Winter means snowy excitement, warm holidays, fun with family and friends…and potentially a higher risk of liability and incidents, depending your situation and the weather. From winter storms to holiday parties, your personal risk may increase during the winter season. Umbrella insurance is one of the best ways to protect yourself from the “storm” of liability and lawsuits that you could run into this winter.
What is umbrella insurance?
Umbrella insurance is a supplemental liability policy. It steps in the case of personal liability where you are found at-fault for another party’s personal injuries or physical property damage.
If you are responsible for another person’s expenses, they could sue you for hundreds of thousands—if not millions—in damages. Insurance helps cover those costs so you won’t have to pay those expenses out of pocket or risk having your assets up for grabs.
Umbrella insurance is especially useful for liability scenarios, because it generally offers a much higher coverage limit than standard homeowners’ or auto insurance. The basic umbrella insurance starts at $1 million in liability coverage and can extend to $5 million or higher in certain cases.
Note: You must already have auto and/or home insurance to purchase umbrella insurance.
When can umbrella insurance come in handy for winter-specific liability cases?
1. Hosting a New Year’s Eve party
When you host a party, you’re responsible for the health and safety of your guests. If someone drinks too much and falls down the stairs, it’s considered partially your fault. If someone has an allergic reaction to your cheese and olive plate, you could be responsible for their medical bills.
You may even be held responsible for allowing guests to drink at your party and then drive home. If they get into an accident on their drive home, you could be held partially responsible for giving them that alcohol. This is especially concerning on New Year’s Eve—which is the most dangerous night to drive on the road.
Don’t let the risk of liability stop you from hosting a rockin’ New Year’s Eve or holiday party, though. You’ll just want to take a few precautions to protect yourself and your guests:
- Cut off guests after a certain limit or if they seem to be intoxicated.
- If a guest has been drinking, even just a little, take their keys. Call them a cab or offer them a couch to crash on at your place.
- Never serve underage drinkers.
Finally, consider purchasing an umbrella policy if you love to play host. There are many things that can go wrong during a party where the food and drinks are flowing.
2. Online shopping
It’s that time of year where you’re getting more Amazon packages delivered to your doorstep. That also means you’re inviting a larger number of deliverymen to your home who could fall, slip, or trip on your property, especially if it’s slippery from a recent snow or rain. If a delivery person falls and is injured on your property, you are typically held responsible for any medical costs or damages that occur.
You don’t need to stop shopping online, though. You simply want to make sure your home is safe for visitors (welcome or unsolicited ones):
- Put down salt (or kitty litter) on icy walkways and driveways to melt ice and provide traction.
- Shovel snow within 6-12 hours of the storm. This prevents snow from damaging your walkways and minimizes risk of ice.
- Repair uneven stairs, broken stones, or cracked pathways. Make sure everything is level and not protruding.
- Make sure there’s enough lighting around pathways. This time of year there is a higher volume of deliveries, so deliverymen may come in the morning and evening when there isn’t a lot of light. Not a lot of light means a greater likelihood of tripping.
Umbrella insurance can step in to help pay for a visitor’s medical bills and related expenses in the case they’re injured on your property.
3. Falling icicles
We just talked about the dangers on the ground… but what about overhead? Falling icicles are a surprising hazard that can do serious damage to guests coming into your home. Icicles tend to hang off the side of the house, and a little shake can cause them to come tumbling down on unsuspecting visitors, pedestrians, or even your family.
Falling icicles can cause serious injuries like cuts, bruises, broken bones, and, in some cases, they can even be fatal. The costs associated with these can be large, which is why having umbrella insurance is so important.
Learn how to get rid of icicles and ice dams on your home with This Old House.
4. Parking outside
If you tend to park your car outside, you’re putting yourself at risk for theft, vandalism, and potential property damage. But beyond your own damages, parking out in the winter elements can actually be a liability!
Parking outside means your car could get covered in snow or ice. If there is snow or ice on your car when you start driving, the snow chunks could fly off and hit another car or cause an accident. Your “flying snow” could be responsible for that accident and all related damages to the other party or parties. Especially with hectic holiday traffic, even a small bit of ice could do serious damage.
- When possible, park your car in a garage, storage space, or under an overhang.
- If that’s not possible, you may want to cover your vehicle with a winter car cover shield to protect it from the elements.
- Before driving, make sure to remove all of the snow and ice from your car. A quick Google search can show you lots of products you can keep in your car to help with this.
5. Winter storms
A winter storm can be disastrous for your own property, but it may also create liability on your end. No, you’re not responsible for the storm itself. But if a tree branch from your property is thrown into your neighbor’s window during a gust of wind, you could be responsible for any incurred expenses. Or if your dog is anxious before the storm and he acts out, biting a friend you had over for dinner, you would be responsible for your friend’s medical and associated bills.
We like to call winter storms the “crazy makers” because you never know what kind of situations you’ll run into. You can help protect yourself against storm damage and liability with these home maintenance tips for fall.
The winter can increase your risk in many ways, from celebrating the festive season to weather risks specific to this time of year. While there are many ways you can minimize your risk by taking care of your home and looking after guests, ensuring you have proper liability coverage in place, whether through your homeowners insurance or with supplemental umbrella insurance, can help you mitigate your financial risk. Talk to your insurance agent today to review your coverage.
Talk to an expert insurance advisor at (844) 824-2885 to see how you can add an umbrella policy to your existing insurance!
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