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1

Snow Fun

Snowmobiling is a lot of fun. If you’re like a lot of people, you’re happy to share your hobby with family and friends. It’s wise to keep in mind that an inexperienced person may have some difficulties handling a vehicle that can weigh several hundred pounds and reach speeds in excess of 90 mph. Sadly, children account for a disproportionate number of snowmobile accidents and fatalities.

What to Do

If you occasionally allow others to ride your snowmobile, consider getting an endorsement to your homeowners coverage. It extends your policy’s coverage to apply to incidents of bodily injury or property damage arising from the use of a snowmobile you own. If you regularly allow non-household family members, or friends and their children, to borrow your snowmobile, please consider an excess liability policy.

2

Watercraft

Boats and personal watercraft (such as Jet Skis®) can be a lot of fun, but require skillful handling. Even the most competent user can run afoul of treacherous conditions, equipment failures, or inebriated boaters – all of which can cause injury and death. Be aware that your watercraft policy’s liability limits may not be high enough to protect you from lawsuits involving multiple parties or catastrophic injury. Children who use your watercraft are another cause for concern. Use the same care when teaching your teens to use your watercraft as you would to drive a car – especially if you allow them to take their friends out.

What to Do

If you have a watercraft, please consider an excess liability policy.

3

Household Employees

If you have a live-in, full-time, or regular employee (such as a caregiver) who frequently uses your vehicle, make sure to let your auto insurance company know. If he or she does not have auto insurance, then adding that individual to your policy helps protect your assets in the event of an accident.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Adding a domestic employee to your policy usually results in a change to your premium, largely based on the individual’s driving history and age.
  • Ask your employee to contact his or her insurance company about a non-owned auto endorsement. This endorsement would provide liability coverage for a domestic employee who uses his or her employer’s car for personal business.

Lessons Learned: Make sure your property and assets would be protected in case a domestic employee using your vehicle is in an accident. If that individual uses your vehicle regularly but is not covered by your policy, the policy would not provide coverage if he or she were in an accident. You would have to pay for the damages and medical expenses using your assets.

4

In Your Car and Around the World

Worldwide: that’s where your personal property is covered by your homeowners policy. So if your camera is stolen while you’re on vacation anywhere from Alaska to Zimbabwe, it would be covered. But no matter where you are, it’s still only covered for the causes of loss listed in your policy, and a policy deductible may apply. So whether you drop your camera in your pool at home or in the ocean while you’re photographing whales off the New Zealand coast, coverage may not apply.

What to Do

If you do a lot of traveling, make sure you get an endorsement that covers your portable valuables for their full value and a wide range of causes of loss.

5

On the Injured List

Your homeowners policy includes coverage for medical costs your guests incur due to an accident on your property. That means if a guest sprains an ankle playing catch or is hit by a ball or breaks a bone playing tackle football, you will likely be footing the bill.

What to Do

Make sure you are aware of the medical payments coverage amount on your homeowners policy. If you have a very active household, consider the higher coverage available through an excess liability policy.

6

A Little Knowledge…

…can be very dangerous indeed. Eighty percent of homeowners know that their homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage. But they don’t realize how a homeowners policy defines “flood.”

That’s a major problem.

“Flood” refers to any excess surface water, such as that from snowmelt or heavy rain. It also refers to the collapse of ground due to saturation by water.

What’s Not Covered – Examples

  • Damage caused by water from spring runoff that floods your basement
  • Damage caused by water from heavy rains that overflows your parking area and runs into your home
  • Damage caused by a hill that is saturated by rain and collapses – damaging your dwelling’s foundation and causing damage to your goods

What to Do

Please consider a flood policy. You actually have a higher chance of damage due to flood waters than of damage by fire. Find out more at the National Flood Insurance website.

Deck
1

Staying Out of Hot Water

Pools can be a lot of fun. They can also be the site of life-changing injuries and fatalities. Protect yourself, your family, and those using your pool by following pool safety tips from these organizations:

What to Do

  • Always follow safety guidelines. Your insurance company may require that your pool be fenced in and be locked when not in use. If you remove some of those required safety features, your policy may be canceled or non-renewed.
  • Make sure you read your homeowners insurance policy’s liability section to understand how it would apply in the event of a claim against you.
  • Get an appropriate amount of liability coverage in your homeowners policy.

Consider adding an excess liability policy to your insurance portfolio. If an individual receives a brain or spinal injury or dies as a result of injury or illness contracted resulting from your pool, you may be held liable for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

2

Your Deck

Deck-related claims can be for everything from fires to severe injuries. Keep these things in mind to keep your deck a safe place:

  • Learn and practice safe use procedures if you have a grill or fire pit on your deck.
  • Make deck maintenance a priority. Rotten wood can be invisible until people are injured when they step on a weakened plank that gives way or they place too much weight on a weakened railing that gives way.
  • Don’t load your deck beyond its weight capacity. Collapses can injure you and your guests. Related medical costs and lawsuits can easily overwhelm your homeowners liability limits.

What to Do

Practice aggressive maintenance. Inspect the decking, joists, posts, beams, and ledger board annually. Don’t forget to inspect the railings too. If you add a deck to your home, notify your carrier so that its value is covered by your policy.  

3

Entertaining

Hosting a party can be a lot of fun. It also puts the responsibility of providing a safe atmosphere, beverages, food, and entertainment squarely on the host. Social gatherings can be a source of claims for a wide variety of injuries:

  • Drunk guests who injure themselves, or guests or who harass other guests
  • Food poisoning
  • Deck collapse
  • Bacterial illnesses picked up from the pool or hot tub, etc.

Don’t let what should be a fun event turn into a financial drain if an injured party makes a claim against you.

What to Do

Consider how often you entertain and to what extent, and the features of your property (e.g., pool, hot tub, fire pit, grill, deck, etc.), and assess your risk exposures. Then consider what coverage amounts would be appropriate for your situation. A personal excess liability policy may be right for you.

 

4

Dog Bites and Accidental Injuries

If you have a dog – even a very small one – please note:

  • Dog bites account for a whopping one-third of all homeowners liability claims.
  • More than four million Americans are bitten by a dog each year.
  • About 885,000 people annually need medical attention as a result of a dog bite.
  • Approximately 27,000 individuals require reconstructive surgery as a result of a dog bite.
  • The average cost of a dog bite claim is $37,000.
  • Other dog-related claims include those for injuries sustained when a dog knocks down an elderly person, child, or cyclist.

What to Do

  • Be a responsible owner. Understand canine behavior and circumstances that can trigger bites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers good information here.
  • Train your dog to walk calmly on a lead, and restrain it from chasing children and cyclists.

Make sure your homeowners liability coverage would cover the costs of a dog bite – including a judgment or settlement against you that includes reimbursement for emergency medical treatment, any related surgery, pain and suffering, time out of work, etc.

Exterior
1

Ice Dam vs. Roof: What Happens When the Dam Wins?

Most homeowners policies cover the structure of your house when an ice dam damages your roof. But not all policies will cover the property inside your house when it’s damaged by water that backs up from the dam and runs down inside walls. You may be shocked to find that the damage to your attic contents, furniture, area rugs, or other property in your home is not covered.

What to Do

Ask for a policy that provides “All Perils” coverage. This type of coverage applies to everything except certain causes of loss that are specifically listed. Other types of policies cover only for damage caused by very specific things – and loss to your personal property caused by roof collapse isn’t one of them.

2

Visitors to Your Property – Invited and Uninvited

Guests and uninvited visitors (including neighbors, babysitters, sales and delivery people, and mail carriers) to your home can easily injure themselves in a variety of ways. From the standard “slips, trips, and falls” to injuries incurred while helping clean the garage or shovel the walkway, the average home offers an almost infinite array of opportunities for injury. If a visitor to your home is injured, and you acted or failed to act in a manner that makes you legally responsible, you could very possibly be on the hook for medical treatment costs, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, or more.

What to Do

Your homeowners Medical Payments coverage may not provide an adequate amount of coverage. Please discuss an excess liability policy with an insurance professional.

 

3

Timber!

Falling trees and tree limbs are one of the top five causes of liability claims against homeowners. While you would not likely be held liable if a powerful storm downs a tree or limbs that fall on your neighbor’s property, you may very well be held responsible for removing a tree (which can be very expensive) or limb that falls and for any damage it causes if you were already aware the tree was damaged, diseased, or dead.

What to Do

Inspect your trees periodically. If you have trees near a neighbor’s property, stay aware of their condition and consider an excess liability policy.

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