How to navigate repairs, insurance claims after Central Texas winter storm

Thursday afternoon in South Austin, many residents were outside surveying damage and cleaning up tree limbs.

"One of the questions that we've been hearing a lot is, ‘Will my insurance company pay to remove those trees?’" said Ben Gonzalez with the Texas Department of Insurance. "If it's just in your yard, most policies will not pay to remove those, but if it fell on your home or your car, or it's blocking access to your home, then some policies will pay to have those trees removed."

For individuals with car damage from the storm, comprehensive coverage is needed for insurance to cover repairs. 

"If you just have the bare minimum, like what the state requires, the liability coverage that protects other drivers doesn't protect your own car," said Gonzalez.

A South Austin resident said she was thankful to have comprehensive coverage. She found a large tree limb had fallen on her car Wednesday night, two weeks after getting a new paint job at the body shop.

"I got it back a couple of weeks ago, and now it looks like the body shop’s going to have a little more work," she said.

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According to AAA Texas, homeowners insurance generally covers sudden, accidental losses like damage from a freeze event. But it’s important for homeowners to act quickly.

"You want to call your home insurance agent as soon as possible to get that claims process started," said Gonzalez.

For those questioning who is at fault when it comes to tree damage, Gonzalez said residents usually won’t be held liable, even if one neighbor’s tree falls on another's property.

"Generally, your neighbor is not going to be responsible for an act of nature," he said. "Unless there was some kind of negligence, like they were in the process of trimming it and that's when it fell on your home or car."

For residents that need to begin immediate, emergency repairs before notifying their insurance company, make sure to take photos, save receipts and save damaged items if possible.