Yesterday’s post, Physical Damage is Needed to Collect for Loss of Warranty, may lead some to think that property insurance policies require “structural” or a “functional” destruction before coverage is not afforded. This simply is not true. Alterations to the physical appearance of a structure or personal property are covered so long as the cause is a covered peril.
Indeed, this issue does not get raised just by insurance adjusters. My experience is that when insurance defense counsel hire engineers, the engineering report repeatedly notes the lack of “structural” damage to a building. A noted example of this is with roof claims. HAAG engineers often repeat in their reports and at seminars that there is no structural or functional damage to shingles or parts of the roof. The result is insurance company attorneys saying that they are not paying for anything unless there is proof of “structural damage.”
I am going to provide just one example to show how absurd this position is. The FC&S Bulletins discuss the issue and use the same example of vandalism that I usually provide. Interestingly, the question posed involved a roof with cosmetic damage, and I bet the insurance company had a roofing expert say there was no functional or structural damage to the roof:
Direct Physical Loss and Cosmetic Loss
Hail stones have created dents to a copper roof. The section of roofing is located over a second story bay window. It does not appear that the hail has compromised the life span of the roof’s surface or otherwise affected or decreased its useful lifespan.
Our HO policy provides coverage for direct physical loss. If the roof’s integrity was not compromised by the hail stone impact, has a physical loss occurred?
We believe that some carriers view this type of damage as cosmetic and do not provide coverage for replacement of the copper roof. Does FC & S have an opinion?
Whether or not the dents are cosmetic or affect the roof structure, they are still direct physical loss. The policy doesn’t define damage so standard practice is to go to a desk reference. Merriam Webster Online defines damage as loss or harm resulting from injury to property, person, or reputation. The roof now has dents where it didn’t before; that’s direct damage. The policy doesn’t exclude cosmetic damage, so direct damage, even if it is cosmetic, is covered. It’s the same as if vandals had painted the side of the house purple. While cosmetic, it’s damage, and is covered. The principle of indemnity is to restore the insured to what they had before the loss, and this insured had a roof with no dents.
I am raising this issue in part because there are so many Hurricane Ike disputes where the insurers are not paying for roof damage. One of the arguments is that they do not pay for “cosmetic damage” which is wrong. The vandalism example made by the editors of the FC&S Bulletin clearly shows that the property policy covers for damages to the appearance of structure or property so long as it is by a covered peril.