If your property has suffered water damage from plumbing leaks, you’ve probably wondered whether the damage is covered by your homeowner’s insurance.
However, the first question you should ask is, “Is this my water or someone else’s?”
In the insurance industry, this is about as general a question as you can get – yet it is extremely important when determining if you should be covered under your policy.
What If It’s Mine?
The first thing to do when you suffer water damage is to attempt to discover the cause of the problem.
If the water that came into your home through a plumbing fixture was from your own home, there is a good chance you are covered for any damage caused by that water.
For example, flood damage caused by a ruptured supply line to your sink, or a crack in a stack pipe which leaks waste water into your house, are likely covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy.
(In these instances, keep in mind that the damaged supply line or stack pipe may not be covered, even though the water damages they cause should be.)
What If It’s Someone Else’s?
Let’s say you have determined that the cause of water damage to your property came from an outside source, such as a city sewer line or a sump pump.
If the water came from somewhere else, you may not be so lucky.
In general, insurance companies treat losses from outside water sources differently, and it could come down to which adjuster your insurance company sends out.
Most policies have an exclusion for water which backs up through sewers, drains, or sump pumps. How this exclusion is interpreted can determine whether or not your water loss is covered, regardless of whether it’s worth $3,000 or $30,000.
What Do The Courts Have To Say?
Luckily, the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has laid out a great analysis of this precise issue. In Wheeler, DiUlio, & Barnabei’s recent case, Tran v. Seneca Insurance, the Court looked at a claim where water entered the property from the roof due to a blocked roof drain.
In this case, the Court provided some clear guidelines as to how the policy language excluding water which backs up through sewers, drains, and sump pumps should be interpreted.
The Court stated, “Courts that have decided this issue have held that water that ‘backs up or overflows from a sewer, drain, or sump’ may only refer to water whose source is a sewer, drain, or sump.”
Additionally, the Court declared that, “The term ‘backs up’ refers to water that reverses its natural or intended flow within a drainage system”.
Ultimately, it was determined that a blocked drain where water was not able to pass completely through was not excluded under the policy.
What Does This Mean For Me?
If you have suffered damages caused by water escaping into your home, the best thing you can do is give us a call.
Even if you have determined that the damages were caused from fixtures within your own home, it is best to have someone on your side to guide you through the process of getting the money you need to make all necessary repairs.
The insurance company will not always give you the benefit of coverage, even when coverage should be afforded. You need help making sure that you get what you paid for when you signed up for your homeowner’s insurance policy. We will review the loss, review your policy, and let you know if you should be covered.