As most Oklahoma homeowners know, tornadoes aren’t the only threat when it comes to living in our great state. In the wake of the September 3, 2016, 5.8-magnitude Pawnee quake, many Oklahomans learned the hard way that a standard homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover earthquake damage.
In 2010, Oklahoma experienced 41 earthquakes of 3.0 or higher on the Richter scale. In 2015 there were 903! It was the most dramatic rise in earthquakes in the United States.
But if I Have Homeowners Insurance, Do I Really Need Oklahoma Earthquake Insurance?
If you live in Oklahoma and you have only a standard homeowner’s policy, the short answer is, yes.
Because a standard home insurance policy doesn’t cover earthquake damage, you need additional coverage, available as an endorsement or as a stand-alone policy, to protect your home and belongings in the event of an earthquake.
What’s Your Risk Factor?
Studies still put Oklahoma firmly at risk for damages resulting from earthquakes, even in light of stricter oil and gas industry regulations governing wastewater disposal volumes, which have been linked to greater seismicity.
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Joan Doak himself holds an earthquake policy on his property and warns those who don’t are self-insuring for 100% of any temblor-related losses. For some, that can mean bankruptcy and walking away from a home after an earthquake.
What Do I Need To Know About Earthquake Policies?
State insurance officials highlight the fact that earthquake policies are written only to protect against catastrophic losses, not against minor damage. This accounts for the current claim payout and approval figures.
Most insurance companies impose a waiting period of anywhere between 3 days and 30 days following an earthquake (depending on magnitude) to allow for additional damage from aftershocks. Sometimes it can even be a 60-day wait.
Coverage against damage caused by wastewater injection varies depending on policy language. When you’re shopping for earthquake insurance, make sure your agent is experienced and knowledgeable in the area of man-made earthquakes resulting from oil and gas activities.
One final thing to consider is that earthquake insurance deductibles are a percentage of the insured value of the home, which is much different than the customary $500 to $1,000 deductibles included in most standard homeowner’s insurance policies.
The bottom line is this: unless you’re extremely knowledgeable about earthquake insurance, it’s going to pay off to talk with an experienced insurance agent.
They can advise on all of the above as well as what earthquake insurance typically covers and what it doesn’t, including the most common exclusions (hint: brick veneer, vehicles, and pre-existing damage).
How Much Coverage Do I Need?
As with most insurance products, your earthquake policy should take into account your financial situation.
Is Appraisal Value Enough?
Some people choose to insure their home for its appraisal or loan value. While this is better than carrying no insurance at all, you should be aware that in the event of a catastrophic earthquake, this level of coverage may mean you’ll only have enough to repay your lender, and may not be enough to repair or rebuild, especially in the case of a total loss.
Put A Finer Point On It
To better understand what level of coverage best fits your needs before you purchase earthquake insurance, ask the following questions:
- How much would it really cost to repair or rebuild your home in the wake of a catastrophic earthquake?
- How much of these repairs or rebuild costs could you pay personally, out-of-pocket?
- If you lost any (or all) of your furniture, appliances, electronics, and clothing today, what could you realistically expect to have to spend to replace them?
- If a catastrophic earthquake meant you had to find temporary housing because you couldn’t live in your own home afterward, how much would it cost to find and live in that temporary housing? How much more would need to living expenses?
These aren’t always easy questions to answer and can feel a little overwhelming to consider. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk them over with an experienced insurance agent so you can best decide what level of coverage is most appropriate given your current circumstances.
How Much Does Earthquake Insurance Cost?
Coverage premiums depend upon a number of factors, but typically an Oklahoma homeowner can expect to pay between $50 and $300 per year for earthquake insurance.
Size, location, and age of your home all play a role in determining premium rates, as do things like construction type and estimated cost to rebuild.
Replacement Cost vs. Actual Cash Value
Also, consider whether you want to insure your home and its contents for replacement cost versus actual cash value. What’s the difference? Replacement cost allows you to rebuild or repair using similar kind and quality of your existing home. Actual cash value is the equivalent of your home’s worth based upon its age and wear and tear. The latter covers property loss but often doesn’t pay enough to fully repair or replace it.
Remember also that, just like most other coverages, the deductible has a significant impact on the cost and value of an earthquake insurance policy. A larger deductible can mean lower premiums but remember that also means you’re responsible for more of the loss in the event your home is damaged in an earthquake.
Who Can Help Me Decide What Kind Of Earthquake Insurance I Need?
An experienced, knowledgeable insurance agent can be your best resource when deciding what level of earthquake coverage to purchase.
At Thrive, we pride ourselves on our ability to help our customers understand the wide variety of products we offer, so they purchase coverage that’s just right for them. Our insurance agents will also walk you through every step of the claim process in the event of an earthquake because we don't believe our job stops when you file a claim.
If you’re looking to purchase an earthquake insurance policy, we’d be happy to give you a personalized insurance consultation today. We’d be delighted to help you get started so you can rest easy knowing you’re covered for everything from accidents to earthquakes.