Published: September 2015
From meat to produce to frozen dinners, you may have hundreds of dollars’ worth of food stored in your refrigerator or freezer. And if your power were to go out for just a few hours, much of that food could become unsafe to eat and have to be thrown away, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service.
In some cases, you may be able to get reimbursed for your loss by your insurance company, but it's important to understand what your insurance policy does and does not cover.
The cause of the power outage may play a role in whether your homeowners insurance will cover the loss. Oftentimes, lost food expenses are reimbursable if they’re the result of a covered loss to your home (frequently referred to as perils), such as a tree that fell on your home’s roof and severed your power line. However, if you accidentally cut your own power line during a do-it-yourself project or fail to pay your power bill, your insurer likely won't cover food-loss expenses.
In addition, some insurers' policies may cover food that spoils if the power outage affects only your residence, while other providers may offer coverage if the entire neighborhood is without power. In either case, though, the outage would likely have to be caused by a covered peril. Your agent can help you understand what your policy may cover.
Your agent can also explain what perils your policy covers and whether it covers damages (including food spoilage) due to widespread power outages that are the fault of your power company. Also, you may want to check with the utility company to see if it will reimburse you for your insurance deductible, food spoilage or other damage as a result of a power outage.
If you do end up making a food spoilage insurance claim, take pictures of the food if you can. If your claim includes expensive food items like a whole side of beef, your insurance company may also require you to submit receipts.
It's important to keep in mind that coverage limits typically apply. So, for instance, even if you have $700 worth of spoiled food, your homeowners insurance policy may only cover a loss of up to $500. In addition, you'll usually have to pay a deductible before receiving reimbursement for your loss. Limits and deductibles can vary, so be sure to read your insurance policy or ask your agent to learn about the specifics of your coverage.
It's never fun to experience an extended power outage, but by taking a few preventative measures and understanding your coverage, you can avoid being in the dark when it comes time to handle a loss.