The odds of a meteor falling from the sky and crashing into your house are astronomical, with some experts putting it at 1 in 3.9 trillion, far less likely than a single lottery ticket winning a Powerball jackpot.
As rare as it is, a small, stony chondrite meteor actually survived a trip through the Earth’s atmosphere and smashed through the roof of a house in the New Jersey town of Hopewell on Monday, according to local police and astronomy experts.
This begs a question: Do homeowner insurance policies typically cover the cost of damage from meteors, asteroids or other types of space debris that happen to fall from outer space and crash into your home? Several insurance experts say the answer is likely yes.
“Based on the feedback from our members and other industry partners, it seems that a falling object, such as a meteor or falling satellite, would typically be covered by a standard homeowners or business property insurance policy,” Gary La Spisa, vice president of the Insurance Council of New Jersey, told NJ Advance Media.
“Of course, it is always critical to read your policy and familiarize yourself with any exclusions that your policy may have,” he noted.
After a bright fireball was seen streaking across the sky in Michigan in January 2018, the Insurance Alliance of Michigan told MLive.com that falling objects — including asteroids, meteors and satellites — are likely covered under standard homeowners and business insurance policies.
“There is coverage for the damage the falling object causes to the structure of the home or business, as well as to property or belongings damaged within the building,” according to MLive, which is affiliated with NJ.com.
“Meteors may not be a risk that people in Michigan generally think about,” said Pete Kuhnmuench, executive director of the IAM. “But fortunately, homeowner’s insurance policies would cover damage resulting from a meteor or its pieces.”
An insurance website, InsuranceHub.com, agrees that objects falling from outer space are usually covered by home insurance policies — similar to earthly things, like trees, that may fall onto your house during stormy weather.
“The answer is yes, typically you should be covered for that rogue asteroid,” the website says in this post. “That’s because home insurance typically covers falling objects. And an asteroid is, well, a falling object if it crashes to Earth.”
Suzy Kop, who owns the house in the Titusville section of Hopewell that was struck by the small meteor early Monday afternoon, could not be reached for comment about whether her home insurance company will cover the damage, or how much the repairs will cost.
The space rock, measuring about 6 inches by 4 inches, punched a hole in the roof of her house, then crashed through the ceiling and hit the hardwood floor, according to the Hopewell Township Police Department.
CBS3 News in Philadelphia reported that the rock ricocheted from the floor, back up to the ceiling, then down again to the floor. 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.
“Due to the world’s oceans covering most of the planet, that’s where most meteorites tend to fall,” Bakley said. “That’s not to say they don’t fall on populated areas all the time. Over 17,000 meteorites fall to earth every year. It’s just that meteorites found in remote areas or common contained areas make them hard to identify from normal Earth materials.”
Bakley said the Hopewell meteor incident “excites the science community, as when they impact through a building like this it’s easier to identify and confirm that it undeniably came from the sky.”
He said it wouldn’t be surprising if extra pieces of the stony meteorite may be “lodged and scattered in the roof and ceiling of the impacted house.”
Meteors are essentially space rocks. Some are tiny pieces of dust and rock particles left behind by comets, and others are fragments of asteroids or planets.
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Len Melisurgo may be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com.
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