How well are you and your home protected in the event of a storm?

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo . -- Mary Esther May knew something bad had happened,

"I heard a big old sound cracking and everything," she said of Friday's early morning storm that tore through most of the metro, leaving thousands without power.

The storm sheared off a huge section of the tree in the front yard of the home May shares with her husband Larry. The downed section of tree blocked their entry way to their home before resting on the roof.

The first call the Mays made for help was to their insurance agent, Vince O'Halloran, of American Family.

The Mays' home is one of two in Independence O'Halloran visited and inspected for damage on Friday. He said American Family expects about 1,500 claims to be filed with the company because of the storm.

O'Halloran's advice to homeowners is to take plenty of pictures of any damage.

"It sure helps paint the picture to the adjuster who is writing the check," said O'Halloran, who has been selling insurance for more than 25 years.

The good news for the Mays is that their homeowner's policy, like most policies, will cover most damage to their home caused by the storm. It will also cover damage to any permanent structure on their property, including a shed, fence and a garage, even if it's not attached.

"If the tree falls and hits the ground, there is no coverage, but if the tree falls and hits the structure, then there is coverage," O'Halloran said.

Your homeowner's policy, however, won't cover damage to your car caused by a storm. That damage would only be covered by a comprehensive auto policy.
If a tree from your home falls into the middle of a street, that's covered by the city. But any damage to your yard or sidewalk could be your responsibility and most likely would not be covered by insurance.

O'Halloran said the vast majority of homeowner policies don't pay for the cost of removing a tree (unless it's on top of your house) or planting a new one.

Of course, before your insurance kicks in, you have to kick in your deductible. That's $1,000 for the Mays. Even if the damage to their home is only slightly more than their deductible, they should still file a claim. That's because it's against the law in most states (including Kansas and Missouri) for insurers to raise rates because of a storm-related claim.

Homeowners who feel they have not been treated fairly by their insurance company should contact the Department of Insurance in their state.