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Insurance claims on the rise as snow piles on

Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The pileup of snowstorms has caused insurance claims to spike and insurers to bring on additional adjusters to assess the cost of the damage as Boston-area residents deal with everything from leaky roofs to collisions on narrow roads.

These weather-related losses are likely to get worse in coming weeks: Forecasters call for more snow, and insurers expect more problems, now hidden by snow, to surface when spring arrives. In particular, the snow accumulated on rooftops is leading to the creation of ice dams, which prevent drainage and cause leaks inside houses.

On Tuesday, Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley Hills received 30 claims, triple the usual number and mostly tied to ice dams , said Tom Skelly, a vice president. In most cases, the company is keeping the claims open because it expects more damage to come.


“We are telling the clients it’s not the end,” Skelly said. “The water you see is just the beginning.”

Insurance companies say their phones are jammed with customer calls about ice dams. About 25 percent of the new claims that Quincy-based Arbella Insurance is receiving are tied to ice dams, said Joe Salerno, vice president of claims. He expects it to grow as high 40 percent of claims.

Plymouth Rock Assurance, primarily an auto insurer with a smaller homeowners business, has seen damage claims for homes jump to nine times the normal volume this week, said Chris Olie, its chief executive.

“Right now, my staff is drinking from the fire hose,” Olie said.

Plymouth Rock is contracting with independent adjusters to supplement the staffers visiting homeowners and accessing the amount of damage to their homes.

Liberty Mutual brought adjusters from out-of-state offices to handle the deluge of claims around the region, in hopes of speeding up the process, said Glenn Greenberg, a spokesman for the Boston-based insurer.


“We have several more adjusters positioned to come to the region should our claims volume increase,” he said.

Damage from ice dams can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on severity and the value of the home. And while homeowner policies tend to cover damage to the home itself, they usually don’t pay for losses to personal property, such as computers, televisions, and stoves that may be near the leak.

Insurance experts stressed that homeowners should deal with ice dams as soon as possible, using an snow rake to clear roofs and then a mallet to break up some of the ice packs. To keep ice from building up, homeowners should salt the roof edges, said Skelly, of Deland Gibson.

In some cases, ice dams may be significant and need the expertise of roofers. But many of those companies are overwhelmed by work this week.

Newton Roofing Residential received 174 voice mails in a span of less than four hours on Tuesday, said Richard Melo, the company’s general manager.

“It’s an absolute disaster,” he said. “We’re piecing together crews and using some subcontractors.”

Insurers said few auto claims related to slick roads and winter weather have been filed, largely because of the state travel ban that was issued during the January blizzard and decisions by companies to close their offices and allow workers to telecommute, said Salerno, with Arbella Insurance.

But snowbanks are starting to resemble walls, which can prevent drivers from seeing oncoming traffic as they inch out of driveways or side streets, Salerno said.


“We are anticipating seeing more peek-out claims,” he said.

Insurance officials advise consumers to read through their policies and to take photographs of any damage, with time stamps, while they wait for the adjusters to arrive. If they make emergency repairs, consumers should save all receipts.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.