No one can deny the sheer power of water. After torrential downpours or consistent rain over several days, the aftereffects of wet conditions have led to billions of dollars in damage from the floods that frequently result. You name the major storm — be it Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or Hurricane Harvey in 2017 — flooding is a leading cause of insurance claims. Indeed, flooding is the most common natural catastrophe in the U.S., with financial losses over the last decade averaging $2.4 billion per year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But wind is no pushover — in fact, it's the one that does the pushing: Knocking down power lines, branches and massive trees from their roots. Like water, wind in steady doses is healthy for the environment, but when it intensifies, it's not to be underestimated. What's more, its impact may not always be immediately recognizable, affecting the performance of the windows of your facility. Depending on what's broken and what is listed on your business owner's policy, the damage may be covered by insurance.
How frequently are insurance claims related to wind damage?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, wind is consistently among the leading forms of property damage for claimants. In 2017, for example, nearly 42% of property damage claims were related to wind and hail, more than fire and lightning (33%), water damage and freezing (18%) and theft (1%). Wind damage was the highest share of claims between 2014 and 2018, based on the most recent figures available.
While gusty conditions can come at any time, they're often associated with specific storms, like hurricanes. When Hurricane Sally struck Alabama in 2020, for example, wind gusts at one point reached approximately 100 miles per hour, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Winds can also dramatically intensify the destruction caused by wildfires, spreading the blaze further and deeper. This of course makes it far harder for firefighters to get the flames under control.
At what point can winds cause property damage?
Generally speaking, the harder that wind blows, the more likely it is that property is affected. By definition, Category 5 hurricanes produce sustained winds between 157 mph or more. In such instances, framed buildings can be completely destroyed and trees toppled. But they don't need to reach this category for damage to result. Vinyl siding, gutters and shingles may require repair after a Category 1 hurricane, according to the NOAA's National Hurricane Center.
While the roof and siding tend to be the property features whose damage is the most noticeable, wind can also take its toll on windows — and not necessarily from cracked or shattered window panes. The window seals — which line the outer rim of windows and are what enable them to close snuggly — can deteriorate more quickly than they would otherwise. Extreme temperature variations can also play a role, be it bone-chilling cold in the winter or oppressive heat in the summer.
Tara Stone, president of Stone Claims Group, says that in her 20 years of experience as a private adjuster, the wind's effect on windows is largely linked to how a building is constructed.
"Each building is different, depending on the structure and how it is built," Stone told Everything Building Envelope, a podcast hosted by GCI Consultants.
Yet at the same time, having worked thousands of cases, there are some similarities, which makes documented damage easier to link back to wind.
"So we're looking for indicators that there could possibly be damage, whether it be indicators from our personal experience or talking to the residents or owners of the building to see if there has been any changes," Stone added. "So once we see damage to the roof — or in this case, we're talking about windows, meaning damage to the windows — we would rely on outside experts to come in to verify if what we're seeing is true and correct."
Wind damage often has certain commonalities
Just because there may be wind-related damage on windows does not necessarily mean that it gets covered. As Stone noted, much of this determination is related to the wording of the insurance policy.
"The policy, that's the Bible of the insurance claim process, because they wrote it," Stone said. It's a contract of adhesion. The insurance company wrote it, you had to accept it. So that means every semicolon, comma, period [matters]; how words are written are so important."
She added that it's her job to look at the issue in question, identify the damage, then bring in the experts to see if the damage can be sourced to wind or hail.
This is what makes Stone Claims Group different. We maximize your claim recovery so you get every last dollar that you have coming to you, whether it's related to windows, siding, roofing or any other form of property damage on your facility. Contact us today to learn more.
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