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Spooky insurance claims

Needless to say, 2020 has been a scary year, but Halloween is still happening, though with fewer ghoulish gatherings planned, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Safe, at-home activities are most popular among the 148 million adults who are planning to celebrate Halloween: 53% plan to decorate their homes, 46% plan to carve a pumpkin and 18% will dress up their pet, according to the NRF annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. Here is how festivities compare from last year:

Dress in  costume47%46%
Dress pet(s) in costume17%18%
Throw/attend a party32%22%
Hand out  candy69%62%
Carve a pumpkin44%46%
Visit a haunted house22%15%
Decorate  your home49%53%

Consumer spending is expected to reach $8.05 billion, down slightly from $8.78 billion in 2019, due to the drop in participation. However, scare-fest celebrators are spending more on the activities that will ensure a memorable holiday. Those who are celebrating plan to spend $92.12 on average compared with $86.27 in 2019. Participants are doing what they can to still make it a special event by spending a little more on home decorations, candy and greeting cards.

While frightening economic reports about the state of the economy abound, Halloween spending estimates for the year are a bit less spooky. Though overall spending is down slightly due to the drop in participation,  those who are taking part in Halloween are spending more, on average. The average consumer will dole out $92.12 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $86.27 last year.

Of course masquerading in creative costumes is perhaps the best part of Halloween. Here are the most popular, according to the NRF:

2SpidermanHot DogVampire
8Frozen (Elsa, Anna)WitchNurse

Given the popularity of the holiday, it's wise to be prepared should calamity ensue – and to be aware of the role insurance plays should you need to file any claims.

For home and automobile owners, taking precautionary measures to safeguard your property can reduce the chances of falling victim to Halloween high jinks. For instance, Ron Moore, senior product development manager at MetLife Auto & Home, recommends keeping areas well-lit and putting things that can be vandalized, such as pumpkins, in an area that is not easily accessible by passersby. If you won't be around for the Halloween festivities, make sure to keep a light or two on and even consider leaving the television on.

Since egging cars is a rite of passage for many teenagers on Halloween, try to keep your vehicle off the street or covered with a tarp. Expensive cars are particularly prone to egg attacks, according to Moore. "This is definitely the time of year to put it in the garage," he says.

Even the most careful property owners can wind up being the victim of Halloween pranks. However, certain types of homeowner insurance and auto insurance typically cover such damages. Here's a look at the types of policies that generally cover five common capers and accidents that happen on Allhallows Eve.

1. My car is splattered with eggs or splotched by paintballs, am I covered?

Vandalism to your car is covered by your automobile insurance as long as you have comprehensive coverage. According to Moore at MetLife, most people have a deductible of $100 to $500. Whether or not you should file a claim depends on the amount of damage. "If your car is just dirty it will take a lot of car washes to meet a $250 deductible," says Moore.

On the other hand, if the car is splattered by paint or the eggs eat away at the car's paint job, then filing a claim is justified. To help you decide, you can bring your car to the body shop to get an estimate to see if it's significantly above the deducible.

2. Does homeowner insurance cover toilet paper in the trees?

Homecoming isn't the only time people's trees are adorned with toilet paper. This tomfoolery is also popular on Halloween. Toilet paper typically doesn't damage trees.

"For the most part, toilet paper is just that: paper in the branches," says MetLife's Moore.

However, if the tree is damaged during the act of vandalism, most homeowners policies will cover it, he says, noting that the damage will have to be $100 or more to make a claim worthwhile. The most you'll typically get is $500 for each tree, says Moore. If your tree does have major damage, don't cut down limbs or haul away debris before getting a claim representative out to take a look.

3. Oh no – my dog bit a trick-or-treater! Am I covered?

During conventional times when there is not a pandemic, Halloween is a time of heavy traffic to your home whether you're handing out candy to trick-or-treaters or hosting a costume party. But even if you have a small gathering this year with just a few friends, take caution in regard to how your dog will react. Over half of dog-bite injuries occur at home with dogs that are familiar to the victim, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Dog trick-or-treat

So, while Halloween is a festive time for many people, it can be downright spooky for dogs, which could result in your pooch biting one of your costumed visitors.

While every state has different rules, homeowners policies typically cover the liability and medical expenses related to an accident in your home. If your dog is excluded from the policy, which isn't common, you would be responsible for the costs.

According to MetLife's Moore, there's no deductible in the event someone gets injured on your premises but homeowners should take precautions to avoid the situation. "If you know you have people coming over in costume, put the dog in a separate room away from the traffic," says Moore.

If the dog joined your family after you took out the homeowners policy, you should notify your agent to make sure you're protected, as dog bite claims are increasing in frequency and cost.

Dog bite claims are on the rise, increasing nearly 3% from 2018 to 2019, according to the III:

  • The average cost per claim increased by almost 15% percent last year.
  • The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $44,760 in 2019 up from $39,017 in 2018.
  • The average cost per claim nationally has risen 134% from 2003 to 2019, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are trending upwards.

4. Lights are on, but nobody's home – is burglary covered?

You might see Halloween as a time to escape to the movies or a night out far away from the costumed carousers. Of course, this makes your home more vulnerable to theft. If your house is burglarized on Halloween, your homeowner policy will cover theft of any belongings as well as any damage that occurs because of the break-in. In this case, your deductible will apply.

Remember that the burden falls on you to establish proof of ownership of the items that were stolen. It’s recommended that you take regular inventory of your possessions and keep receipts when possible. To prevent a theft on Halloween, MetLife's Moore says the best defense is to stay home. If that's not an option, keep lights on and make it appear as if someone is in the house.

5. A grave matter: Is tombstone theft or vandalism covered?

A ghoulish but common prank on Halloween is the theft of or damage to a tombstone. Believe it or not, grave markers are generally covered by homeowner policies. The typical amount covered for a tombstone is $1,000. You can take out additional insurance of up to $5,000, which might make sense if the tombstone costs more than $10,000.