On Halloween, we all enjoy handing out treats to the little monsters that arrive at our door asking for candy. Unfortunately, some of us have to deal with damage created by larger monsters that arrive at our door asking for trouble.
Vandalism and property damage are just some scary Halloween insurance concerns. You also have to consider the possibility of trick-or-treaters getting hurt on your property or accidents caused by decorations or other holiday accoutrements. Are your insurance policies ready to handle any horrors that the holiday may bring?
Here are some of the most common Halloween events that might trigger an insurance claim.
- Slips and Falls – It is easy for smaller children to trip or slip and hurt themselves, especially with elaborate or clunky costumes that make it hard for them to see clearly or walk normally. Add the anticipation of candy and a significant sugar buzz, and it's a wonder these accidents do not happen more often.
Generally, the liability portion of your homeowner's policy will cover these types of accidents. However, it is important that you leave your path clear of obvious hazards. If any of your decorations or the condition of your walkway presents a significant hazard to trick-or-treaters, your insurance may not cover the damages. If you are unsure about what constitutes a hazard, check with your insurance agent.
- Dog Bites – Even the best-behaved dog can become overexcited and frightened by the sight of a horde of costumed youngsters charging their home, and bite one or more of the children. Dog bites are usually covered under the liability and medical expenses portions of your policy, but rules vary by insurer and by state. Check your policy, especially if you got your dog after the policy was signed.
- Vandalism – Vandalism is clearly covered, but you have to assess the amount of damage and whether it is worth filing a claim given your deductible. The old classics such as egging your house or toilet-papering your trees are irritating, but do not usually cause significant damage.
The Highway Loss Data Institute reports that vehicles are almost twice as likely to be vandalized on Halloween than on an average day. The latest available data shows 1,253 claims filed for damage that occurred on October 31st, compared to 692 claims on a normal day. Damage to your car is typically an auto insurance issue through a comprehensive policy. Your homeowner's insurance may cover auto damage, but it probably does not.
- Accidental Fires – Candles used to set a spooky mood in the home or to light jack-o-lanterns cause accidental fires every year. Homeowner's policies cover repairs and living expenses during the repair period, unless the fire was a result of negligent or dangerous activities (for example, putting your candle-lit jack-o-lantern in a pile of dry leaves, or starting a bonfire on your porch).
- Gravestones – Did you know that theft or damage of a tombstone is often covered under homeowner's policies? Even though the graves are not located in your backyard (we hope), Halloween vandalism of the resting places of your loved ones is frequently protected.
You can limit the possibility of mishaps and accidents through simple preventative measures. Use batteries instead of flames for illumination, keep your house well lit, remove any slip hazards (including ice and snow if you live in a colder climate), and do not set up any hazardous decorations.
With some foresight, you can enjoy the holiday with confidence. Check to make sure your policies cover these common Halloween-related concerns, understand any exclusions that may exist, and close any loopholes that you think are important enough to be closed. Then you will not have to worry about a damage claim or lawsuit rising from the night to consume your bank account and terrorize your financial plans.
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