Minnesota lakes are finally frozen. So if you haven’t already, you should soon be able to take your vehicle out on the frozen water to enjoy the great outdoors and catch some fish while you are there. But how do you minimize the risk of breaking through the ice? And if you do, will your insurance cover your vehicle?
Be Informed About Ice Conditions
First, check with your local bait shop or lakeside resort about the current ice conditions. They will be able to give you some good advice about any places to steer clear of. This is important because temperature, snow cover, currents, and moving springs all affect ice safety. Ice is rarely the same thickness over a single body of water; it may be two feet thick in one place and one inch thick only a few yards away.
If, after talking with the expert in the bait shop or a local resort, you feel secure venturing onto the ice, once you arrive at the lake, check the ice thickness for yourself at least every 150 feet.
Ice thickness guidelines
2″ or less – STAY OFF!
4″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5″ – Snowmobile or ATV
8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup
12″ – 15″ – Medium truck
Park cars, pickups, and sport utility vehicles at least 50 feet apart and move them every two hours to prevent sinking.
But What If the Worst Does Happen?
What happens when your vehicle breaks through the ice? Does insurance cover it? It depends on what kind of insurance you have on your vehicle. Generally, comprehensive insurance would cover this situation.
Still, if you plan to take your vehicle on the ice, you should read your insurance policy’s fine print since there could be exclusions. For example, your car insurance policy might exclude damage incurred during off-road recreational activity. If this verbiage is part of your policy, how your insurer defines off-road recreational activity would determine if driving on ice would be covered.
What About Retrieval Costs?
Typically, comprehensive coverage on your vehicle will pay for the retrieval cost of the vehicle’s extraction from the water. We’d recommend calling your auto insurance provider before driving or parking on ice. Verify with your insurer that your comprehensive coverage will cover your vehicle. And ask if the extraction of your vehicle will be covered. If you have to pay for this on your own, it can be pricey — $2,000 to $6,000 on average.
If your car does not have comprehensive coverage, the retrieval costs are often paid for and considered property damage under your auto liability coverage. However, in this case, there is no coverage for the cost of the vehicle itself.
In either case, any fines assessed to you for the car falling through the ice would be paid by you.
In some states, such as New York, policies will cover the removal of an insured vehicle from the ice only once in a lifetime. Check with your insurance company to determine if you have any limitations.
Comprehensive coverage is the portion of your insurance policy covering events other than collisions. So, if you purposely drove your vehicle on ice, for instance, to park and go ice fishing, your comprehensive coverage would pay for repair or replacement, assuming you have it. On the other hand, you can use collision coverage if your accident starts with a collision on a roadway. For example, you might be in a roadway accident when your car is pushed or flipped onto the ice.
Water Is Tough on Vehicles
Once your car is retrieved, it will likely be a total loss due to water damage to the engine, electrical system, etc. Because of this, you’ll receive the actual cash value for your vehicle instead of having it repaired. The car would then be given a salvage title and go to your insurer.
If your vehicle had only liability coverage when it fell through the ice, you would have no coverage, leaving you personally responsible for the extraction and repair (or disposal) of your vehicle.
Are You Sufficiently Insured?
Before venturing out on icy lakes or roads this winter, ensure you have the coverage you need. Call Hermann Insurance. We have been a part of the North Branch community since 1965. We want what is best for you. Contact us today!