Debate over who pays for vehicles smashed when carports collapse under heavy snow

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DENVER -- The April snowstorm took a toll on several apartment building carports across the metro area and several car owners contacted the FOX31 Denver Problem Solvers to find out who is responsible for the damage.

The answer usually depends on liability and lawyers, but experts say it’s a lot easier to deal with if you have comprehensive auto coverage.

Greg Oehm was one of the many victims of the heavy snow on Sunday.

“We had just gotten out of the truck,” Oehm said. “And we no sooner got to the steps right there when (the carport) came down.”

It smashed the windshield of Oehm's truck, but he said he feels fortunate compared to his neighbors.

“I was sitting right in this spot here, No. 365,” said Lonnie Martin, who suffered extensive damage to his vehicle.

Despite not having his car for 365 days, Martin quickly learned the damage would cost him, at least in the short term.

“Everybody said, ‘Well, do you have your renter’s insurance?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I have renter’s insurance but they don’t cover anything outside your unit,’” Martin said.

The Problem Solvers looked into the issue and found Martin is right, renter’s insurance won’t cover the collapse. Carole Walker, director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, said only comprehensive auto insurance will get you back on the road quickly.

“If you have comprehensive insurance, you’re going to get your car repaired and fixed, and then also your insurance company will look at whether there was any financial responsibility from that landlord to then get your deductible back and represent you,” Walker said.

Martin does not have comprehensive coverage, so his repairs will have to come from his own pocket for now.

“Once I get it all fixed up, then I’ll probably have to go up to full coverage,” Martin said. “Never know what’s going to happen around here.”

Martin and Oehm said they plan to file claims against their landlord’s insurance.

“The (carports) are unsafe, they’re absolutely unsafe and they know this,” Oehm said. “They choose to do nothing. They claim an ‘Act of God.' You can only do that so many times.”

In the meantime, both men know they have very few options.

“If you don’t have full coverage, what are you going to do? Your only recourse is to sue them because they’re not going to claim responsibility,” Oehm said. “They basically told us up yours.”

For information about insurance coverage or information on how to file a claim, check out these websites.