If you’re like most Americans, your home (including all structures on your property) is not just your biggest asset, but a place of safety, comfort, and joy for you and your loved ones. That’s why you buy homeowners insurance coverage.
If something catastrophic happens—and here in Louisiana, that’s a very real possibility—you want to be able to rest easy knowing that your homeowners policy will cover you, no (or at least few) questions asked.
Unfortunately, that’s not always how it plays out. For example, you might assume that your garage falls neatly into your plan’s coverage. But would you be wrong? The answer might surprise you.
These claims can be more complicated than you might expect, which is why an experienced property damage attorney can be an extremely valuable resource while you figure out how to rebuild.
Coverage Limits May Depend on the Type of Garage You Have
You might be surprised to learn that the level of coverage extending to your garage often depends on whether your garage is part of the main dwelling of your home, or if you have a detached garage. In a standard homeowners insurance policy, an attached garage is typically covered as part of the dwelling coverage of your home, whereas detached garages are covered under the “other dwellings” category.
In some cases, the policy limit on detached structures may be as low as 10% of the dwelling coverage specified by your home insurance. For example, if you have $200,000 in dwelling coverage, you may only be able to claim up to $20,000 in other structures coverage.
For some policyholders, this may be sufficient for their needs. But for others, it would not cover the full repair and replacement cost of their garage (and any damaged contents within). Think about how you use your garage and what it contains—yard equipment, tools, maybe even a workspace, home office, or man cave. When you add it all up, the value of everything you stand to lose might significantly exceed your coverage amount.
In addition, the insurance company will typically only cover damage and loss of items if you can prove you own them and that they were damaged by the covered event. It’s always a good idea to keep a master list of valuable property contained in your home, garage, and other structures and take lots of pictures both before and after a disaster strikes.
We strongly recommend that all homeowners review their homeowners insurance policy carefully, including all the fine print, and make sure they have enough personal property coverage. If there’s a huge gap between the value of your property and your policy limits, you should strongly consider purchasing additional coverage.
When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Garage Repair or Replacement?
It’s important to know what is covered under your homeowners insurance as it pertains to your garage and other outdoor dwellings. Keep in mind that the insurance company’s main goal is to maintain a high profit margin for their own business, so you may need mountains of proof to ensure that your claim is covered under these areas.
Some common damages covered by homeowners insurance include:
- Weather-related acts, such as damage caused by hurricanes, hail, wind, or other storms. (Do note, however, that flood damage is typically not covered under a standard homeowners policy, but must be purchased separately if you live in a flood zone.)
- Vandalism and unlawful acts
- Heat damage, such as by fire or lightning
- Falling objects, such as a tree or tree branch
Reasons Your Garage Damage Claim Might Be Denied
After filing a claim with the insurance company, you’ll quickly discover that they work hard to keep money in their own pocket and out of yours. Your claim can be denied for a myriad of reasons—some legitimate, and some not.
Some of the most common reasons that garage damage claims get denied under standard policies include:
- Certain natural disasters. While many kinds of natural disasters are covered, floods and earthquakes usually aren’t. We don’t get too many earthquakes here in Louisiana, but flooding is a different story. You will want to purchase separate flood insurance (typically through the National Flood Insurance Program) if you are eligible to do so.
- Pest infestations. Damage from rodents, termites, and other pests usually isn’t covered unless they were only able to enter the garage as a direct result of a covered event. Most homeowners insurance policies regard pest infestations as preventable and the responsibility of the homeowner.
- Poor property maintenance. In the eyes of the insurance provider, homeowners are expected to perform regular maintenance and upkeep on their property. If you aren’t taking reasonable steps to keep your property safe, your claim will likely be rejected. For example, if you know (or should have known) that a tree on your property is in poor health and at risk of falling, do not proactively get it removed, and it later falls on your garage, your claim may be denied.
- General wear and tear. Just like any other building exposed to the elements, garages don’t stay in pristine condition forever even if you take meticulous care of them. For example, simple garage door repairs to address dings, dents, or failing openers would typically not be covered.
- Excessive delay in reporting. You have a duty to report any property damage to your home insurance in a timely manner so that they can investigate the claim. The longer you wait, the harder it is to prove that the damage was caused by a covered event. Check your policy carefully so you are fully aware of any reporting deadlines.
- Not enough insurance coverage. If you demand greater compensation than the amount of coverage you have, your claim will certainly be denied.
Your Claim May Be Denied, but It Doesn’t Have to End There
While there are plenty of legitimate reasons why your homeowners insurance might reject a garage repair or replacement claim, oftentimes claims are wrongfully denied. Sometimes this is the result of human error, but it’s also sadly not unusual for insurers to use bad faith tactics to delay, reduce, or deny a legitimate claim. Either way, you shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of an unfair denial.
Make sure you carefully review your insurance policy terms before filing a claim. You’ll want to ensure that your garage was damaged by a covered peril, clarify which possessions stored within are also covered (for example, your car usually isn’t—that’s your car insurance), and understand which policy limits (main dwelling or other structures coverage) apply.
Remember that the insurance company also isn’t just going to take your word for it. You will need to provide them with evidence of your losses, which might include extensive photos of damaged structures and items, an inventory of possessions lost or damaged, and more.
If you still aren’t sure about your policy terms, or you feel that the insurer isn’t being fair with you, it’s time to call an experienced property casualty attorney to help you review your legal options and advise you on the next steps.
You Don’t Have to Fight the Insurance Company Alone
The insurance company will do everything in their power to minimize or reject your claim. We’ll do everything in our power to fight back.
The experienced attorneys at Insurance Claim HQ have assisted many policyholders in filing claims for home and garage coverage against insurance companies. We work hard to get claims paid, even after an initial denial. You need an ally on your side, and we’re ready and willing to help you win your case.
If you’re thinking of filing a claim, or believe your claim has been unfairly denied, contact Insurance Claim HQ now to strengthen your case and put money back into your pocket. Call us today at 844-587-8395, or request an appointment using our simple online contact form.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.