The sky is falling! Understanding home insurance and falling objects

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

Ross h…

Home insurance protects your largest asset from some familiar dangers. When thinking of the most likely scenarios, you might be thinking about house fires, theft or hail damage. But the list of perils covered by your average home insurance policy covers more than you think.

The most common home insurance policy is the HO-3 which usually protects your home and surrounding structures from damages from either 16 named or specified perils or an open peril basis (where everything is covered except things listed as exclusions). In either case, one somewhat surprising thing that you’re protected against is: falling objects. 

Today, we’re delving into the particular peril of falling objects. What does that really mean? Does that mean anything that falls from the sky or are there exclusions? And how common are these things really?

What is a falling object?

How does insurance define a falling object? It generally doesn’t have a distinct definition, although check your individual policy for details. The majority of objects that hit your house and cause damage, aren’t really falling, such as trees or debris kicked up by wind from a storm. These will be covered under the peril of wind or hurricanes

However, for perils that don't fall under wind, falling objects coverage comes into play. This could include:

  • Airplanes or airplane debris
  • Meteors
  • Asteroids
  • Electricity poles
  • Satellites

Note, that the cause of the object falling is relevant. If the cause of the falling object is excluded by your policy then the damage wouldn’t be covered. For example, let’s say a piece of equipment is corroded and falls, damaging a shed underneath it. If corrosion is an excluded peril in the policy, that falling object would not be covered[1]

To make a claim for a falling object, it needs to actually hit your home, car or other structure. It also needs to damage your roof or exterior wall first. If it falls in your yard, unless it’s blocking your driveway or exit, you will likely need to deal with the removal yourself.

How likely is it that your home will be hit by a falling object?

There are surprisingly few statistics on your likelihood of being hit by a falling object. Unlike flood plains and proximity to the coast for hurricanes, the peril of falling objects is much harder to pin down. 

We know that objects from airplanes fall infrequently, but your chances are still not zero. The most frequent thing to fall from airplanes is blocks of ice. This happens when water freezes on the plane’s undercarriage when it is at high altitude and then starts to melt as it descends. Other cases have involved pieces of plane engines and even tools that were forgotten by the ground crew[2]

What about things falling from a little further up? Based on the number of rockets being launched, one research team calculated that the chance of a piece of space debris falling to Earth and killing someone to be about 10% over the next 10 years[3]. Of course, that applies to it occurring in any populated area in the world, so your chance of that person or (that person’s property) being you is still quite small.

What are the odds of a meteor hitting my home?

This is probably not a thought that keeps you up at night, but just in case: NASA scientists who track near-Earth objects, calculate that the chance of a meteor hitting you or your home is about 1 in 1.6 million[4].

Tips for homeowners to avoid falling objects

Now the falling objects mentioned above are not something you can really avoid. I mean if a piece of ice from a plane comes hurtling through your roof, there’s really no preventing that (and that’s why we have insurance). That said, for more terrestrial objects, here are some tips:

  1. Regularly maintain your property, checking for signs of corrosion or disrepair that could cause things to fall.
  2. If you notice any city or utility-maintained poles, street lights, etc. in need of repair, report those to the appropriate organization for maintenance. 
  3. Trim branches that overhang your home. Encourage neighbors to do the same, especially if their trees hang over your roof. 
  4. Make sure to remove any trees that are dead or dying.

What to do if your home is hit by a falling object

You were sitting at home and a piece of something just crashed through your roof. What’s the next step? 

First, you should review your policy. Understand the specifics of your home insurance coverage. Review coverage limits, exclusions and any additional endorsements that may be needed for comprehensive protection against falling object damage.

Next, document and report. In the unfortunate event of damage, document the scene with photographs and videos before making any repairs. Promptly report the incident to your insurance company to initiate the claims process.

Wrapping up

While most falling objects pose a very small threat to your home, it’s still good to have a comprehensive understanding of what is covered and what is not. 

Regular maintenance, awareness of your policy details and proactive risk mitigation can help homeowners navigate the potential challenges associated with falling objects and protect their investment in their homes.

And remember, if you are that one in a million whose home is destroyed by a meteor, not only will insurance likely cover it, but you’ll have a pretty amazing story to tell.