Did You Throw Out Food? Few Realize Insurers Cover Spoilage From Power Outages

September 12, 2011

(I thought you might be interested in this blog by the Hartford Courant’s Matthew Sturdevant.)

Most homeowners don’t realize that their insurance policy may pay hundreds of dollars for melting ice cream, thawing meat and other food that spoils during power outages caused by Tropical Storm Irene.

Checking your policy might reveal a clause that will pay to restock your fridge — with a very small deductible.

It’s a coverage that hasn’t received a lot of attention at a time when the bulk of claims are from wind or flood damage. The Connecticut Insurance Department hasn’t received a lot of phone calls about spoiled-food coverage.

Some insurance policies for homes automatically include coverage for “refrigerated property” or “refrigerated products,” which can also include freezer items. In some cases, it’s an optional coverage.

At The Hartford Financial Services Group, for example, it’s optional coverage that is included in insurance packages for homeowners, said Lisa Lobo, the company’s vice president of product management.

“Many customers elect to have that,” Lobo said. “It’s a pretty minimal charge in terms of adding it to the policy.”
An extra $10 on an annual premium buys $500 coverage with a $100 deductible, Lobo said. Coverage can be up to $2,000, she said. Deductibles and coverage limits vary from policy to policy and from one insurance carrier to another.

A homeowner could file a claim for spoiled food even if the storm doesn’t damage the house.

“Following a hurricane, most insurance companies include food-spoilage coverage, usually for a set amount that can range from $250 to $500 per appliance,” said Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute. The burden of proof for a claim varies from policy to policy, but as with all coverage issues, documented evidence such as receipts and photographs makes a claim easier.

The spoiled-food coverage also applies to most homeowners’ policies for “sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current,” including a power surge, Worters said.

Power surges cause damage to other things, too, which are not typically covered by homeowners’ insurance, such as damage to transistors, computer chips, televisions, VCRs and computers.

(If you need help locating your company or agent, contact the Connecticut Insurance Department at 800-203-3447.)