Everything You Need to Know About Frozen Pipes

Everything You Need to Know About Frozen Pipes

Your house may be warm and cozy, but chances are your water pipes aren’t. When temperatures dip too low, those pipes are in danger of freezing and bursting. If that happens, you’re in for a hefty bill…

Causes of burst pipes

Winter is a common season for frozen pipe bursts. That’s because water expands when it freezes. So, when the water in your pipes becomes ice, it takes up more space and pushes against the sides of your metal or plastic pipes. That pressure continues to build up. When it reaches the breaking point, a pipe can burst and send water flowing.

Pipes can also burst for other reasons. This includes corrosion, as pipes rust and weaken over time. Tree roots can interfere with outside pipes. Shifting soil from construction around your home has a similar effect. Finally, clogs from toilet paper and hair can be large enough to cause pipes to burst.

 

What to do if your pipes burst

You want to take quick action if a pipe has burst in your house. Here’s what to do.

1. Turn off the main water supply. This will keep the water from flowing uncontrollably. If you live in an apartment building, you won’t have access to the main shutoff valve. Contact your landlord right away so he or she can take action. (Pro Tip: Most main water shutoff valves are located close to your water heater or furnace.)

2. Shut off the power. This will help ensure that you don’t get electrocuted through highly charged water that has come in contact with your electrical system.

3. Call a plumber. When pipes burst, it’s best to let a professional handle the problem. If you know that water has affected your electrical system, call an electrician as well.

4. Drain the pipes. You want to get the water out of your pipes to avoid more freezing, bursting, and leaking. With the water main still off, turn on all the cold taps and let the water run. Then turn off your hot water heater and turn on the hot taps. Let the water run. Finally, flush all the toilets.

5. If you turn on the water and only a trickle comes out, you may still have a frozen pipe. Keep the faucet on. As you defrost the ice ball, you want water to be able to flow freely. Use a hair dryer to safely thaw the pipes. Move it around to reach as many places as possible. Alternatively, wet some towels in hot water and place them across the pipes. Replace them as they cool. Do not use an open flame to warm your pipes. That could cause a fire or damage the pipes.

6. Assess the damage. Figure out where the broken pipe is. A plumber can help you to do this.

7. Contact your insurance agent. They will advise you on how to file a claim, and also what the policy may cover. They will send a representative out to inspect the damage.

8. Clean up any standing water. A wet/dry vacuum will pull water from carpets. Dehumidifiers also can help. You will need to clean the area thoroughly. Consider a professional repair that can help prevent future costly problems like mold.

 

How to prevent frozen pipes

You can take steps to prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting. Follow this checklist.

1. Pipes most likely to freeze are outside or in unheated areas of your home like basements, attics, crawl spaces, garages, and cupboards. These include outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and pipes close to the outside of the house.

2. Add insulation to these places, such as your attic, basement or crawlspace. You can cover your pipes with insulation, too. You can find it at your local hardware store. Measure the length of the pipe and cut the insulation foam to size. Wrap the pipe with insulation. Seal the seam with tape.

3. Consider heat tape which is not tape at all but a type of wiring. It looks like an extension cord that plugs into a wall and then wraps around the pipe. If you use heat tape, make sure it is designated for water pipes and properly installed. Check the tape monthly while in use. Remove it if there are cracks, bite marks, or signs of deterioration.

4. Caulk the cracks in your walls and foundation to keep cold air out. Ask a professional contractor to make sure that your basement is appropriately sealed.

5. Remember to turn off outdoor water faucets in winter. Disconnect your garden hoses. Drain water from sprinkler and swimming pool lines. Do not put antifreeze in these lines, as it is environmentally harmful and dangerous to people, pets, and wildlife.

6. When temperatures are very cold outside, turn a faucet on cold and let it drip to a trickle. This keeps water flowing and helps prevent freezing. (Pro Tip: Put a bucket underneath to collect that water and use it to water your plants.)

7. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow heat to circulate. Just make sure to relocate or safeguard any chemicals that could be hazardous to children or pets.

8. Set up fans to blow heat into colder rooms. Or use space heaters. You can add a space heater to a room where pipes are exposed; however, use caution. Make sure it’s plugged into an outlet with a ground fault circuit interrupter to prevent electric shock. Do not use an extension cord and only use the space heater when you are home.

9. Keep your thermostat set to the same warm setting day and night. If you plan to be away from home for any length of time, make sure that the thermostat is set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit to help protect against frozen pipes.

10. Consider relocating your pipes if you continually have issues with freezing.

 

Your home is one of your greatest investments. Protect it with the right insurance.

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Plumbing and Pipe Leaks?

Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Plumbing and Pipe Leaks?

We all know the dreaded drip, drip, drip of a water leak. It’s the sound of a potentially expensive repair or at minimum, an annoying cleanup. Either way, you want to be prepared when it happens. Knowing what your homeowner’s insurance covers in terms of plumbing and pipe leaks is the first step.

In general, sudden plumbing issues are typically covered by insurance but plumbing problems that occur over time due to lack of maintenance may not be.  The policy may cover damage resulting from plumbing breakdowns, but it won’t cover the cost to repair the plumbing itself.  Insurance is intended to help in emergencies, not a substitute for regular maintenance.  

 

What Insurance (Probably) Does Not Cover   

Most policies do not cover old plumbing and pipe leaks. If you’ve got a slow leak and you ignore it until it gets worse, that’s likely not covered by your homeowner’s policy. When you file a claim, your insurance company will send an adjuster. They will determine the cause of damage, and decide whether it qualifies for coverage. Here are general guidelines on what insurance probably does not cover.

    • Normal wear-and-tear and lack of maintenance are not covered. If you neglect your plumbing and pipes, you essentially have voided your policy.
    • Leaks that started small and have gotten progressively worse over a period of years are not covered. The time to address them was when they started.
    • Pipes that freeze because you turned off the heat would be categorized under neglect. So, if you went away on a winter vacation, and failed to take the necessary steps to protect your pipes, the damage that results may not be covered under your policy.
    • Mold may be excluded from your standard policy. However, you could purchase additional coverage.
    • Water damage from any flooding is not covered unless you have a flood policy.

 

What Insurance (Probably) Covers

From certain plumbing issues to broken, burst, or frozen pipes, your homeowner’s policy probably covers the ensuing damage if you have taken reasonable care and performed continued maintenance. For example, coverage for freezing of a plumbing system only applies if you “maintain heat in the building; or shut off the water supply and drain all systems and appliances of water.”

Insurance pays to repair the pipes or plumbing in these cases. It also compensates you for covered items that are damaged by the leak. Coverage A (which includes the plumbing system) will cover the plumbing system if there is a fire, tornado, explosion, etc. The contract specifically excludes coverage for “wear and tear, deterioration and latent defect, inherent vice” – basically, the policy will not pay for the plumbing system or pipes for leaks, broken, etc. – that is the homeowner’s responsibility. If it is a covered loss, the insurance company pays for the ensuing damage, i.e. flooring, baseboards, drywall, and personal property.  

Your insurer will likely send someone out to determine the cause of loss and inspect the damage. You will get reimbursed by your policy, minus your deductible (which is the amount that you chose to pay out-of-pocket before insurance kicks in).

There are four different parts of your homeowner’s policy that address damage caused by plumbing and pipe leaks:

    • Dwelling coverage covers the structure of your home. This includes the roof, walls, and floorboards. However, if you have to remove a wall to see if there is a leak, that would not be covered. There are companies that will come out and complete a Leak Detection Report to determine where the water is coming from.  If the loss is covered and over the deductible, your insurance will pay for the report. 
    • Personal property coverage protects your possessions that may be damaged.  Coverage may apply if there is “an accidental discharge or overflow of water from within a plumbing system or household appliance.” Damage that occurs gradually due to a leaky pipe is generally not covered. Protected possessions include clothing, TVs, and furniture. There are dollar limits for certain items such as money, jewelry and firearms, so check with your insurer. (You could add an extra rider to cover those items.) For personal property coverage on a homeowner’s policy, you typically get 50 or 75% of Coverage A, the total amount of coverage for your home.
    • Other structures coverage protects detached buildings, such as garages or guest houses, that may be damaged due to plumbing issues. The coverage limit for other structures is generally set at 10% of your home’s coverage limit. That means if your home is insured for $200,000, the coverage limit for your garage would be $20,000. For an additional premium, you can add an endorsement for additional coverage.
    • Depending upon the extent of the damage, your house may not be livable. If that’s the case, you would need to stay somewhere else. You would be covered for any necessary increase in living expenses, such as lodging, food, and gas. Under Coverage D – Loss of Use, called “Additional Living Expense,” your policy will provide a flat percentage toward living costs, usually 30% of the Coverage A amount. Some states have time limits (e.g. 12 months) on when you can use that coverage. Plan to cover those additional expenses out-of-pocket.

 

How to Know if You Have a Leak

Taking the time to inspect your pipes and plumbing periodically can give you a heads-up that there could be a problem. The earlier you address it, the less costly it will be. Look for these signs that you may have a leak.

    • Stains or discolorations on walls or ceilings
    • Bulging or sagging spots on walls or ceilings
    • A trickling sound when it is quiet, such as at night
    • A musty smell, which can be a sign of moisture and mold growth 
    • Poor water pressure
    • Rusted metal
    • Peeling paint
    • Steady increases in water bills

Finally, make sure your homeowner’s policy is up to date, and that it provides the coverage that you need. That will go a long way toward having peace of mind should you have a plumbing problem.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Insurance 101: How to Easily File a Claim

Insurance 101: How to Easily File a Claim

You slow down for the yellow light but the car behind you does not. Bam! It wasn’t your fault but now you have to get your car fixed. Or maybe a storm knocks out a window in your house. Now you need to get it repaired.

Accidents happen. Washing machines overflow; things are stolen or vandalized. That’s why you have insurance. Your policy protects your vehicle, your home, and your belongings, taking some of the financial stress away to help you repair and replace those necessary items. Here’s an overview of the insurance claims process so that you can do it easily.

 

When to File a Claim

Every policy has a deductible, an amount that you are required to pay out-of-pocket before insurance kicks in. The general rule is to file a claim when the payout is greater than the deductible and you cannot cover it on your own. You also should file a claim whenever someone is injured and when it’s not clear who is at fault. That way, the insurance companies can get together and determine the outcome.

 

How to File a Claim

Let’s say you were in a car accident. Here are the steps to take to file a claim. (You also can refer to the back of your California Casualty insurance card. It lists the steps to follow in the event of a loss.)

Step 1: Call the police if needed.

    • Call 9-1-1 if anyone is injured or you suspect drugs or alcohol are involved.
    • Call the non-emergency police number to report the accident. An officer may show up and take a police report. While you don’t necessarily need one, it will make the claims process easier. If the police are not needed, or available, you may file an accident report online, by mail, or at the police station.

Step 2: Get the other driver’s information.

    • You feel bad so it may be tempting to say the accident was your fault. Whether or not it was, don’t take the blame. Don’t apologize.
    • Exchange information. Get the other driver’s name. Take a photo of the other driver’s license, insurance card, and registration. Alternatively, you can write down the information. Make sure you have the year, make, model, license plate number, and color of the other car.

Step 3: Write down facts and take photos. Look for witnesses.

    • Take photos of the scene, license plates, traffic signs, and anything else that may help you to remember the details of the accident.
    • Include the direction the cars were traveling, your speed, weather, road conditions, and what happened.
    • Use your phone to make detailed notes. 
    • There may be witnesses. Look around and ask for the contact information of those individuals. They may later be contacted by your insurance company or police, if needed, to support your rendition of the accident.

Step 4: Call your insurance company.

    • Report the accident. The adjuster will ask questions. Answer them honestly and thoroughly. If you don’t know the answer, say so. 
    • Your adjuster will share the process of getting your car repaired. They will send you paperwork to fill out. 
    • Let them know if there is a police report.
    • Don’t sign anything from the other person’s insurance company. Let your insurer take the lead.

Step 5: File your claim.

    • Most insurance companies allow you to file your claim online. That means you’ll fill out the necessary paperwork online or by email.
    • To complete the filing of your claim, you’ll need to fill out the forms that you are sent.
    • You may have to get a repair estimate and include that information.
    • Then, you’ll wait for approval. Once the repair is authorized, you’ll be able to proceed with the repairs. Either you or the repair shop will receive payment from the insurance company, so check with your adjuster.

 

The Difference with a Homeowner’s Claim

A homeowner’s, renter’s or personal property claim follows a similar process. The main difference is that you need to provide a Proof of Loss statement. That’s a list of items that were damaged or stolen and how much it costs to replace them.

 

Can you wait to file a claim?

You should not wait. Your insurance contract specifies your specific Duties After Loss. You must give prompt notice to the insurer; notify the police in case of loss by theft; protect the property from further damage, prepare an inventory of damaged personal property; and cooperate with the investigation. 

So, the next time that life throws a wrench into your plans, remember that you have insurance. The claims process is an easy way to get the help you need.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Thanksgiving Dinner Disasters – There’s Coverage for That

Thanksgiving Dinner Disasters – There’s Coverage for That

Thanksgiving is a special time to gather with loved ones. But when your turkey catches fire, your aunt drinks a little too much and falls and breaks her leg, or your fur baby takes a little nip of a guest, it’s time to be thankful for insurance. Fortunately, there’s coverage for most Thanksgiving dinner disasters. Whether you’re home entertaining guests, or traveling to friends or family, we’ve compiled a quick guide.

 

Cooking Fires

It’s easy to lose sight of something on the stove or in the oven when you’re also attending to guests. That’s why you’re more likely to have a holiday cooking fire on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The risk increases if you’re deep-frying a turkey. Deep fryers heat up to such a degree that they have caused severe burns and injuries, and even deaths. (If you must have a deep-fried turkey, consider ordering one from your local grocery store.) When cooking fire accidents happen, your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy will cover the damage to your home, your belongings, and any related injuries to your guests. (For the guest injury part, skip to the next section.)

    •  Your homeowner’s policy includes dwelling coverage. This covers the repair or rebuilding of the structure of your home up to your policy limit. So, if the fire damages your kitchen or other areas, you can report the claim to your insurance adjuster. They will advise you on how to proceed. Your insurer will likely send someone out to inspect the damage and write up an estimate. You will get reimbursed by your policy, minus your deductible (which is the amount that you chose to pay out-of-pocket before insurance kicks in).

    •  Personal property coverage is that part of your homeowner’s or renter’s policy that protects your possessions such as kitchen appliances, furnishings, and if the fire spreads beyond the kitchen, your television, clothing, etc. Fire is one of 16 different named “perils” that your policy covers. There are dollar limits for certain items such as money, jewelry, and firearms, so check with your insurer. For personal property coverage on a homeowner’s policy, you typically get 50 or 75% of Coverage A, the total amount of coverage for your home. If you’re renting, you get to choose the amount of personal property coverage when you select your policy.

    • You can select replacement cost or actual cash value (ACV) for personal property. ACV is the amount the item is worth, minus depreciation for its age. It will cost a little more for a policy that provides replacement cost (and we strongly recommend it).

    • Depending upon the extent of the fire, your house may not be livable. If that’s the case, you would be covered for any necessary increase in living expenses, such as lodging, food, and gas. Under Coverage D – Loss of Use, called “Additional Living Expense,” your policy will provide a flat percentage toward living costs, usually 30% of the Coverage A amount. Some states have time limits (e.g. 12 months) on when you can use that coverage. Plan to cover those additional expenses out-of-pocket.

Pro Tip: Having a fire extinguisher could earn you a discount on your home insurance policy.

 

Guest Injuries

Injuries can happen anytime, especially during gatherings where people may drink. Guests could become tipsy and trip, slip, and fall. That could happen even if they’re not drunk, of course. Burns could occur if there is a kitchen fire. Your guests could get food poisoning. Your normally well-behaved fur baby could bite one of your guests. While you can’t anticipate every situation, you can make sure there are no obvious dangers in your home, such as tripping hazards or unsecure handrails. Keep everyone’s safety and comfort in mind, including where your pet may be during the festivities. Then, if a guest does get injured, your insurance can kick in.

    • You may be covered for guest injuries under your homeowner’s or renter’s liability coverage. If you are found liable, the policy may cover damages to the injured party. This can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent scarring. The policy also provides a defense in court, if needed, for the policyholder. This is at the insurance company’s own expense.

    • If you are not liable, but your guest was injured through his/her own fault, then Coverage F – Medical Payment to Others may cover your guest’s medical bills.

    • Liability coverage does not apply to you and your family. Your own injuries or illnesses are not covered under homeowner’s or renter’s policies. You would use your own health insurance policy to cover any injuries that you might have in your home.

    • If your dog has bitten a guest, make sure that your dog’s breed is not restricted by your insurance policy. Some policies will not cover breeds such as Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers, or Rottweilers. California Casualty does not currently have such restrictions.

 

 

Thanksgiving on the Road

If you’re among the millions who drive to Thanksgiving celebrations, you’ll want to make sure your car is well-maintained, and that your car insurance is up to date. Be ready for the holiday traffic, and drive safely. An accident can put a damper on the holiday. The good news is that you’re covered if you do have one.

    • If you cause an accident, you are responsible for damages. You would pay with your vehicle’s liability policy. Importantly, auto liability does not cover any damage to your own vehicle; that’s covered by collision. It also does not cover injury to you and your family; it only covers the people in the other car. Liability coverage is required by law in most states.

    • There are two types of liability coverage:
      • If you are found liable for the accident, bodily injury coverage helps pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering for the driver and passengers in the other vehicle. We say “helps pay” because it depends on how much coverage you choose. The costs of an accident can be more than your insurance policy limit.
      • Property damage coverage helps pay for repairs for the other vehicle or for repair/replacement of property, such as a fence, damaged or destroyed in the collision.

    • If you are not at fault for the accident, the other driver is responsible for damages. Your insurance kicks in if the other driver does not have enough insurance. Collision covers your car for any type of damage, regardless of fault or if the person does not carry any/enough insurance. Underinsured motorist (UIM) and uninsured motorist (UM) coverage are for injuries. They cover you and your passengers if you are hit by an at-fault UM or UIM. Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) can cover your car if hit by an at-fault uninsured motorist.

    • Unlike liability insurance, collision coverage is not usually required—unless you’re leasing a car or paying off a loan on a vehicle. However, it may be good to have.

No matter where you enjoy the holiday, we wish you a safe celebration. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

 

November Home Checklist

November Home Checklist

It’s the beginning of the holiday season. In the coming weeks, you’ll be hosting guests, gathering with family, and celebrating in your home.

As a host, there’s a lot to do, so we’re here to help you get organized. From fall home safety updates to getting ready to entertain, we’ve got your November Home Checklist.

 

Entertaining

Entertaining is a big part of the season, no matter which holiday you celebrate. Here’s how to get your home ready.

 

Clean and prepare guest rooms.

Are you going to be hosting guests? Get a jump start on preparing the guest room. That way, you can give it a quick touch-up just before your guests arrive.

• Make the bed with fresh linens.
• Dust, vacuum and clear out any clutter. Empty the waste basket.
• Clear out the closet. Make sure there are empty hangers and room for a suitcase. Put an empty laundry basket in the closet for your guest’s dirty clothes.
• Set up the nightstand with a box of tissues, and don’t forget to leave the WiFi password!

 

Deep clean your bathrooms.

Whether or not your guests stay over, they will be using the bathroom. Do a deep clean of all of your bathrooms, but especially the ones your guests may use.

• Wash all washable items such as towels and mats.
• Scrub the shower, tub, and toilet.
• Clean the floors, walls, mirrors, and vanity. Dust the blinds.
• For overnight guests: Add a basket of travel-size toiletries your guests may have forgotten to pack.

 

Get your linens and serving pieces ready.

Whether you’ll be using the fine linens and China, or saving yourself some time and choosing to go with disposable utensils, make sure they are ready to go when you are.

• Launder and press fancy linens and napkins.
• Sharpen your kitchen knives. You’ll be doing a lot of cooking.
• Stock up on disposable items to get you through multiple snacks and meals.
• Pull out your favorite holiday pieces, inspect them and clean them.

Pro tip: Roll up fancy linens on old wrapping paper tubes to store them in a way that prevents wrinkles.

 

Decorate inside and out.

If you love to decorate for the holidays, now is the time to start. Make a realistic plan for your décor so you can ensure it’s safe and so it’s not too overwhelming.

• Many holiday traditions revolve around light. Add lights or candles, but keep fire safety in mind. Don’t overload extension cords.
• Decorate with a shopping bag nearby so you can easily toss old items you no longer use. You can donate or trash them.
• Immediately get donations out of your house by boxing them up and putting them in your car.
• Keep your holiday spending on budget whether for décor, entertaining, or gifts.

Pro Tip: To make decorating easier next year, take a picture of each room so you can easily duplicate it.

 

 

Home Maintenance

You’ll need to perform fall maintenance for your appliances and home systems. In addition, you’ll want to address common problem areas before they become problems during the holiday season.

 

Fix any plumbing issues.

That slow drain, finicky toilet, or nonworking garbage disposal can get worse over time. Take the time to look at these and see if you can DIY a fix or if they need professional help.

• Clean your garbage disposal to prevent it from growing bacteria.
• Use a “snake” tool to pull up debris from a slow drain.
• Fix your dripping faucets and address your running toilets, both of which can waste water on a daily basis.
• Make sure your sump pump is working before rainy season.

 

Cover gaps in your home.

Mice can squeeze through a gap that is about the width of a pencil. Bugs can enter even tinier cracks. To prevent rodents and bugs from taking refuge in your nice warm home, you will want to check your home for any gaps and cover them.

• You can use caulk to seal skinny gaps, squirt foam for medium-size gaps, and wire mesh and plaster for larger ones. Cover exterior vents with hardware cloth, a type of wire mesh.
• Common places for gaps are around doors and windows, where pipes and wires enter your home, or vents for exhaust fans. You also may find gaps where the wall and floor connect, and inside and around cabinets.
• Attach door sweeps to the bottoms of exterior doors.

 

Guard against carbon monoxide poisoning.

With the stove and fireplace in use, a buildup of carbon monoxide is common. Carbon monoxide is produced when we burn gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal, and other fuel. This gas is colorless and odorless, and can be deadly.

• Install battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors in your home (and replace the batteries each spring and fall).
• Have a professional check your heating system, water heater, and any gas or oil-burning appliances every year.
• Be careful about burning any fuels inside your home. Make sure there is proper ventilation.
• Be aware of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, and confusion. Get outside to fresh air, and seek medical attention.

 

Protect against slips and falls.

You and your guests will be walking in and around your house this season. Make sure the walkways are safe.

• Do a walk-through inside and outside your home. Make sure that there are no obstructions on common paths.
• Check that stairs and paths inside and out are well-lit. Falls can happen when you can’t easily see where you are going.
• Check railings to make sure they are secure and not wobbly.
• If you’re using a ladder for holiday decorations, make sure it is sturdy. Place it on firm, level ground. Maintain 3 points of contact whenever you climb it.

 

 

Other

Do your fall yard cleanup.

It will be winter soon. Make sure you have cleared your yard and prepared it for what’s to come so you will avoid any winter home hazards.

• Finish raking any leaves. Use a tarp to haul them to the curb or to a compost pile. Or you could run your lawn mower over them to shred them. They will decompose into a natural fertilizer.
• Remove any dead shrubs or trees. (Check for signs of life by scratching the bark at the base. If you see green, it’s alive.)
• Bring in, or cover, patio furniture.
• Only cut your grass if it is still growing. Once it’s below 50 degrees consistently, you can put your mower away.

 

Stock up for the winter

It’s been a while since you’ve had to use your winter gear. Make sure that it’s there and in good shape, and replace what is needed.

• Check your snow shovels, ice scrapers, and other snow tools.
• Service your snow blower and buy fuel.
• Order firewood if you use it.
• Pick up a bag of pet-safe ice melt.
• Restock emergency kits.

 

Check in on your home insurance policy.

For added peace of mind, check with your insurer and make sure your homeowner’s policy covers your current needs. Ask your provider about how to lower your home insurance costs.

What else is on your November Home Checklist? Tell us in the comments.

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

Halloween Horrors Covered by Your Insurance Policy

Halloween Horrors Covered by Your Insurance Policy

We love the spooky fun that Halloween brings. Yet sometimes the celebration can be scarier than we like. Mischief night vandalism, pumpkin fires, and even guests who had too much to drink can create frightening scenarios.

Fortunately, your insurance policy can cover many of these Halloween horrors. Read on to learn more, including how you can stay safe and protected this Halloween.

 

Vandalism or Theft

The night before Halloween brings out some mischief makers who may toilet paper your car or egg your house. Trampled lawns, broken lawn decorations, and shattered windows have also been known to occur before or on Halloween.

 

Are you covered?

Fortunately, vandalism and malicious mischief are covered perils in most homeowner and renter policies. The policy protects against losses caused by vandals or thieves. If it’s your car that is vandalized or stolen, however, your homeowner’s policy will not cover it. You have to have an auto policy with comprehensive (other than collision) insurance coverage.

 

What you need to know:

• Your homeowner’s or rental policy covers your home and other structures (such as a detached garage or gazebo) on an open-peril basis. That means it only lists the exclusions, the situations not covered. If it’s not listed, you are covered for it. Vandalism to your home is not excluded; therefore, it is covered.

Personal property coverage is that part of your homeowner’s or renter’s policy that protects your possessions such as TV, furniture, and clothing. Personal property is covered on a named peril basis, not an open-peril one. With named perils, the policy lists the ones covered. Your policy will pay for 16 different named “perils.” In this case, vandalism is a covered peril. There are dollar limits for certain items such as money, jewelry, and firearms, so check with your insurer. For personal property coverage on a homeowner’s policy, you typically get 50 or 75% of Coverage A, the total amount of coverage for your home. Renters get to choose the amount of personal property coverage.

• For vehicles, comprehensive insurance covers vandalism and theft. However, if your car was paid off, and you don’t have comprehensive insurance, you would be responsible for the full costs to repair your vehicle.

• You will have a choice in how you will be compensated in a home policy (not an auto policy.) You can select replacement cost or actual cash value (ACV). ACV is the amount the item is worth, minus depreciation for its age. It will cost a little more for a policy that provides replacement cost since that is higher than ACV. You will get reimbursed minus the amount you have chosen for your deductible, the amount you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance company pays a claim. That’s why all of these decisions when you set up a policy are so important.

 

What else you can do:

• Park your car in the garage.

• Post no trespassing signs or beware of dog signs.

• Keep your yard brightly lit to deter vandals

.• Set up a video alarm system.

• Form a neighborhood watch to look out for mischief makers.

 

Halloween Fire Safety

Halloween is a common time for fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Crepe paper, cornstalks, and costumes are highly flammable. Bumping into a pumpkin with a lit candle could have devastating results. Fire damage to your home or car can be extensive and expensive.

 

Are you covered?

If a fire starts accidentally on your property, you are most likely covered by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. If that fire affects your car, you are covered under your auto policy’s comprehensive insurance for damage or total loss.

 

What you need to know

• Depending upon the extent of the fire, your house may not be habitable. If that’s the case, you would be covered for any necessary increase in living expenses, such as lodging, food, and gas. Your policy’s living expense coverage will provide a flat percentage toward living costs, usually 30% of the Coverage A amount. Some states have time limits (e.g. 12 months) on when you can use that coverage. Plan to cover those additional expenses out-of-pocket.

• If your car is damaged by fire, your comprehensive coverage pays for it. This is coverage that is required if you are financing or leasing a vehicle. Comprehensive covers natural disasters, fires, vandalism, theft, and animals that damage your vehicle. However, if your car was paid off, and you don’t have comprehensive insurance, you would be responsible for the full costs to repair your vehicle.

 

What else you could do

• Use battery-powered lights in your pumpkins rather than candles with open flames. There are some very realistic flickering flameless candles available.

• Make sure your electronic decorations meet Underwriters Laboratory (UL) safety standards. This is an independent nonprofit organization that tests electrical components for potential hazards.

• Test smoke alarms before the holiday to make sure they are in good working order.

 

 

Dog or Cat Bites

Halloween can be a stressful time for pets. Doorbells, lots of strangers, and costumes could excite or frighten your dog. This might cause an otherwise friendly dog or cat to bite.

 

Are you covered?

You are covered under your homeowner’s or renter’s liability coverage. The policy pays for damages to the injured party. This can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent scarring. The policy also provides a defense in court, if needed, for the policyholder. This is at the insurance company’s own expense.

 

What you need to know

Liability coverage protects you if someone is injured and you’re legally liable. It could be at your place or it could be anywhere in the world.

• If you need more coverage, talk to your insurance advisor about an umbrella policy, which will provide much greater coverage.

 

What else you could do

• Remove your fur baby from the Halloween chaos. If your dog is crate-trained, he may feel most comfortable there.

• Keep your pet inside the house and give out candy on the porch or at a table at the curb.

 

 

Injured Trick-or-Treater

Slips and falls could occur on your property. Other injuries may happen, too. When visitors to your home are hurt, you could be held accountable.

 

Are you covered?

Your homeowner’s or renter’s policy includes liability coverage. This can be used to cover medical bills when someone is injured on your property. It can also cover legal expenses if they decide to sue you.

 

What you need to know

Liability coverage protects you if someone is injured and you’re legally liable. You want to make sure you have enough coverage to protect your assets – a minimum amount is $100,000. Higher limits are strongly recommended and may be increased for a nominal fee.

• Bodily injury or property damage that results from a business in your home is not covered by your policy. You could however purchase an endorsement for your business to get that coverage.

 

What else you could do

• Make sure your property is well lit.

• Make sure paths to your house are clear.

• Be aware that trick-or-treaters may travel across your lawn. You do not want them tripping over tombstones or other decorations.

 

 

Alcoholic Incidents

Just as in the case of a trick-or-treater who slips and falls, an intoxicated guest who injures himself at your party could hold you liable.

 

Are you covered?

Again, your liability coverage will cover medical bills and legal expenses. Your policy also provides a coverage called “Medical Payments to Others.” The policy includes $1,000 but, for an additional premium, it can be increased to $3,000 or $5,000. This coverage will pay the necessary medical expenses to a person at the insured’s home with the permission of the insured. The insured doesn’t have to be liable for this coverage to pay out.

 

What you need to know

• Some states follow a “social host liability” law. If you host a party, and one of your drunken guests leaves and causes harm to someone else, you could be liable.

• You may be able to purchase social host liquor liability insurance. This is a short-term policy to cover a party where you are serving alcohol.

 

What else you could do

• Plan ahead for guests to stay at your place or arrange a safe ride home for them.

• Do not serve underage party guests. You could face fines and even criminal charges.

• Hire a professional bartender. They typically carry their own liability insurance.

• Stop serving alcohol at a designated time.

 

Finally, an annual review of your homeowner’s policy and your auto policy will ensure you are fully covered in any situation.

Happy Halloween!

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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