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Holiday Mishaps: What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover

Holiday mishaps can be traumatizing, especially when it is caused by fire, vandalism or heavy injury to a guest. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the fire department responded to an average of 930 fires per year caused by holiday decorations between 2014 to 2018 resulting in billions of dollars in property damage. Holiday mishaps such as house fires, theft, and vandalized decorations often spike during thanksgiving and the festive seasons. Fortunately, your homeowners insurance policy can bail you out if things go south during your holiday season. Our Texas attorneys at The Voss Law Firm explain what's covered by your insurance, and when to seek additional help for an insurance claim!

5 Holiday Mishaps That are Covered by Homeowners Insurance

As a policyholder, it is important to know what your homeowners insurance policy covers. This will allow you to make a proper assessment of your losses, and help you get the full benefit of your claims during holiday disasters. Homeowners insurance offers coverage for your home and personal property (such as clothing, appliances, furniture, kitchen utensils and some electronics) if they're destroyed by a house fire caused by candles or cooking fires.

The following are 5 holiday mishaps that are covered by homeowners insurance.

1. Fire Damage

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Thanksgiving and Christmas day are the leading causes of cooking fires nationwide. Christmas Tree FireIn another report by the U.S. Fire Administration, Thanksgiving saw more than twice the number of building fires than other days between 2014 and 2016. In fact, there's an estimated 160 Christmas tree fires a year resulting in property damage worth $10 million. 

Fortunately, homeowners insurance covers fire damage. So, if your home gets burnt or your personal property gets damaged by fire during the holidays, your insurance can help you out with the repairs. 

Below are some examples of holiday fires covered by your insurance policy.

• Fire damage caused by candles

• Cooking/kitchen fires

• Christmas tree fires

• Fire from holiday decorations and lights.

2. Theft

If thieves break into your home and steal your property, your homeowners insurance policy should cover for it. However, your insurance may not provide full coverage for an expensive item you plan to give someone if it gets stolen. So you may want to purchase a separate policy for that.

Homeowners insurance policy also covers theft outside your house. For example, If someone steals the decoration outside your house, your insurance policy pays for it. You can also state a claim if a person breaks into your car and steals anything from it.

3. Vandalism

Homeowners insurance covers vandalism. If someone destroys your light installation or any of your other decorations, you can file a claim to cover the cost of the damage. However, there are a few exceptions where your insurance company may deny your theft or vandalism claim. For example…

• You didn't submit a police report while stating your claim. Most insurance companies will deny your vandalism claim without a police report. 

• Using holiday lights not certified safe by the Underwriters Laboratories. To avoid this, search for the “UL” ​symbol when shopping for holiday lights.

• Negligence while installing your decorations, such as decorating a tree with lit candles.

• Not keeping your candles out of reach of kids and pets.

4. Injuries

The holiday comes with so much excitement and fun which brings family and friends together. However, if things go south and someone gets injured, your medical payments coverage in your homeowner's insurance policy can help pay for immediate medical expenses. This is usually limited to $1000 to $5000. The purpose of this coverage is to sort out guest's moderate treatment regardless of who is at fault.

However, in cases where the injury is severe, it is better to submit a personal liability coverage claim to help pay for the more expensive treatment. This coverage also covers legal fees if the person decides to take you to court.

5. Identity/Credit Card Theft

Online shopping is currently the leading cause of identity theft. According to a study carried out by Experian, 43% of respondents fell victim to online fraud during the holidays. Most homeowners insurance companies include identity theft protection in their policies, while some charge an additional cost to include it as an endorsement. The purpose of identity theft protection is to help you recover everything you lost, including your credit score and identity.

Holiday Mishaps not Covered by Homeowners Insurance

Most holiday mishaps are covered by a home insurance policy. However, there are a few exceptions where you'll have to pay for damages out of your own pocket. Here are some of the scenarios where your claims will be denied:

1. Sewage Backup

Disposing of grease, paper and insoluble substances in your drains or toilet is never a good idea. However, it is difficult to prevent when there are many people around to celebrate with you. Unfortunately, homeowners insurance policy do not cover sewage backup. That means once your drains are clogged, you'll have to pay the repair bills yourself.

2. Intentional Acts

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 8% of decoration fires are started intentionally. If your decoration fire was intentional or as a result of negligence, your home insurance company will deny your claim.

3. Alcohol-Related Accident

If guests drink too much in your house and drive home, you could be found legally responsible if they get into a car accident or injure someone. This could be considered a criminal act and the liability coverage of your homeowner's insurance will not cover you. The law that applies to this fall under "social host liability" or "liquor liability" and they're very specific and differ by state and insurance company.

Filing a Claim for Holiday Decorations 

When your decoration gets damaged or stolen and you file a claim, you're expected to pay a deductible before your claim can be validated. However, if your damaged decoration cost less than your home insurance deductible, it will be unwise to file a claim. Many insurance companies raise your rate after you file a claim. So submitting a claim for a low-cost decoration is not a good idea. But in cases where the cost of your damaged property far exceeds your deductible, it may be wise to recover your loss by failing a claim.

The Difference Between Actual Cash Value and Replacement Cost Coverage?

Your insurance company pays you the actual cash value of your stolen item when you file a personal property claim. Which means, the cash paid to you will be affected by the age and condition of the item before it was stolen from you.

However, if you want to get full payment for a new item whenever your property is damaged or stolen, you should consider adding replacement cost coverage to your homeowners insurance policy.

How to avoid holiday fires and other mishaps

1. Don't decorate your trees with lit candles to avoid decoration fires.

2. Avoid using lights meant for outdoor use inside your home.

3. Only use Christmas trees and decorations that are fire-resistant.

4. Avoid using candles for decorations outside your home.

5. Ensure your candle holders are made from glass or metal.

Learn How to Get Full Payment for Damage to Your Home

If your insurance provider refuses to honor your claim, the Voss Law Firm can help you get paid for your losses—and potentially more. Call us at (888) 614-7730 or complete our contact form today to get answers to your questions, or start reading your copy of our free book, Tricks of the Trade: How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse, and Refuse.

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