The possibility of a meteor falling from the sky and hitting your house is astronomical, with some experts putting it at 1 in 3.9 trillion, less likely to win a Powerball jackpot than a lottery ticket.
As rare as it is, a small, rocky chondrite meteor actually survived a trip through Earth’s atmosphere and smashed into the roof of a house in the New Jersey town of Hopewell on Monday, according to local police and experts in astronomy.
This begs the question: Do homeowner’s insurance policies typically cover the cost of damage from meteors, asteroids or other types of space debris that happen to fall from space and hit your home? Many insurance experts say the answer is probably yes.
“Based on feedback from our members and other industry partners, it appears that a falling object, such as a meteor or falling satellite, is typically covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy or property business,” Gary La Spisa, vice president of the Insurance Council of New Jerseytold NJ Advance Media.
“Of course, it’s always critical to read your policy and familiarize yourself with any exclusions your policy may have,” he says.
After seeing a bright fireball cross the Michigan sky in January 2018, the Insurance Alliance of Michigan said MLive.com that falling objects – including asteroids, meteors and satellites – are likely to be covered under standard home owners and business insurance policies.
“There is coverage for damage caused by a falling object to the structure of the home or business, as well as to property or property damaged within the building,” according to MLive, which is affiliated with NJ.com.
“Meteors may not be a hazard that people in Michigan commonly think of,” said Pete Kuhnmuench, executive director of the IAM. “But fortunately, homeowner’s insurance policies will cover damage resulting from a meteorite or its fragments.”
An insurance website, InsuranceHub.comagrees that things that fall from space are generally covered by home insurance policies — just like things on the ground, like trees, that can fall on your house during a storm.
“The answer is yes, basically you should be covered for that rogue asteroid,” the said the website in this post. “That’s because home insurance usually covers falling objects. And an asteroid is, well, a falling object if it hits Earth.”
Suzy Kop, who owns a home in the Titusville section of Hopewell that was hit by a small meteor Monday afternoon, could not be reached for comment on whether her home insurance company would cover the damage, or how much it would cost to repair.
The space rock, which measured about 6 inches by 4 inches, tore a hole in the roof of his home, then fell through the ceiling and hit the hardwood floor, according to the Hopewell Township Police Department.
CBS3 News in Philadelphia reported that the stone hit the floor, back to the ceiling, then down to the floor again. No injuries were reported.
Chris Bakley, an astronomy expert from South Jersey, said it’s rare for a meteorite (the technical term for a meteor that lands on Earth) to fall in a populated area.
“Because the world’s oceans cover most of the planet, that’s where most meteorites tend to fall,” Bakley said. “That’s not to say that they don’t fall in populated areas all the time. Over 17,000 meteorites fall to earth every year. It’s just that meteorites found in remote or common areas make them difficult to distinguish from to normal Earth materials.”
Bakley said the Hopewell meteor incident “excited the science community, because when they impact a building like this, it’s easier to identify and confirm that it undeniably came from the sky.”
He said it would not be surprising if extra pieces of the rocky meteorite could be “placed and scattered on the roof and ceiling of the affected house.”
Meteors are important space rocks. Some are small bits of dust and rock particles left behind by comets, and others are fragments of asteroids or planets.
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Len Melisurgo can be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com.
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