Haunted Hazards: Avoiding Halloween Havoc

Halloween

It’s almost Halloween! Time for jack-o-lanterns, scary costumes, bowls of candy, excited children, haunted houses, and a whole host of spooky fun. We don’t want to scare you, but do remember Halloween brings increased risk of vandalism (home or vehicle), fire, injuries (including dog bites and trip and fall), burglary, auto theft, and even gravestone theft or vandalism.

Your insurance (homeowners, renters, and/or auto) should cover any major Halloween mishaps, but you don’t want to have to make a claim if you don’t have to. Most policies come with deductibles, and frequent claims can cause your premiums to rise. To keep Halloween from becoming a horror, here are some tips to protect you, your pets, and your property this Halloween. (Did you know your homeowners policy often covers theft or damage to a gravestone?)

While driving or walking

Safekids.org reports that kids are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day. Prime time for trick or treating is between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m., so take extra care if you’re driving during these hours, especially in residential neighborhoods and near driveways and alleys.

Children under the age of 12 should have adult supervision while trick or treating at night. Make sure children can see through masks (or use face paint instead), and that their clothing or costumes are visible even in the dark. Also have them carry flashlights or glow sticks. Remind them to stop and look both ways before crossing streets, and to cross at intersections rather than squeezing between parked cars.

Another Halloween danger is that of impaired or drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015 52% of all fatal crashes on Halloween night involved a driver or motorcyclist with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 (the legal limit) or higher. Make sure to designate a driver if you’re attending a party where alcohol is served. And if you serve alcohol at your own Halloween party, you could be liable if an impaired guest leaves your party and hurts or kills someone. To be safe, monitor your guests’ alcohol intake, make sure impaired guests have someone to take them home, or let them spend the night.

Keep pets out of harm’s way

Halloween can be tough for pets. The doorbell rings constantly, even familiar people are dressed in costume, and there is an abundance of candy around, most of it toxic to animals. Be sure to keep all candy out of reach of your pets, as well as any decorations that could harm them, such as candles with open flames. On Halloween night, confine your pet in a quiet place in which he or she feels safe. That way, there will be no chance of your pet biting someone, or escaping through an open door.

Safe at home

Take precautions against vandalism, and against becoming liable for an injury on your property. Walk your property and remove anything someone might trip over. Remember, it will be dark, and some costumes make it hard to see properly.

Make sure your home is well lit.

To guard against fire, consider using battery-operated tea lights to light your jack-o-lanterns. If you do use candles, keep them away from doorways, curtains, and walkways, and don’t leave them unattended.

Park your vehicle in the garage to protect it from vandalism.

Your insurance is there to protect you, but there are things you can do to minimize the chance you’ll need to use it. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your homeowners, renters, or auto insurance policy. And have a safe and spooky Halloween!

Shopping for Homeowners Insurance? Don’t Cut Corners!

Home InsuranceYour home is your most valuable asset, and you want to be sure you’re covered financially if it’s damaged or destroyed. When shopping for homeowners insurance, make sure your policy’s coverages and limits are adequate and appropriate for your situation. We’ve noticed that some agents cut corners on coverage just to sell you a policy, without regard for what you really need.

When you call for a homeowners quote, here are six questions you should ask:

Will my home and belongings be covered for replacement cost or actual cash value?

Actual cash value is the cost to repair your home or replace your belongings, less a deduction for a decrease in value due to age, wear and tear, and other factors. Replacement cost is the actual cost to repair or replace your property with items of equivalent quality and kind at current market value. For example, if you have a kitchen fire that destroys your appliances, with replacement cost, you’ll receive enough money to buy new appliances. If you have actual cash value, you’ll receive a lesser amount due to the depreciation of your destroyed items. Replacement cost usually costs a little more than actual cash value, but we think it’s well worth the investment.

Does this policy cover water back up?

A standard homeowners policy usually covers damage from overflow of water from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning as long as it originates on your property. However, if the back up damage comes from outside of your property, such as if heavy rains cause a sewer back up into your home, you may not be covered. This is a scenario all too common in our hurricane-prone state. (Please note: water back up coverage is NOT the same as flood insurance.)

How much is my home insured for?

Make sure the policy you’re being quoted is for the full replacement cost of your home—not the property’s market value or the amount you paid for the property. We’re seeing quotes from other agents where the home’s structure is severely under insured, which could lead to future claims only being partially paid, or if you have a total loss, leaving you without enough to rebuild.

What are the liability limits of this policy?

Liability protects you from lawsuits for injury or property damage you do to someone else. Most homeowners policies carry a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability insurance, but many insurance experts feel this is inadequate, and recommend coverage of at least $300,000 to $500,000. The price difference of raising your limits can be as low as $20 a year.

How much coverage is there for my home’s contents?

Most homeowners policies cover your personal belongings at a percentage (usually 50-70%) of the amount your dwelling is insured for. So if your home is insured for $200,000, and your policy covers contents at 50%, your contents are insured for $100,000 if there is a total loss. Some agents may try quoting 25% coverage or even no contents coverage at all to bring the policy’s price down, but you don’t want to risk this.

Does this policy have a hurricane deductible or a wind/hail deductible and how much is it?

Storms occur frequently in Florida, so always ask what deductible you have for a hurricane loss. If it is a percentage, ask what that equates to in dollars so you’ll know your out-of-pocket cost in the event of a hurricane loss. If possible, you want to avoid the broader “wind/hail” deductible since most storms that could damage your home are not hurricanes.

Homeowners insurance in Florida is not cheap, and while you don’t want to pay too much for a policy, don’t make the mistake of underinsuring your most valuable asset. Beware of agents who quote you a low rate just to get your business rather than watching out for your best interests. At Lakewood Financial, we have years of experience in the Florida homeowners insurance market, and we will do our best to serve you. Please contact us today for a free quote, or if you have any questions about your homeowners policy.