The odds of a meteor falling from the sky and crashing into your home are astronomical, with some experts putting them at 1 in 3.9 trillion, far less than the probability of a single lottery ticket hitting the jackpot.
Although rare, a small, stony chondrite meteorite actually survived a journey through Earth’s atmosphere and smashed the roof of a home in the New Jersey town of Hopewell on Monday, according to local police and astronomy experts.
This begs the question: Do home insurance policies usually cover the cost of damage caused by meteorites, asteroids, or other types of space debris that happen to fall from outer space and crash into your home? Many insurance experts say the answer is likely to be yes.
“Based on feedback from our members and other industry partners, it appears that a fallen object, such as a falling meteor or satellite, would typically be covered by a standard homeowners or commercial property insurance policy,” Gary LaSpisa, vice president of the New Jersey Insurance Council , for NJ Advance Media.
“Of course, it is always important to read your policy and become aware of any exceptions your policy may have,” he noted.
After a bright fireball was seen streaking across the sky in Michigan in January 2018, the Michigan Insurance Alliance told MLive.com that falling objects—including asteroids, meteors, and satellites—would likely be covered under both standard homeowners policies and commercial insurance.
“There is coverage for damage caused by a falling object to a home or business structure, as well as for property or property damaged inside the building,” according to MLive, an affiliate of NJ.com.
“Meteorites may not be a hazard that people in Michigan generally think of,” said Pete Conmench, executive director of IAM. “But fortunately, homeowner’s insurance policies will cover damage from a meteorite or its shards.”
One insurance site, InsuranceHub.com, agrees that fallen objects from outer space are usually covered on home insurance policies—similar to terrestrial objects, such as trees, that might fall on your home during inclement weather.
“The answer is yes, normally you should be covered for this rogue asteroid,” the site says in the post. This is because home insurance usually covers falling objects. And an asteroid is, well, an object that falls if it hits the Earth.”
Susie Cobb, who owns the home in the Titusville section of Hopewell that was hit by a small meteor early Monday afternoon, could not be reached for comment on whether the home insurance company will cover the damage, or the cost of repairs.
The space rock, which measured about 6 inches by 4 inches, tore a hole in the roof of her home, then crashed through the ceiling and hit the hardwood floor, according to the Hopewell Township Police Department.
CBS 3 News in Philadelphia reported that boulders bounced off the floor, back up the ceiling, and then back down to the ground. There were no reports of injuries.
It’s rare for a meteorite (the technical term for a meteorite to land on Earth) to fall in a populated area, said Chris Buckley, an astronomer from South Jersey.
“Because most of the planet is covered by the world’s oceans, this is where most meteorites tend to fall,” Buckley said. This does not mean that they do not fall on populated areas all the time. More than 17,000 meteors fall to Earth every year. It’s just that meteorites found in remote areas or common contained areas make it difficult to identify them from ordinary Earth materials.”
The Hopewell meteorite incident, Buckley said, “excites the scientific community, because when you hit a building like that it’s easier to identify and confirm that it undoubtedly came from the sky.”
He said it would not be surprising if additional pieces of the stony meteorite had “settled and splattered into the roof and ceiling of the affected house”.
Meteorites are basically space rocks. Some are small pieces of dust and rock particles left behind by comets, others are fragments of asteroids or planets.
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Len Melisurgo can be reached at [email protected].
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