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Home Insurance Tips

Be A Common-Sense Host – Part 1

Holidays and special events often include celebrations that bring together families and friends in homes across the country. Food, fun, conversations and spirits flow generously. Unfortunately, such celebrations may be accompanied by injuries and accidents, especially when alcoholic drinks are involved. Increased drinking leads to an increased chance for a personal tragedy and the consequences can be substantial.

Hosts are given the credit for the enjoyment that their guests experience at a party. On the dark side, party-givers are also asked to bear partial or full responsibility for two categories of losses:

  • Loss or injury to guests while on the host’s premises
  • Loss or injury involving guests who cause damage or injury to others

Hosts owe the highest level of responsibility to persons who are invited to a residence. Therefore, they face the possibility of being held accountable for injury or loss suffered by guests. With regard to the second category, a particularly troublesome issue is liability for guests who are on the way home from a gathering. In other words, hosts may be sued for contributing to losses caused by alcohol-impaired guests.

Although hosts can be found legally culpable for accidents or losses; there would have to be strong evidence to support a host being held financially responsible, since any involvement is indirect. For example, Jane provides drinks to Barrie, who then plows into the side of Chris’ car and garage.

While a homeowners policy may offer coverage if a host has substantially contributed to a loss, an insurer may be able to deny a claim for a number of reasons, including:

  • A gathering involves the host making an income
  • The involvement of paid bartenders
  • The party is thrown as a fundraising event
  • A host’s knowledge that the guest was impaired and continued to serve liquor
  • The host failed to decide for impaired guests (designated drivers, taxis, lodging, etc.)
  • Local or state law(s) related to providing alcohol

Please see part 2 or this discussion regarding ways to minimize losses arising from parties.


COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc. 2018

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Be A Common-Sense Host – Part 2

Hosts who take their responsibility seriously are those who make sure that parties are thrown responsibly, are done as a social (rather than business) event, and those who avoid actions that reduce chances of loss.

With regard to the premises, hosts can do the following to increase the safety and to protect the property of their guests:

  • Keep guests’ coats and other property in a central, secure area
  • Correct any issues in the home (i.e. repair broken steps or uneven surfaces, tack down loose rugs)
  • Keep pets away from guests
  • Bar access to kitchen if dangerous cooking processes are used (such as deep fat fryers)
  • Make sure bathrooms are well-lit and free of issues that might cause loss or injury
  • Make sure that stairs and all interior and exterior paths and safe for use
  • Check smoke and fire alarms and make sure any safety equipment is in working order
  • Keep cell phones charged for use in emergencies
  • Have auxiliary lighting available

With regard to the condition of guests as they leave or when party ends:

  • The event should include food, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Control the party’s liquor supply, ending service of liquor during the latter part of the event
  • Monitor guests to check for signs of impairment, cutting off liquor if necessary
  • Consider taking car keys and arranging for taxi or ride-sharing services to transport guests
  • Make the option available for impaired guests to remain at the residence overnight, using extra rooms or other sleeping areas
  • Arrange for designated drivers with each pair or group of guests

No celebration should end up with losses, injuries or lawsuits. Make the holidays or special occasions fun and safe with proper preparations. Also, be sure that you carry the right insurance protection in the event it is needed.


COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc. 2018

All rights reserved. Production or distribution, whether in whole or in part, in any form of media or language; and no matter what country, state or territory, is expressly forbidden without written consent of Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc.

 

Bathroom – Danger Zone

While insurance is a method of protecting against injury and loss, a much older method is called risk management. It refers to any action that helps to either significantly reduce or eliminate the chance of an accident. Risk management can be used to help make our homes safer, particularly our bathrooms where most (nearly three-fourths of all) home accidents occur.

Bathrooms are most dangerous due to water from sinks, showers and tubs. Bathrooms are most dangerous for the very young and the elderly, so it is critical to take steps to decrease the chance of harm from accidental falls and from electrocution. The following are steps to consider:

  • Tubs and showers should have a non-slip surface or adhesive mats or pads in order to safely enter, exit and stand
  • Moisture build-up should be battled by use of exhaust fans/vents
  • Do not use floor waxes on bathroom floors
  • All spills should be cleaned up immediately
  • Consider installing rails to make it easier to use tubs, stalls and toilets
  • Soap dishes and towel bars should be made of break-resistant materials
  • Consider use of packaged, liquid soap instead of bar soaps which are harder to grip and may contribute to falls in attempt to retrieve drops
  • Outside of tub/shower area, use a non-slip, absorbent bath mat
  • Make bathroom cabinets inaccessible to toddlers and/or keep chemicals, medicines and cleaners out of their reach
  • Use grounded electrical outlets that trip outlet circuits when exposed to water
  • Keep electrical appliances unplugged and away from water
  • Consider installing step-in style tubs for the elderly

Sometimes, the best insurance is to be safety-minded.


COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc. 2018

All rights reserved. Production or distribution, whether in whole or in part, in any form of media or language; and no matter what country, state or territory, is expressly forbidden without written consent of Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc.

 

Claims By Candlelight – Part 2

In part 2 of this article, we continue to explore problems associated with using candles in homes

Poor candle design or practices

Besides the use of oils and chemicals, candle-makers sometimes create problems because they commit other mistakes. Candles may burn improperly (causing soot) because a candle's wick may be off-center or there may not be a proper amount of air in the candle mixture. A candle may have a higher likelihood of causing a fire loss due to:

  • an improper candle mixture which results in intense heat or high flames
  • improper holders (glass that shatters or spills flammable liquid)
  • wood holders that catch fire
  • flammable items imbedded in the candle mixture such as potpourri

Coverage Under a Homeowner Policy?

Damage to a home or personal property due to soot can create serious problems for both an insurer and a homeowner. Losses involving soot can create thousands of dollars in damages. Depending upon the details surrounding a loss and the wording of the particular homeowner policy, coverage for the damage may not be available. Why? Because the source of loss might be considered the result of pollution which may be excluded. Another reason for rejecting a claim may be an assumption that the damage was gradual instead of sudden, so it wouldn't be considered accidental and sudden damage. A claim could even be affected by the knowledge of the insured. For instance, even if the policy covers soot-related losses, a claim could be denied if a homeowner knew that the type of candle, they used could cause damages.

Since the damage is caused by matter that is invisible to the naked eye, it could be difficult to prove that the loss was sudden. Tests can be used to determine the cause of stained or discolored property, but the testing can be expensive and the cost may have to be handled by the homeowner.

What To Do?

It's all up to you. You might wish to ask more questions about the type of candles you use or curtail your use. You can also discuss whether coverage is available under your homeowner policy with an insurance professional. If you do use candles frequently, you may also want to check your home thoroughly for any stains or discoloration, including any contamination of your heating system.


COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc. 2019

All rights reserved. Production or distribution, whether in whole or in part, in any form of media or language; and no matter what country, state or territory, is expressly forbidden without written consent of Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc.

 

Are These Tragedies Insurable? – Part 1

Over the years, many Americans have been horrified and confused by such tragedies as shootings that have occurred in businesses, churches and schools, such as the events at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University and Sandy Hook Elementary. The sad aftermath has to be dealt with by the survivors. While citizens, authorities, social and psychological experts, and gun opponents/proponents are all wondering why such things happen, the focus naturally shifts to pointing fingers.

Who's Responsible?

Such shootings have both human and financial consequences and lawyers are frequently brought in to hold someone financially accountable. These events should not be generalized. There are elements that make them different from each other. The individuals involved and the particular circumstances that triggered each event are not similar enough to treat them in the same manner. However, the acts do often have an important element in common: many have been performed by children.

The first source that other parties look to for financial relief is insurance policies. In such instances, would the parents' homeowner policies respond to lawsuits over the actions of minors who injure or kill their schoolmates? The answer is….it depends.

What Do Homeowner Policies Intend To Cover?

Homeowner policies offer coverage in two major sections. Section I protects the property that belongs to the policyholder such as his home, garage, storage sheds, household furnishings and even the increased living expenses created by the loss of use of such property. Section II provides coverage against the policyholder's legal responsibility for injuring other persons or damaging their property. While the shootings certainly involve substantial injuries and property damage, homeowner policies may not provide coverage.

Homeowner insurance policies intend to respond to accidents. Generally, the premiums for liability protection are based upon having to make payments to parties injured in losses that are neither intended nor foreseen by the policyholder. Of course, the particular loss details have a great deal to say about whether the event can be considered an accident. How the loss was caused, the age of the person causing it and other circumstances affect coverage.

Please see part 2 of this article.


COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc. 2016

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Are These Tragedies Insurable? – Part 2

This part continues to discuss the coverage implication of shooting incidents.

Are Shootings Covered?

The question of the hour is: will a homeowner policy pay for the financial consequences of a person shooting someone else? Surprisingly, nothing is clear cut. For instance, it could pay if the shooting involved a person who was defending himself or protecting another person. It may pay if a person was practicing on a gun range and a shot ricochets and injures another. It may even provide coverage if one person aims directly at another and fires a weapon, but the person holding the weapon is, say, a toddler.

Many homeowner policies define whom are considered to be mature individuals and, generally speaking, the age is 13 years or older. Acts involving both guns and persons who are this age or older are excluded from coverage under a homeowner policy. Why? Because such persons should be old enough to understand the extreme danger represented by guns. The choice in deploying a gun or similar weapons against other persons can rarely be considered accidental and, in most instances, is the full responsibility of the weapon-wielder.

Shootings such as mass incidents that continue to capture large headlines are unlikely to find insurance coverage. These events tend to involve the deliberate action of one or more persons to cause injury or death to others. Therefore, they are not considered accidents. Intentional acts have long been successfully excluded from insurance policies.

But again, there can still be instances where a homeowner policy may be required to defend or pay for such losses, including instances:

Where a parent may be held to be indirectly responsible for the actions of a child
Where the shooter is found to be mentally impaired or is otherwise considered unable to have understood the nature of his or her actions

Where a court may interpret a policy as being applicable to a shooting

The fact is, the question of insurance coverage for such horrible events is as confusing and complicated as why such events ever occur. Only the passage of time and legal findings will provide the opportunity to make this subject any clearer.


COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc. 2019

All rights reserved. Production or distribution, whether in whole or in part, in any form of media or language; and no matter what country, state or territory, is expressly forbidden without written consent of Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc.

 

Homeowners Coverage – Part 1


Generally, a homeowners insurance policy includes at least six different coverage parts. The names of the parts may vary by insurance company, but they typically are referred to as Dwelling, Other Structures, Personal Property, Loss of Use, Personal Liability and Medical Payments coverages. They are usually presented as policy sections and are often labeled Coverages A through F. This article discusses Coverage Parts A, B, and C, which protect property.

Coverage A, Dwelling

The homeowner policy's first coverage section protects your house and any attached structures, such as garages, decks or fences. The typical policy covers your home when it is damaged by many perils (also known as causes of loss) including fires or storms. However, the following causes of loss are usually excluded from coverage under the homeowners policy:

  • Earthquake
  • Flood
  • Faulty maintenance
  • Damage from insects or vermin
  • Wear and tear, gradual damage or deterioration

Coverage B, Other Structures

This coverage section protects structures that are not attached to the home, such as a detached (separate) garage, storage or utility shed playground equipment and swimming pools.

Coverage C, Personal Property

This covers your possessions, whether they are at your home or away with you on vacation. Personal property is often covered on a named peril basis. This means that only the causes of loss listed in the policy section are covered. The coverage is also subject to limitations and exclusions. Types of property having significant value, such as jewelry, fine arts, collectibles, etc., may require special protection. Talk to your agent about scheduling (adding) coverage on a floater which broadens and extends coverage for high-valued possessions.

Actual Cash Value vs. Replacement Cost

Commonly, protection under sections A and B is provided on either an actual cash value or a replacement cost basis. Actual cash value is defined as replacement cost minus depreciation. Replacement cost is the actual cost to replace the structure, regardless of depreciation. Check your policy to see which type of coverage you have. Coverage under section C is usually provided on an actual cash basis. However, your agent may be able to add replacement cost to your possessions just like that found in Coverage A.

Please be sure to read Part two, which briefly discusses other coverage.


COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc., 2019

All rights reserved. Production or distribution, whether in whole or in part, in any form of media or language; and no matter what country, state or territory, is expressly forbidden without written consent of Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc.

 

Homeowners Coverage – Part 2


Part one discussed how a typical homeowner policy covers buildings and structures. Now let’s look at Coverage Part D, which is also a property coverage; as well as Coverage Parts E and F. These latter parts address coverage for injuries to persons or damage to property that belongs to others.

Coverage D, Loss of Use

This coverage handles the cost of additional living expenses while your home is being repaired. The coverage also applies if the home is unusable. However, the loss or loss of access has to be the result of an event that is covered by the policy. For instance, if your home was damaged during a war and you had to abandon it, Coverage D would not be available because war is excluded. Additional expenses normally include food, housing, and transportation. However, the expenses must exceed what your family normally incurs.

Coverage E, Personal Liability

This Coverage Part responds if you are legally responsible for causing property damage or physical injury. Protection includes paying for your defense costs and any financial judgment for covered incidents. Naturally the coverage would not apply for excluded situations, such as intentional injuries. Example: Joe is sued by a guy he injured after tackling and repeatedly punching him during a pickup basketball game. The injuries from this incident are not accidental and would not be covered.

Coverage F, Medical Payments

This Part provides rapid reimbursement for minor injuries, such as a guest who trips and falls while visiting your home. This coverage does not apply to a family member. For example, if your child and your neighbor's child are both injured while playing and need to go to the emergency room, this coverage will pay for your neighbor's expenses but not for your own child.

This is a brief overview of homeowners insurance. All of the coverage provided by the homeowners policy is subject to limitations such as exclusions, policy limits, and deductibles. It's important that you discuss the details of coverage and any other insurance questions with your insurance agent.

Please be sure to read Part one, which briefly discusses other coverage.


COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc., 2019

All rights reserved. Production or distribution, whether in whole or in part, in any form of media or language; and no matter what country, state or territory, is expressly forbidden without written consent of Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc.

 

Attractive Nuisances

What Is An Attractive Nuisance?

This is a term originated by a judge to describe a property that attracts youngsters and, because of its dangerous nature, creates a special obligation to property owners. Examples are:

  • swimming pools
  • trampolines
  • empty buildings
  • appliances kept outside
  • excavations
  • construction materials
  • zip lines

All of these can lure children onto a property and they all have the potential to cause serious injury.

Why Do Attractive Nuisances Create A Special Obligation?

A special obligation exists because of such property's child endangering nature. Children do not have the reasoning ability of adults. When an opportunity to have fun pops up, it's a rare child who thinks about the chance of being injured. A property owner with an attractive nuisance on his property cannot escape liability because of a trespassing child. When an attractive nuisance is involved, adults have to make a special effort to protect children from their blind sense of adventure or face the consequences.

How Do You Handle Attractive Nuisances?

The answer is…doing whatever it takes to prevent a child's access to the nuisance. Therefore, in order of their effectiveness:

1. Eliminate the nuisance

  • have old appliances hauled to a junk yard
  • tow old, non-running vehicles away
  • get rid of construction materials immediately after a building project is complete

2. Secure the nuisance

  • take off doors or covers from large appliances awaiting garbage pickup
  • keep sharp tools, especially power tools and equipment, locked away
  • store construction materials in a garage or shed

3. Reduce the chance for injury from a nuisance

  • install a pool cover and have a locked fence to prevent access to pool
  • do not allow younger children to use equipment such as trampolines
  • make sure there's adult supervision of children using play equipment

If you're not certain about whether you have an attractive nuisance situation, discuss the situation with an insurance professional.


COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc. 2019

All rights reserved. Production or distribution, whether in whole or in part, in any form of media or language; and no matter what country, state or territory, is expressly forbidden without written consent of Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc.

 

Electrical Fires – Part 1

Most people believe in the importance of electricity, especially in our residences. Electricity facilitates modern living, powering lighting, heating cooking, cooling, washing/drying clothes, and storing food. It also is the key to entertaining us via television, sound systems, personal electronics, gaming systems, instruments, etc.

By and large, electricity is a safe, reliable source of power, but it can also be a significant source of loss.

Electrical systems in our residences are large and complicated. They handle more devices and their increasing pervasiveness and complexity create more possibilities of loss. Newer homes increasingly make use of greater technology and are becoming “connected”; creating more points of possible failure that may result in electrical fires. Older homes often have electrical systems that may not be adequate to properly supply power, could become worn or obsolete, again, increasing the chance of fires.

In the U.S., electrical fires typically involve the following:

  • Roughly 50,000 residential fires a year
  • Nearly 500 fatalities per year
  • Injuries exceeding 1,400 per year
  • Property damage in excess of 1 billion dollars, annually

Electrical fires are particularly dangerous since many originate in areas that are hidden by walls, floors or unused or seldom used spaces in homes (basements or attics). Besides often being hidden, such fires often spread quickly and require professionally trained firefighters to extinguish them.

In part two, we look at various sources of electrical fires.


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All rights reserved. Production or distribution, whether in whole or in part, in any form of media or language; and no matter what country, state or territory, is expressly forbidden without written consent of Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc.

 

Electrical Fires – Part 2

Part one of this article revealed the danger and scope of home electrical fires in the United States. It is obvious that it is a high stakes source of loss. It is important to be aware of the different ways in which they may occur. Here are the most common causes:

Appliances and obsolete electronics - Older appliances and devices create higher levels of heats while in operation and also are more vulnerable to sparking. It is important to properly maintain, repair or replace these objects.

Fuses – Fuses and fuse boxes (or circuit breakers) are primary protection against overloads which can cause overheating in wiring and outlets. They also guard against dangerous power surges by shutting down. However, older fuses and breakers may get worn and no longer shut-off when required. This creates a far greater chance of damage wires, devices and, more seriously, fires. Inadequate or old systems should be upgraded or replaced.

Lighting fixtures – A common cause of fires is overheating created by misusing fixtures by ignoring the maximum bulb wattage recommendations or by using flammable materials over bulbs as a method of creating dimmer or decorative lighting. Dimmer switches, colored bulbs and matching wattage with fixtures are safer, more effective alternatives.

Outlets – Short-circuiting and/or sparking can occur with outlets that are not properly wired or grounded. This source of loss can be addressed by outlet inspections and the use of electrical professionals to handle installations and repairs.

Overloaded extension cords (including power strips) – extension cords are great when properly used, to extend access to power sources. Unfortunately, such cords are often dangerously abused by continuously having several appliances or devices attached to them for extended lengths of time. Devices (especially appliances) which operate continuously for longer amounts of time should draw their power directly from outlets.

Space heaters – improperly designed or used space heaters are a constant source of fire loss. Certain heater designs generate too much heat and temperatures rise to combustible levels. Many times, heaters are placed to close to walls or furnishings or are placed on carpeting or near other flammable materials. If such heaters must be used, look for models that use radiant heat and which are not prone to tipping or generating extreme heat levels.

Wiring - Old wiring creates problems, chiefly, due to the aging and breakdown in wiring insulation. Aged insulation that dries or cracks no longer facilitate electrical current flow. It permits overheating or escapes of current. Further, older wires may overheat because they cannot handle the power loads required by many newer devices or appliances used in residences. Overtaxed wiring will overheat. Tips that this is a problem include wiring emitting buzzing, flickering lights, warm areas near outlets or warm outlets and switches or breakers that keep tripping.

While such losses are readily covered by insurance, prevention of electrical fires is far more important than merely having financial protection, especially when serious injuries or even death is involved.


COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc., 2019

All rights reserved. Production or distribution, whether in whole or in part, in any form of media or language; and no matter what country, state or territory, is expressly forbidden without written consent of Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc.