Washington, D.C.’s top insurance regulator is advising consumers to review their insurance policies and see whether they are covered for common winter activities.
William White, commissioner for the District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, says there are insurance considerations to review before bundling up and braving the cold.
He says some consumers may be literally left out in the cold without the right policy — so it’s never too early to begin making preparations. Here are some of the commissioner’s recommendations.
• Skiing: before jumping on a ski lift or take a run down on a favorite slope, it is a good idea to check homeowners or renter’s policy, as well as health insurance, just to know what to do in case of an accident or a loss.
Generally, personal ski equipment will be covered up to a specific limit by the homeowners or renter’s policy. Check the limit in policy and decide if that will be enough to replace the equipment if it is damaged or stolen. When checking, remember to factor in the deductible.
And because the insured may be out of town without access to the family physician or local hospital, one should make sure to review emergency medical treatment requirements — for instance, would the insured be required to seek medical treatment at a certain hospital or urgent care center? What’s the emergency room co-pay? If the insureds need to fill prescriptions, do they have to go to a certain pharmacy? It never hurts to have a list of these details.
• Snowmobiles: snowmobiles are not covered under typical homeowners, renter’s or auto insurance policies. So, for the insured who may be worried about the property or personal liability while operating these machines, talk with an insurance agent about a separate snowmobile insurance policy.
• Travel insurance: whether planning a getaway to somewhere warm or headed to a snowy destination, travel this time of year can be uncertain. Airports around the U.S. and Europe are already experiencing delays and cancellations because of winter weather. Travel sites and airlines offer travel insurance for people worried about not getting to their destination, or getting stuck far away from home. Travel insurance can cover everything from lost luggage to delays and cancellations.
• Snow plowing: if the insured has a plow on a truck and is ready to help friends by volunteering to remove the snow in their driveway, the personal auto policy should cover the insured’s liability and any property damage the insured might cause. But, before offering to help, read through the policy. If, however, the insured is using that blade to make a little extra cash this winter, the personal auto insurance policy will not likely provide coverage.
• Snow removal at home: generally, the homeowners or renter’s policy will cover liability for injuries, should someone slip and fall on the insured’s property. However, the insurance company is going to expect that the policyholder is performing due diligence to make the walks around the home safe for visitors.
• Winter illness: doctors’ offices are crowded during cold and flu season, making a trip for a sore throat or an earache potentially time-consuming. The health insurance may offer alternatives to waiting at the doctor’s office. Ask the health insurer whether its plan includes a nurse answer line that can answer questions about symptoms. Or, check to see if the local pharmacy has a quick treatment center that accepts the insured’s health insurance. However, for any prolonged or acute illness, it is best to see a doctor in person.
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