For anyone who’s lived through them, earthquakes are a surreal experience. Any platitudes about requiring stability in life take on a whole new meaning when the ground is shaking beneath your feet.
People who live near fault lines never get used to earthquakes, no matter how many times they happen. As you know, not everything in a house is nailed down, so once the rumbling starts there’s little time to scramble around the room to collect precious belongings before sheltering under a table or doorway.
Having earthquake insurance gives you peace of mind
Residents of west coast states like California understand the need for earthquake insurance due to the fault lines running beneath that part of the country.
Other states, like Texas and Oklahoma, are experiencing damage from earthquakes on a more frequent basis. Some speculate that this is due to an increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a natural gas and petroleum production method which uses high-pressure injections of fluid into underground rock formations that cause crude oil or trapped natural gas to flow out of pipes to surface wells. But whether the earthquakes are due to fracking or not, they’re definitely real, and they can make your whole house shake and your windows rattle.
Oklahoma had the most earthquakes in the US in 2015
Something you may find surprising is that in 2015, Oklahoma had more earthquakes than any other state in the nation, according to Realty Times. As a result, many state residents are now taking out earthquake insurance to ensure that they have coverage if an earthquake damages their home, personal property, or surrounding structures.
Few homeowners realize that they may be 100% responsible for the total cost to repair their house and replace their property when a major earthquake strikes. Considering that your home and possessions may be valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars, earthquake insurance makes good economic sense for many people.
What does earthquake coverage include?
Earthquake insurance coverage differs across insurance companies and can vary depending on your home location, the way it was constructed, and building materials. Most typical insurance policies should include the following coverages:
Earthquake insurance will cover costs to rebuild or repair your home if it’s leveled or severely damaged. It can also include repair or rebuilding costs for attached and/or separate freestanding structures on your property, such as a garage, tool shed, or guest cottage for a small additional premium.
There are often limitations on the type or amount of coverage offered for the masonry or brick portions of your home, so check your specific policy to see how it addresses damage to masonry or brick. Also, keep in mind that many earthquake policies carry rather high deductibles, and they often apply to each type of coverage individually, so make sure you choose one that fits your needs.
Personal property coverage
Make sure to take note of your inventory! Earthquakes can knock personal possessions off shelves, tip over appliances and furniture, damage everything inside cabinets and closets, and shatter windows and glass doors. Earthquake insurance can cover the cost to replace and repair your possessions, provided your policy covers their full value.
Additional living expenses
Some earthquakes can be very severe to the point where electrical fixtures and plumbing pipes or gas lines are destroyed. In severe cases, homes can be out of commission for weeks or even months. That’s where coverage for living expenses comes in. If an earthquake damages your home to the point where it's not habitable, your insurance can cover certain rent and food expenses while it’s being rebuilt or repaired.
Optional earthquake insurance coverage
You may have the choice to buy optional insurance coverage to cover building code upgrades, land restoration, and other options such as:
Breakables coverage - Breakables coverage can pay to replace expensive crystal, glassware, china, pottery, ceramics, porcelain, or marble items. Be sure to account for the total value of all antique and heirloom items when researching your policy.
Exterior Masonry Veneer coverage - Exterior masonry veneer coverage compensates you for decorative non-structural building elements made of concrete, brick, tile, stone or other fine materials used as ornamentation on the exterior of your home. Many policies don’t include this, so check with your agent to see about adding it to your policy.
What does earthquake insurance NOT cover?
Earthquake insurance policies for homeowners typically don’t cover damages in some situations that can include:
Earthquake insurance typically doesn’t cover damages to a vehicle resulting from an earthquake. Comprehensive automobile insurance may cover this type of damage, but it generally would not be included on a traditional earthquake policy.
Earthquake insurance usually doesn’t cover fires caused by earthquakes. Fire damage to your home or possessions resulting from earthquakes is generally covered by homeowners or renters insurance.
Floods (such as a tidal wave) typically aren’t covered by earthquake insurance - even if they are the result of an earthquake or seismic activity. A separate flood insurance policy is usually required to repair or replace your home or personal belongings in the event of a flood.
Flood insurance may be purchased separately and is usually a good idea, especially considering that $25,000 of home damage can result from a single inch of water, according to the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Sinkholes occur when large depressions are created in the earth’s crust. These can either result from natural disasters or human-made causes.
Earthquake insurance typically doesn’t cover sinkholes. Since the US Geological Survey estimates that up to 40% of the country is at risk for sinkholes, many homeowners living in high-risk areas opt to take out insurance covering sinkhole damage to their property.
Masonry such as brick, rocks, stone, or tiles used to add decorative elements to your home’s exterior are usually not covered by earthquake insurance. This can sometimes be purchased as an optional add-on to your earthquake insurance policy.
How much does earthquake insurance cost?
Earthquake insurance rates depend on several factors that include:
- Coverage limits
- Deductible amount
- State and city
- The type of land and soil your home is built on
- The materials used to build your home
- Your home’s proximity to seismic activity and fault lines
- When your home was built
- How many floors your home has
- The cost to rebuild your home
You can typically adjust your premium according to your risk tolerance and deductible amount. It’s always a good idea to review your policy every few years with your insurance advisor to make sure you are covered at the most competitive rate.
How much is my earthquake insurance deductible?
Earthquake insurance deductibles can range from 2-25%. A higher deductible typically results in a lower premium, so if your home suffers from $200,000 worth of damage and your deductible is 10%, $20,000 will be deducted from your total claim.
Do I need earthquake insurance?
Whether you need earthquake insurance or not depends on your personal situation. While it's not mandatory, earthquake insurance can give you peace of mind - especially if you live in an area prone to earthquakes.
Like life insurance, earthquake insurance is something that can be painful to think about. Our jobs, family location, and lifestyle factors may prevent us from living elsewhere - and for many people, that’s just not an option.
Some people may have a large emergency fund set aside to completely rebuild their homes and replace all their personal belongings, equipment, and furniture. For the rest of us, purchasing an earthquake insurance policy might be a very good idea - especially if you have a mortgage.
Is earthquake insurance worth the cost?
Considering the increased incidence of earthquakes in Oklahoma and other places, yes. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. The licensed insurance professionals at Comma Insurance can help you find the right policy to fit your needs and budget. That way, if an earthquake strikes, you can be focused on getting everyone to safety instead of fretting about your mortgage - because some things in life just can’t be replaced.
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