Super Bowl partying can lead to insurance fumbles and stumbles

By Michele Lerner Posted : 01/28/2011

Super Bowl insuranceSuper Bowl Sunday will keep millions of pizza delivery drivers hopping.

"Super Bowl Sunday is our No. 1 day, when we deliver about 9 million slices of pizza," says Chris Brandon, spokesman for Domino's Pizza. "Our stores and team members get as amped up as the players on the field."

Those extra deliveries – a jump of about 44 percent over a typical Sunday – require more pizza delivery drivers on the road. So Domino's reminds team members to be extra careful in hopes of preventing car accidents.

Pizza delivery drivers and their employers are not the only people who face more risk for mishaps on Super Bowl Sunday. Whether you're driving to the big game, watching it in a bar or hosting a party, follow these tips to keep from dropping the ball on your insurance coverage.

Hosting a Super Bowl party

Lisa Lobo, vice president and consumer insurance expert at The Hartford, says party hosts should consider purchasing refrigerated-products coverage. It usually comes with a $100 deductible and covers everything that spoils in the event of a power failure or mechanical problems.

"If you are having a big open party, you should check on your theft deductible to make sure special items such as your valuable jewelry are covered," Lobo says. Most policies cap jewelry coverage at $1,000 or $2,000 per piece.

A bigger issue can be liability if guests hurt themselves on your property or, worse, drink and drive. State laws vary, but even "states that don't impose liability in general can impose it if the host serves alcohol to a minor," says Kenneth Berman, an attorney with Berman, Sobin & Gross, LLP in Gaithersburg, Md.

"Everyone should go into this knowing that they can be held responsible if a guest gets hurt or hurts someone else," he says.

Berman suggests closing the bar after the third quarter of the game or planning an activity after the game so guests aren't drinking up to the last minute. He also urges you to arrange designated drivers for guests who drink too much.

Party hosts also may want to consider adding extra liability coverage, Lobo says.

"Liability insurance is part of every homeowners policy and would cover up to your limit, usually about $100,000 if someone slips and falls on an icy sidewalk or drowns in your hot tub," says Lobo. "But liability insurance may not be enough. We recommend a personal umbrella policy to cover all of your assets and net worth in case of a lawsuit."

Umbrella insurance policies offer additional liability coverage of $1 million or more and usually cost $200 or $300 annually.

Party hosts also can be the target of a negligence claim if rowdy fans get into an altercation at the party, Berman says.

"In any negligence case you need reasonably foreseeable and proximate cause. And in theory, inviting fans of opposing teams to your home can be considered foreseeable," says Berman. "Hosts have a duty to prevent the escalation of an argument to a physical level."

Lobo says homeowners liability insurance and an umbrella policy can protect the hosts, but that in some cases the liability insurance of the guests would cover any damages associated with a brawl.

Renting a car and staying in a hotel

Planning to drive to the big game in a rental car? You may already be covered.

"The good news is that if you have comprehensive, collision and liability auto insurance on your own car, the coverage transfers to a rental car," says Lobo. "You don't need to buy any extra insurance on a rental car."

If you don't have such coverage, make sure you look into other options – such as purchasing insurance through the rental car agency or by using a credit card that offers car insurance coverage.

If you plan to stay in a hotel, your home insurance should cover any personal property that is stolen (minus your deductible).

Tailgating or drinking at the game and driving

Lobo says car insurance policies cover damage to your vehicle if you are tailgating and someone places the grill too close to the car and singes it.

If you decide to drink and drive, you'll not only be risking lives (and possibly facing civil and criminal legal trouble), but also could negate your insurance coverage.

"Most insurance companies won't cover punitive damages caused by a DUI or DWI," Berman says.

Lobo says even one drink can be problematic if the driver does not allow enough time to absorb the alcohol.

"Most car insurance carriers list a DUI or a DWI as a 'condition for nonrenewal' if the driver is found guilty," says Lobo. "Some offer a policy that excludes just that driver while continuing the coverage for other drivers.

"A third option can be an offer of insurance with a very high surcharge that lasts as long as the drunk driving incident lasts on the auto insurance report, which could be three to five years, depending on the company."

Brawling with an opposing fan

If you get into a brawl at a stadium, a bar or a party, you face the possibility of both physical and civil assault and battery charges, with the potential of a fine, jail time and being sued for damages, Berman says.

"Most insurance policies exclude liability coverage for 'intentional acts,' which includes libel, assault and battery," he says.

Lobo says liability insurance is intended  to protect you against bodily injury claims resulting from your "negligence or carelessness," not  " intentional acts.”

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