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Thread: Burst pipe under slab - whats covered?

  1. #1
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    Default Burst pipe under slab - whats covered?

    Looking for some advice:

    House was built in 1968. Half of it is on crawl space, half on slab. Sewer drain and water lines run under the slab.

    Noticed water coming out from under our foundation a few days ago. Plumber used a camera to find a broken drain line (I believe it is a cast iron pipe) that runs from a bathroom under the slab to the city sewer. Water is pooling up under our slab and coming out from the foundation in the low part of our property.

    Recommended fix is to pull out our nice wood flooring, bring in a jackhammer and start digging up the foundation to find the leak and check for foundation damage.

    Called insurance (Liberty Mutual) to see if it was covered. Nobody could tell me for sure so I was forced to file a claim to find out.

    From their website;

    PIPE BURST-
    You are covered up to your policy's limits for that damage, and for any additional damage done in the course of repairing the system. Coverage does not include the cost of repairing or replacing the system itself unless the damage was caused by freezing. Only water damage that is sudden and accidental is covered, so your policy would not cover damage from a slow leak, for example.
    The claims person said it was not covered since there was no damage internally to the house. I asked if they could cover the cost to repair the floor which the plumber would have to dig up in order to fix the pipe. Their response was no, they do not cover anything unless there is first some evidence of internal damage to the house.

    So am I being penalized for finding a leak early before it causes "internal" damage? Why does coverage appear to stop once you hit the slab and the foundation? Is the slab not "internal".

    This is such an $$$$ and common problem with slab houses and it sucks that insurance companies are trying to get off the hook for it.

    Any advice?



  2. #2
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    I've had the same question come up hundreds of times during my years as a claim rep.

    And the answer is simple.

    Your policy covers "direct physical loss to property" and excludes "wear and tear" and "deterioration."

    You had no "direct physical loss" to the slab or flooring and the condition of the drain line is caused by its "deterioration" over a period of many years, which is why the drain line isn't covered either.

    It is precisely because drain lines deteriorate over time that insurance doesn't cover them.

    It's also likely that the drain water would never have seeped up through the slab and flooring because it's not a continuous flow and not under pressure and, in your case, appears to have an easy exit route from under your house.

    So even if you had waited all you would have had was further erosion of the soil under the house so the drain water wold have had an easier route to flow out through.

    I've paid many claims where the water seeped up through the concrete and flooring and denied many claims where it didn't. That's how it works.

    Insurance companies don't "try to get off the hook" for this kind of claim. They were never on the hook in the first place.

  3. #3
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    Jack,

    Thanks for your quick reply. Regarding my policy, I thought it was clear they pay for damage caused by the broken pipe and damage caused to repair the pipe.

    So if the pipe broke and had to be fixed in the ceiling or walls than the repair is covered. If the pipe has to be repaired in the slab then its not? Why is the slab considered "outside" of the house?

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    Originally Posted by FrankTheTank
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    Jack,

    Thanks for your quick reply. Regarding my policy, I thought it was clear they pay for damage caused by the broken pipe and damage caused to repair the pipe.

    So if the pipe broke and had to be fixed in the ceiling or walls than the repair is covered. If the pipe has to be repaired in the slab then its not? Why is the slab considered "outside" of the house?
    I think maybe you missed something in my response.

    Has nothing to do with the slab being inside or outside. It has to do with whether or not the slab was damaged.

    In order for anything to be covered, there has to be damage to covered property by the water that leaked out of the pipe.

    Damage caused by water that is discharged from a plumbing system is covered. But it wasn't the water that damaged the pipe, it was the deterioration of pipe that damaged the pipe, and deterioration is not a covered cause of loss.

    The water did not damage the slab or the floor.

    Having to break out the floor is not damage caused by the water, it's damage caused by people tearing out the floor to get to the drain.

    I'll anticipate your next comment, "The floor and slab would not have to be broken out if it weren't for the leak."

    True, but that brings us back to the concept of "direct physical loss" which is how your policy (any policy, actually) is written.

    That requires that the water be the direct cause of damage to the floor and not the indirect cause of somebody having to get through the floor to fix the leak.

    Here's another example of how that works.

    You're tossing a ball back and forth in the house with your friend or family member. He fails to catch the ball and it breaks a mirror. The direct cause of the damage to the mirror was you throwing the ball. The mirror is covered.

    Next scenario. You're tossing a ball back and forth in the house with your friend or family member. He fails to catch the ball and it hits your sleeping dog. The dog, startled, jumps up and crashes into the mirror. The dog is the direct cause of damage to the mirror. Throwing the ball was not the direct cause of the damage. The mirror is not covered because there is an exclusion for damage caused by "animals owned or kept by an insured."

    In the second example the mirror would not have been broken if you hadn't thrown the ball. Yet throwing the ball was not the direct cause, the dog hitting the mirror was the direct cause.

    One more example. A windstorm blows your door apart. You have windstorm coverage. The damage to the door is covered. Somebody walks by, sees no door, walks in and steals your stuff. If you didn't have theft coverage, the stolen items would not be covered. Was the wind the direct cause of the stolen stuff? No.

    Using your ceiling and wall reference, if there was a broken pipe in the ceiling or wall, the water that was released would almost certainly cause damage to the ceiling or wall. That would make the tear out and repair of the ceiling or the wall covered, but the repair to the pipe itself would not be covered (unless the break was caused by freezing pipes - which is a whole nuther story).

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    Let me try a new argument (thanks for bearing with me). I just read my policy and in summary it looks like they will cover... a loss to property resulting from accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing system.

    It further states:
    "this includes the cost to tear out and replace any part of the building when necessary to repair the system or appliance"

    I am assuming sewer line is considered part of a plumbing system.

    What I believe you are stating is that I do not have a "loss to property". However, the water has formed tiny cracks in my foundation in order to escape. Isnít that loss to my property since it is now damaged because of this?

    Isn't a wet foundation a "loss to property" since its now damaged and lost value?

    Thanks again for helping me understand this.

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    To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 20 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    Originally Posted by FrankTheTank
    To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 20 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    Let me try a new argument (thanks for bearing with me). I just read my policy and in summary it looks like they will cover... a loss to property resulting from accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing system.

    It further states:
    "this includes the cost to tear out and replace any part of the building when necessary to repair the system or appliance"

    I am assuming sewer line is considered part of a plumbing system.
    Yes.


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    Originally Posted by FrankTheTank
    To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 20 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    What I believe you are stating is that I do not have a "loss to property". However, the water has formed tiny cracks in my foundation in order to escape. Isnít that loss to my property since it is now damaged because of this?

    Isn't a wet foundation a "loss to property" since its now damaged and lost value?
    Well, you haven't mentioned that before.

    It might fall under other exclusions, but has that actually been inspected by the adjuster?

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    No. Just the plumber.

    The claims adjuster asked me if there was any "internal" damage to the property and I told her I could not find any. She then said the claim would be denied. I read my policy twice and can't find any mention of the word "internal"? What does it matter if its an internal wall or an external wall?

    Again, thanks for your help.

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    To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 20 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    Originally Posted by FrankTheTank
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    No. Just the plumber.
    Then I suggest you notify the adjuster and get it on record, inspected, and a determination made one way or the other.


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    Originally Posted by FrankTheTank
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    The claims adjuster asked me if there was any "internal" damage to the property and I told her I could not find any. She then said the claim would be denied. I read my policy twice and can't find any mention of the word "internal"? What does it matter if its an internal wall or an external wall?
    I don't know why she's saying "internal", because you are right, the word "internal" doesn't appear in the policy.

    The following are the questions that need to be asked on a homeowners claim:

    1 - Is the damaged item "covered property"?
    2 - Is it "direct" damage from a covered peril (cause)?
    3 - Is the damage sudden?
    4 - Are there exclusions or limitations that eliminate or modify coverage?

    There could be lots of things that can happen to the outside of your house that would be covered.

    Unfortunately, exterior water damage is one of the trickiest to evaluate because there is a lot about water damage that is ongoing over time or caused by nature that is just not within the scope of a homeowners policy.

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    I was able to convince the claims supervisor that I might indeed have a covered loss. He is sending out an ajuster on Monday.

    Thanks again for your help!

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    To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 20 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    Originally Posted by FrankTheTank
    To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 20 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    I was able to convince the claims supervisor that I might indeed have a covered loss. He is sending out an ajuster on Monday.

    Thanks again for your help!
    Good.

    Let me know how it goes or if you need more discussion.

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