6 Common Holiday Disasters & How to Avoid Them

Tue Dec 15 2020

Holiday celebrations and festivities are part of what makes this season so merry. But claims are also common this time of year.

Luckily, your homeowners insurance can spread some cheer – it can cover many of the accidents and mishaps that abound around the holidays. Let’s take a look at some common claims so you can prepare for whatever the season has in store.

These are some of the most common holiday claims and how to avoid them.

1. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Whether you light candles for Hanukkah or roast chestnuts by the fireplace, house fires are common around the holidays. According to the most recent data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the culprits are:

  • Christmas trees. These cause an average of 160 home fires and cause $10 million in direct property damage each year.
  • Holiday decor. Excluding Christmas trees, holiday decorations start 790 home structures fires per year for approximately $13 million in direct property damage.
  • Candles. Candle fires peak in December, causing 20 home fires each day on average.
  • Cooking. The start of the holiday season, Thanksgiving, is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
  • Chimneys. The NFPA also notes that failing to clean heat sources like chimneys is responsible for 25 percent of heating-related fires.

Only about one in 365 insured homes have a fire and lightning claim, but the losses are significantly more severe than other common claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The average fire and lightning claim costs $78,838.

Homeowners insurance can cover fire damage, but prevent these accidents from the outset. Keep candles away from drapery and other flammable materials. Water your Christmas tree to prevent it from drying out and don’t overload any one circuit with strings of decorative lights.

And never leave your fireplace unattended, especially while roasting chestnuts.

2. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Okay, hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but the holidays are a prime time for guest injuries, especially if Grandma has a little too much eggnog! If she falls down and gets hurt, she might need an ambulance ride to the hospital, and because it happened at your home, you could be on the hook for those medical expenses.

An ambulance ride can be as much as $1,200 or more plus mileage. Fortunately, medical payments insurance – Coverage F in your home insurance policy – can cover the cost of small, immediate medical expenses when these situations happen.

To avoid these accidents, make sure rugs are tacked down and that handrails in and out of the home are sturdy. If anyone helps decorate the tree, spot them if they use a ladder. And lastly try to keep an eye on how much eggnog your guests imbibe.

3. O No, Tannenbaum

Yards decorated with lights are a beloved holiday tradition. Who doesn’t love driving around town at night to see who really got things shining? But those outdoor lights can lead to fires. While they’re often contained to a tree or shrub, it’s nice to know that your homeowners insurance policy can cover landscaping fire damage – generally up to $500.

To avoid outdoor fires, make sure you are using lights designed for outdoor weather. Don’t lay lights on dead trees and make sure that all energy connections are kept out of the elements with the right housing boxes.

4. Holly Jolly Sewer Backups

Whether it’s extra feast grease being poured down the drain or too many guests using an older plumbing system, a backup of your sewer and drains can really put a damper on the holidays. This type of damage can be covered if you add water backup coverage to your homeowners policy.

To avoid sewer backup claims, don’t send cooking grease down the drain – let it cool, solidify, and scrape it into a container that can be thrown away. Fix leaky toilets or faucets to reduce the strain on the household wastewater system. And before you have any major parties or holiday guests, consider getting your pipes snaked to clear them out before the fun begins.

5. Stormy and Not-So-Silent Nights

Wind and hail claims are the most common kind of home insurance claim, and they don’t slow down in winter. Winter storms bring snow, sleet, and heavy rains, the most raucous of which can damage your roof. Your homeowners policy should bring you some peace – it can cover wind, hail, and sleet damage.

To prevent these claims, keep your roof in good repair so it’s ready to face the elements. Be sure to plow snow away from the house and downhill from your home to reduce the chance of melt snow flooding. And don’t forget to add on flood insurance to your policy to protect against floods.

6. Winter Wonderland…in Your Basement

Water damage claims from leaks or burst pipes are the second most common type of home insurance claim, costing an average of $11,098 per claim. Pipes can freeze because of a power outage or forgetting to leave on the thermostat at home during vacation. The water in the pipes freezes then expands, causing a leak.

Home insurance can cover this type of water damage that originates inside the home, but only when you take the appropriate steps to prevent it. If you plan on going away for the holidays, turn your water off to prevent any potential problems and leave your thermostat on a setting that keeps your pipes from freezing.

We hope your holidays are filled with joy and laughter, not losses and insurance claims. You’ve dealt with enough this year as is. Stay safe and have a happy and healthy holiday season!