By Sam Wasson
Updated Dec 26, 2022
Each November and December, families come together to decorate, eat holiday meals, and exchange gifts with one another. As a result, more homeowners are on the road, cooking for extended periods, and spending many hours decorating both the inside and outside of their homes. While these activities are fun and festive, they also carry a higher risk of injury and mishaps.
Christmas trees can catch fire, decorations can break or become vandalized, and a slip and fall on a ladder can lead to serious injury. Thankfully, if you have adequate homeowners insurance coverage, you won’t face these challenges alone.
This article looks at some of the most common accidents that occur during the holidays that homeowners insurance covers.
One of the most common and dangerous holiday season accidents is Christmas tree fires. When an under-watered tree comes into contact with a spark from a faulty wire or a fireplace, it can create a fast-burning conflagration. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), about 160 Christmas tree fires each year result in, on average, two deaths, 12 injuries, and around $12 million in property damage.
Most home insurance policies offer protection against fire damage under dwelling coverage. This coverage allows you to recoup your losses in the event of a Christmas tree, cooking, or electrical fire. To avoid holiday fires, we recommend always watering your Christmas tree daily, never using frayed or damaged holiday lights, and only using indoor and outdoor lights in their designated areas.
When large groups of people come together, host parties, and enjoy holiday activities, accidents and injuries are more likely to occur. If one of your guests, be it a relative or a family friend, becomes injured on your property, you could be financially liable. Homeowners insurance personal liability coverage can help pay for any medical or financial tolls. Personal injury coverage has its limits, however, and only covers the following:
While there is a wide variety of damages protected by personal liability coverage, it doesn’t include the following:
As winter proceeds and temperatures drop, several forms of damage can occur to your home. As water freezes, it expands by approximately 9%. This small increase in size doesn’t sound like a lot, but when a pipe is filled to the brim, it will burst as the water expands and the pressure builds. These burst pipes can lead to flooded basements, waterlogged yards, and other serious problems like mold and mildew. Most homeowners insurance covers water damage from internal appliances or structural faults, which includes pipes.
Remember that homeowners insurance doesn’t cover water damage from external sources, such as weather events, flooding, and natural disasters (termed exclusions in policies). Furthermore, it doesn’t cover clogs or poor maintenance, so if you pour all that turkey grease down the drain or clog your garbage disposal with stuffing, you’ll be footing the bill.
Unfortunately, online scammers don’t take a break from the holidays. Even worse, many online scams take advantage of the frantic, shopping-focused nature of the holiday season to prey on unsuspecting homeowners. Some of the most popular scams that make the rounds each holiday season include the following:
Any of these scams carry the potential for fraudulent financial charges and, at worst, identity theft. Homeowners insurance can help you with identity theft coverage when these situations occur. Some policies offer this protection with their baseline coverage, while others offer it as an endorsement. In either case, identity theft coverage helps you cover the cost of investigating the theft, reversing the damage to your credit score, and getting your identity back. Notice that this doesn’t include reimbursing you for any stolen funds.
With the convenience provided by Amazon and other online retailers, it has become easier than ever to shop for your loved ones. There is a major downside to this online shopping revolution, and that is porch pirates. These opportunistic thieves will patrol neighborhoods during the holidays, scooping up any unsecured packages they can access. If this happens, or something else like decorations are stolen, or a burglary occurs, homeowners insurance can help reimburse you with personal property coverage. Depending on your policy, there may be caps for high-value items (such as jewelry or electronics), and most policies cover between 50% to 70% of the home’s policy coverage.
While uncommon, sometimes property can become vandalized, and homeowners insurance can compensate you for the damages. This coverage applies to almost every kind of vandalism, including the following:
If your Christmas decorations are destroyed, you can file a home insurance claim to have the damage covered. Most policies will require you to pay a preset deductible before covering vandalism damages – this deductible can vary from policy to policy and is set upon signing up. To ensure you’re fairly and fully compensated for your damaged decorations, you should always keep a thorough record of your property in a home inventory, file a police report right away, take photos of the damage, and promptly file a claim with your insurance agent or provider.
If you’re hosting a party, and one of your guests becomes too intoxicated and gets into an accident, you may be held accountable. Currently, there are 43 states in the U.S. with “social host liability” laws. These laws state that the host is obligated to ensure that their guests don’t become too intoxicated and that they share a portion of the financial and legal blame for their guest’s actions. If an accident does occur that leaves you on the hook for financial damages, some policies can protect you with personal liability coverage.
While many things can go wrong during the holidays, taking proper preventative measures and having a comprehensive homeowners or renters insurance plan can prepare you for the worst. Even though homeowners insurance can cover a lot, each policy is different, and yours may not have the coverage mentioned in this article. We always recommend carefully reading your policy so that if you need to file a holiday claim, you’ll understand exactly where and how you’re protected.
Other Home Insurance Resources