Better not pout, better not cry if homeowner's insurance covers holiday disasters
While these scenes aren't ones you'd like to experience at the holidays, experts say it's wise to keep in mind that accidents (like these, as well as ones similar) do happen. Even at the most wonderful time of the year.
"Holidays mean more guests, more driving, and more new possessions than any other time of year. It's important to make sure all your presents, parties and travels don't fall outside your current coverage," said Tim Gaspar, president of Gaspar Insurance Services in Los Angeles.
It's also important to make sure you know if any holidays mishaps and disasters are covered by your insurance policy.
Bill Begal is the founder and president of Begal Enterprises, Inc., a fire and water damage disaster
restoration company based in Rockville, MD, says his company helps customers rebuild their lives after numerous holiday-related disasters. "Technically any 'accidental' fire or flood is a covered peril, unless specifically listed and not covered," Begal said.
Begal says his company has helped customers recover after these perils -- which were all covered by customers' insurance policies:
- Placing wrapping paper in the fire place. It is light weight and raises quickly up the chimney and caught the owners' roof and adjacent neighbors' roof on fire.
- Fireplace ashes on the back deck in a paper bag and still containing glowing embers.
- Dried out Christmas trees placed adjacent to heat sources, causing a fire.
- Old mangled lighting causing arching and fires, especially if held in place or hung with staples.
- Dishwasher flooding due to heavy usage and not proper clearing of the drain, or adjacent garbage disposal.
- Deep fried turkeys being cooked on wooden decks or inside w/o proper protect causing a fire.
- Careless menorah and / or candle placement has caused multiple fires.
- Tall Christmas trees hitting sprinkler heads when being placed in homes causing the activation of the sprinkler system.
Your dream flat screen falls out of the trunk on the way home.
Gaspar suggests checking your homeowner's policy or calling your agent ASAP. "You may be covered under your home insurance, depending on the type of coverage provided by your homeowners policy," he said.
Just beware, not all policies cover this. For instance, State Farm agents say this disaster would not be covered by a typical homeowner's policy.
Your decorations flew the coop.
Gaspar says if the Grinch snatches those twinkle lights and life-size Frosty adorning your lawn (or even if he destroys them), call the police. These things may be covered under your homeowners policy, but you'll need a police report.
"Holiday decorations are covered by your homeowners policy if they are stolen but keep in mind though that your deductible applies. Most people have homeowners deductibles around $1,000 so you would have to have a lot stolen in order to file a claim," he said.
And while we're talking about outside, be sure to keep your car locked -- especially if you've stashed presents in your trunk. until Santa shows up. Items stolen from your car will most likely be covered under your insurance, too.
You make your guests sick
An undercooked turkey or sickly shrimp can give your guests more than a tummy ache. They can end up in the hospital with food poisoning. And if those guests look to you to foot the bill, Gaspar says you're covered under your home insurance policy's liability . "As long as you don't have some food contamination exclusion in your policy which I have yet to see." Most policies include a medical payments provision, such as $5,000, that you can tap into.
Agents agree that no matter the circumstance, if applicable, first call the police, then your agent.
"Then call for help cleaning up any mess," said Aaron Levine, an insurance and benefits specialist in New Jersey & New York.
Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.