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March 8, 2021

Do You Know What to Do Before and After an Earthquake?

Your home is insured for earthquake damage only if you’ve added an endorsement to your policy or bought a separate earthquake policy. There are steps you can take to be prepared should an earthquake strike.  

TOP CONSIDERATIONS  

Earthquakes can cause a great deal of damage that won’t be covered under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. 

If there’s been a recent earthquake, most insurers won’t sell any new earthquake insurance for 30 to 60 days. If you are considering a policy, the ideal time to buy the coverage is before there’s an earthquake. 

Expect aftershocks, which can cause more damage in the hours, weeks, days or even months after the quake. Talk to your insurance provider about the coverage of these events. Typically, all earthquake events in a 72-hour (three-day) period are considered one event—with one claim and one set of deductibles. Damage caused by aftershocks more than 72 hours after the first quake could mean a second claim with a second set of deductibles.  

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW  

Call your insurance agent after an earthquake. The insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to assess the damages and determine the payment. These adjusters may be employees of the company or independent contractors. The adjuster will likely meet with you to inspect the damage. 

Be aware of your earthquake policy’s deductible. A deductible is the amount the homeowner is responsible for paying on each claim. The deductible for earthquake insurance is usually 10–20% of the coverage limit. For example, if your home is insured for $200,000, a 10% deductible would be $20,000. 

Even if you don’t think the earthquake damage to your home is greater than your deductible, let your insurance company know that your home has been damaged. A qualified professional should inspect your home for both structural (hidden) and cosmetic damage. 

Earthquakes can be unpredictable. There are actions to lower the risk of earthquake damage. Some of these steps can also mean a lower earthquake insurance premium. Retrofitting (changes to your home to reduce damage) may be a way to protect some homes.  

  • Bolt down items such as bookcases, dressers and televisions.  

  • Secure and brace the water heater to the dwelling frame.  

  • Install automatic gas shut-off valves. 

Know what is not covered. Earthquake insurance doesn’t cover water damage from external sources, such as from sewer or drain backup or flooding. For example, if you live near a lake that floods your home after an earthquake, earthquake insurance won’t pay to repair the damage. A flood insurance policy will cover your property for that damage.  

Earthquake insurance usually won’t cover anything your homeowners insurance policy already covers. It won’t, for instance, cover fire damage to your home, even if the fire started because an earthquake ruptured a gas line. Your homeowners policy would cover losses from a fire. 

THINGS TO REMEMBER  

  • Standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover earthquake damage.  

  • Be aware of earthquake deductibles and how they work. You can read about the topic in our Consumer Insight on earthquake deductibles.  

  • An insurance policy is a legal contract. Read your policy and contact your insurance agent or company if you have questions. If they can’t answer your questions, contact your state insurance department.