Ill. Insurance Dept. Offers Advice for Holiday Hosts, Travelers

December 20, 2005

If you’re hosting friends and family this holiday season, it might pay to check your insurance first, according to the Illinois Department of Insurance. Better to know in advance what is covered and what isn’t when hosting that Christmas dinner or New Year’s party.

“None of us like to think about what might go wrong, but making sure you have the right insurance for your family, home and cars is an easy way to protect yourself during the holiday season and all year long,” said Dean Martinez, acting secretary, IDFPR. “With so much going on this month, taking a minute to review insurance coverage can provide peace of mind.”

The number of insurance claims rise during the winter months – auto accidents, home damage caused by bad weather, faulty wiring, increased crime – including identity theft, and accidents resulting from overindulgence, Martinez said.

The following tips provide guidance for Illinois residents hosting holiday celebrations or traveling this year:

* Homeowners Insurance — Homeowners insurance policies include coverage for your dwelling and personal property contents against perils such as fire, as well as liability insurance to protect you if you become legally liable for someone’s bodily injury or death, or damage to their property. Some homeowners’ policies also provide coverage for other expenses, such as identity theft.

* Social host legal liability – According to Illinois law, social hosts who provides alcohol to guests and then do nothing to prevent an impaired person from driving or causing injuries to themselves or others, or damage to property might be liable for damages. Before hosting a party where you will serve alcohol, ask your insurance agent or company if your homeowners insurance policy covers you for social host legal liability. Most homeowners policies currently provide coverage for social host liability claims. If not, it may be possible to purchase insurance coverage for special events such as a large holiday party, wedding reception, etc.

* Winter weather – Besides protecting guests and family members from accidents, by taking care to keep your sidewalk and driveway free of ice/snow and making sure your home is in good repair; you can prevent claims against you and your insurance company.

* Dwelling and contents coverage – Check to make sure you have adequate limits of insurance for your home and your contents, especially unusual collections, jewelry, antiques, etc.

* Fire – Take care with Christmas decorations. Fresh trees, garlands and wreaths, fireplaces, and holiday candles pose added risks for fire. Keep greenery well watered, don’t leave burning candles in empty rooms and make sure that the fireplace is well maintained and clean. Check smoke detectors and be careful with space heaters.

* Burglary — People are especially vulnerable to burglary, theft and other crime during the hectic holiday season. When traveling, make your home appear as if you are merely out for the evening by leaving lights on and arranging for mail to be picked up..

* Identity theft – Consumers are especially vulnerable to credit card fraud and identity theft during the holidays when stores are more crowded and people are rushed and distracted. Many homeowners insurance policies are starting to cover some expenses incurred as a result of identity theft. Contact your insurer to see if you have the coverage or if it is available for an additional cost.

* Travel insurance –If you plan to travel this holiday season, think about travel insurance and make sure you understand what is and is not covered. Read the contract carefully before deciding whether to buy.

* Auto/Vehicle Insurance — Check your auto policy to make sure as many situations as possible are covered and whether you have towing insurance and/or roadside assistance. Determine if you are driving a car other than your own – either a rental car or your host’s car (if you are traveling), that you are covered by your policy or the other’s.

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