Top Holiday Mishaps: Are Your Clients Covered?

December 21, 2010

The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association is warning the industry that the holiday season at times can set the stage for for a not so merry celebration.

“It’s a good idea to make sure [consumers] are covered for situations that go hand-in-hand with the holiday season,” said Carole Walker, RMIIA executive director. “We recommend an annual insurance check-up with an agent or company representative, and a quick review of the car and homeowners policy … to help keep Scrooge at bay.”

Among the top holiday mishaps, she said, are:

Stolen holiday decorations from the front yard. Under a standard homeowners insurance policy, decorations are generally covered, but subject to the out-of-pocket deductible and policy limits. Holiday trappings are also generally covered under a standard renter’s or condo policy.

Gifts stolen from the car while it’s parked at the mall. Coverage to replace these items falls under a homeowners or renter’s insurance policy. But, that’s minus the deductible and up to policy limits, so it’s a good idea to keep gifts and valuables hidden. This is also an easy target for identify theft, so RMIIA advisers consumers not to leave their purse, wallet or other personal identification items in the car. If the car is damaged during a break-in, repairs would be paid for under the car insurance policy.

Slips and falls, such as if a guest falls on an icy driveway while on the way to a holiday party. The host of the party would need to report the accident as soon as possible to the insurance company. Standard homeowners insurance policies provide a certain amount of medical payments coverage if a guest seeks medical attention. If the injured guest sues for additional damages, the homeowners policy also provides liability coverage. An agent or company can help consumers determine adequate liability limits.

Car accidents. If a friend or cousin borrows the car (with the owner’s permission) to make a grocery store run and causes an accident, auto insurance follows the vehicle, so the car insurance policy would provide primary coverage to fix the car and pay medical and car repair costs to any victims. The cousin’s auto policy will generally provide excess coverage over the owner’s policy limits. If the cousin is hurt, his health insurance or medical payments coverage would also help pay for his treatment.

Fires. If holiday candles or Christmas lights ignite a fire, under a standard homeowners insurance policy, the home and personal belongings will be covered if they are destroyed by a fire, subject to policy limits and deductibles. The homeowner would also have a certain amount of additional living expenses to live elsewhere if the home is uninhabitable. Under a renter’s policy, the retner would have coverage to replace personal stuff — minus deductibles and up to the policy limits.

Links to common coverage questions can be found on RMIIA’s Web site at www.rmiia.org.

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