkissian described:

“While flood coverage is not part of the typical homeowners or business owner’s policy, it is with auto comprehensive. We fully expect localized flooding, so if you lack comprehensive auto insurance and your car is damaged in a flood, there would be no coverage.”

Consider flood insurance

Over the past few months, the Federal Government has been running ads on all media — electronic and print — urging that we consider flood insurance. Sarkissian observes that, “The reason for those ads is to educate the public that homeowners or renters insurance does not typically cover flood damage.

“A flood insurance policy is a separate policy and is offered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

“Consumers need to recognize that it takes 30 days from date of purchase to go into effect. So, please don’t wait until the risk of a flood is imminent to buy the policy if you want or need one: is a free resource which provides information about flood risk and insurance.”

Be car and home prepared

“If ever there was a time to think about our cars, it’s now,” Sarkissian cautions. “We never know where we will be when a major storm strikes. You do not want to get stuck somewhere away from home and work as a result of failing to take care of routine maintenance, replacing wiper blades, being sure your tires are fit for the rain, lights in good order and so on.

“If you are caught in an unexpected weather event, what you have available in the car could be critical. So, this is a good time to remove all of the un-necessary ‘Trunk Junk’ that we all tend to collect, and in place:

  • Have an emergency kit – flashlight, water, nonperishable food;
  • Plastic tarp, gloves, dry, warm clothes, a blanket;
  • First aid kid, tire tools, jumper cables. Tools, to change a tire.

The State Farm Spokesperson cited other things which “could be easily overlooked and lead to trouble on the road. This includes keep your gas tank filled or your hybrid battery charged, being sure tires are in good condition. This is basic stuff,” he notes, “But you would be surprised at how we forget about.”

“Finally, check the weather and ask yourself, ‘Is it safe for me to be on this road?’ ”

“As with your car,” Sarkissian observes, “This is a good time to do a home assessment, including roof, windows, doors, rain gutters, drains and perform needed repairs. With powerful winter storms coming, have an evacuation plan ready, so that everyone knows where they might go

“We encourage having ‘An Evacuation Package,’ with vital documents. This would include your insurance policies, health insurance and prescription information, anything that you would need if your home were damaged and you were away a substantial amount of time.

“Do a home inventory of personal property by making a video of each room, opening doors, drawers, so you can establish what was there before the damage occurred and back it up to the cloud if possible. This would be so helpful in an insurance claim.”

Thoughtfully, the “Be a Good Neighbor” insurance company wants us all to be good neighbors, as Sarkissian points out:

“It’s so important to examine your tree branches and limbs as well as fences in a condition which could damage not just your home, but your neighbor’s. That’s a normal part of home maintenance, and it goes to the heart of being a good neighbor.

“The more we can do to prepare, the safer we will all be as stormy weather strikes California,” he concluded.

It’s good advice and we appreciate State Farm making him available.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.