Stolen gifts, clumsy carolers and other holiday disasters

By Gina Roberts-Grey Posted : 12/16/2014

car loaded with presentsThe holidays are typically merry and bright. But despite the best planning, a Grinch-like moment can occur - one that results in an auto insurance or home insurance claim.

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Maybe the family dog bites a caroler. Or, that new flat screen you've always wanted falls out of the back of your truck.

Here's a peek at how to handle some holiday horrors that could happen to you.

A caroler goes kerplunk

What happens if a Christmas caroler singing "Silent Night" slips and breaks a leg on the walkway to your front door?

Eric Poe, chief operating officer of CURE Insurance in Princeton, N.J., says your homeowners insurance policy would cover the claim only if your insurer believes you were negligent - for example, you didn't shovel the walkway or left cords and wires for the lighted yard display in the walkway.

"If the circumstances were not due to your negligence, the claim would probably not be covered and the caroler would need to use their own health insurance pay for their medical costs," he says.

If you were negligent and your carrier finds you responsible for the accident, Poe says you wouldn't have to pay a deductible.

"This is covered under your 'bodily injury liability' coverage," he says.

But this type of claim could lead to a rate increase and possibly your policy not being renewed, Poe says.

You were watching Christmas lights, not brake lights

Out for a family drive down Candy Cane Lane? Pretty much every town has a street or two ablaze with blinking color, and on a cold night near Christmas the road can be jammed. What if you rear-end the sightseer in front of you?

You've got a property damage liability claim, at the very least. With luck, you weren't going fast enough to hurt someone, but if you were, that's a bodily injury liability claim.

To fix your own car, you'd need to file a collision claim and pay your deductible.

Think twice if it's just a nick. You may just want to settle it yourself. (See "The fender-bender: To claim or not to claim.")

You make guests sick

An undercooked turkey or fowl figgy pudding can give your guests more than a tummyache. They can end up in the hospital with food poisoning. If they don't have health insurance, they may look to you to foot the emergency room bill.

Tim Gaspar, president of Gaspar Insurance Services in Los Angeles, says you're covered under your home insurance liability policy "as long as you don't have some food contamination exclusion in your policy, which I have yet to see."

Most policies include a medical payments provision, such as $5,000, that you can tap into if necessary.

A Grinch steals your gifts

If gifts are stolen from right underneath your Christmas tree while you are out, you can file a claim with your home insurer. If presents are stolen from your car, your homeowners insurance would cover that, too, though you may be required to show receipts when you file a claim.

In either case, the amount covered would need to exceed your homeowners insurance deductible.

Your big-screen dreams shatter

You're driving home from the store dreaming of watching the New Year's bowl games on the big-screen TV in your truck cab or car trunk when the box falls out of your vehicle.

Before crying in your eggnog, check your home insurance policy or call your insurance agent ASAP.

"Even though it fell out of your auto, this may be covered under your home insurance policy, depending on the type of coverage provided by the carrier," Gaspar says.

A not-so-special delivery arrives

If the holiday vase you mail to Grandma shatters during the delivery process, Poe says you're likely out of luck.

"Unless someone else like FedEx, UPS or the Post Office packed the item, this would be considered a case of the sender's negligence and insurance wouldn't cover the loss," says Poe.

Santa's sleigh damages your roof

It seems Rudolph overshot the landing and took out your fireplace chimney along with a handful of roof shingles.

If you can find him, you could run the claim through Santa's auto insurance policy to avoid your home insurance rates being reviewed for an increase next year.

Otherwise, Poe says this would be covered under your homeowners policy but you'll have to pay your deductible.

Other holiday damages

Bill Begal, is the founder and president of Begal Enterprises, a fire and water damage disaster restoration company based in Rockville, Md.

He says his company has helped customers rebuild their lives after they experienced these holiday-related disasters which were all covered by customers' insurance policies:

  • A homeowner placed wrapping paper in the fireplace - the paper's light weight caused it to rise quickly up the chimney before it caught the owner's roof and an adjacent neighbor's roof on fire.
  • Dried out Christmas trees placed adjacent to heat sources caused a fire.
  • Old mangled lighting caused arcing and fires.
  • A dishwasher flooded due to heavy usage and an improperly cleaned drain.
  • A deep-fried turkey cooked on a wood deck resulted in a fire.
  • Careless menorah and /or candle placement caused fires.
  • Tall Christmas trees hit sprinkler heads when being placed in homes, causing the activation of the sprinkler system.

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