We spend more time in our homes over the holidays than any other time of the year. With more people around and more hustle and bustle, things can easily go awry. Whether it’s an accident in your home or a break-in, December is one of the busiest months of the year for insurance claims. In this article, we gathered a list of some of the most common holiday insurance claims.

1. Christmas tree lights

There is nothing more nostalgic than the smell of the pines from a real Christmas tree. If you are celebrating the season with a real tree, ensure they are kept well-watered and not placed in front of a heat source. You also need to be mindful of what you put on the tree. Most Christmas tree fires (40%) are caused by lighting equipment, followed by decorative lights and involved wiring. Faulty lights or lights hung on a dry tree can be a major fire hazard. Similarly, placing a tree too close to a heat source or using an artificial tree that isn’t flame resistant can both cause significant fires. If you are thinking of having a real Christmas tree, the cost of trees is increasing this year due to the cost of fertilizer, tractor fuel, and insurance. In Ontario, the popular Fraser Fir tree will run you $89 before tax.

Tip: Shut off the lights and electronic ornaments when not at home or out of the room for a prolonged period. Opt for LED lights to reduce fire risk. LED lights operate at a lower voltage and generate less heat, which makes them a safer alternative.

2. Naked or open flames

Many people use candles during Christmas to create a holiday ambiance. In fact, Christmas, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve are the top three days for home fires caused by candles. Whether it’s holiday-scented candles or tealights on the Christmas tree, candles are the most obvious fire risks during the holidays. The open flames can easily light holiday decorations or other household objects on fire, which is why it is one of the top holiday insurance claims. For those who can’t go without the traditional open flame, candles should never be left unattended and are to be kept away from flammable materials (such as live Christmas trees) to minimize the risk.

For more helpful tips about candle safety over the holidays, please click here.

Tip: Place candles on a stable surface and keep them out of reach from children and pets. Make sure you extinguish them before going to bed. As mentioned above, many people are opting for LED lights to reduce fire risk, so we suggest giving them a try!

3. Theft the halls

Christmas theft is the saddest holiday insurance claim of all, and unfortunately, it does happen. With an increase in travel and social activities, there are more opportunities for theft to occur. Criminals know households are likely to have lots of new gadgets and gifts in them. Additionally, our homes are often left empty in the evenings as we visit loved ones. So, always leave a light on when you go out, and never leave presents in open view of passers-by. When you do need to leave your house, set your alarm if your home is equipped with one. Don’t have an alarm system? Installing a home security system can save you money on your monthly home insurance premium!

Tip: Porch pirating is rampant this time of year. Be sure to try and schedule your deliveries when someone is home or arrange to have it dropped off at your work address or local Canada Post or UPS outlet.

4. It’s not just snowflakes that fall

Whether you’re retrieving holiday decorations from the attic, putting up the tree or climbing on the roof to mount lights or inflatables – accidents do happen. Insurers receive several claims each year related to ladder misuse. Some involve homeowners that have climbed up to the roof to hang decorations or tend to last-minute home maintenance. Be careful while preparing your home before you invite others to celebrate with you!

Tip: Before using your ladder, practice ladder safety by ensuring it’s stable and that someone’s there to watch you/hold the ladder as you climb. Try to install lights during the daytime, as well.

5. Accidental damages

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, several claims are made each other as a result of the frenzy. It is very common to have items accidentally thrown out with discarded wrapping paper. Lost possessions include glasses, jewelry and hearing aids. One of the most common accidents insurers see is furniture and carpets damaged by spilled food, wine and candle wax. The culprit can be a pet, an excited child or a tipsy adult, but the result can be extensive damage. Over the Christmas period, there’s likely to be more entertaining at home than usual, so make sure your home is prepared ahead of time to avoid holiday insurance claims.

6. Distracted dining

Another common holiday tradition is to have friends and family over for a meal. Good food makes holiday celebrations extra special. Cooking large meals at home with many family members joining in the kitchen adds to the merriment. Unfortunately, busy kitchens may cause people to become distracted from their cooking tasks at hand. An unattended stovetop or an overcooked side dish can result in a kitchen fire.

Historically, the holiday season has more reported fires from cooking than any other time of the year. Here are some precautions to take when preparing holiday meals:

  • Make sure kids stay at least three feet away from stoves and ovens, or make your kitchen a kids-free zone.
  • Plug cooking appliances directly into an outlet and avoid connecting them to an extension cord.
  • Always remain in or near your kitchen while cooking. Don’t cook your holiday turkey or ham overnight, while you are asleep or while you’re away from home.
  • Clean grease from stove tops and countertops to avoid possible flare-ups.
  • Keep your surfaces clutter-free so you have somewhere to put that hot pan when you take it out.
  • Having a fire extinguisher nearby is key! If your turkey or tree catch fire, you’ll want the necessary tools to put it out quickly and effectively, and it will only cost you about $30 to buy one.

7. A tidy home is a safe home

Amongst all the excitement of Christmas Day, little ones aren’t usually bothered about tidying up after themselves. If you’ve got children, toys and gifts being left around the house haphazardly is inevitable. Tripping over a misplaced Hatchimal on the stairs or knocking over mom’s new China bowl can be avoided with a little pre-planning. Always keep a garbage bag handy while opening gifts to ensure the mess doesn’t pile up. It can also help prevent gifts received from ending up in the trash, as well. Have a plan for kids to choose one gift at a time to play with while the others stay in one pile under the tree.

Tip: Remove all breakables from high traffic areas while entertaining. Lock valuables away on a separate floor to keep cherished items safe.

8. Freezer failure

Nothing says the holidays like feasting on holiday favorites. Unfortunately, with the increased food shopping and diving in and out of the freezer during holiday prep, your freezer may not be able to keep up. Insurers deal with several claims each year where the full Christmas shop is spoiled, and the freezer must be thrown out. While you may not be able to keep your appliance from failing, there are ways to help it get through the holidays. Keep your food organized before you open the freezer door. The less you open and close it, the more it will assist in keeping frost from building up in your freezer. It can also wear away at the door seal and will allow warm air in and cold air to escape.

9. Road worthiness

Winter weather conditions can make travel plans a little dicey over the holidays. Heavy snowfall, icy roads, driving at night or while tired, and multiple other factors can make accidents even more likely. Before heading out this holiday, make sure your winter tires are on your vehicle. It’s also a great time to ensure you have had your regular maintenance check done, as well. No one wants to run out of windshield wiper fluid while driving in slushy road conditions. Give yourself plenty of time to get wherever you are going. Never drive while intoxicated, and have a backup plan if you are going to celebrate.

Tip: Be sure to fill up with gas, carry a spare tire and an emergency kit, just in case. It is also a good idea to pack extra clothes, blankets, food and water in case you are stranded at the side of the road.

10. Practice responsible hosting

No one wants to spend the holiday season in the emergency room nursing an injury. If you are hosting this season, make sure your home is festive AND safe.

The three types of damages that may affect your home insurance during the holiday season are:

1. Theft & burglaries
2. Guest injuries
3. Fire

ER doctors see a myriad of injuries over the holidays, including falls, injuries caused by overexertion, alcohol-related injuries, as well as mental health concerns. Remember, as a host you need to ensure that your sidewalks and driveways are free of snow and ice, that you have non-alcoholic options for your guests and that you are monitoring alcohol consumption. If you believe a guest may have had one cheer too many or is overly tired, be sure to take their keys, call them an Uber or make up the couch. Falling asleep at the wheel is as dangerous as impaired driving. Keep an eye out for guests that may seem overwhelmed and offer help.

Throwing a party? Learn everything you need to know about Liquor Liability insurance here. 

Final thoughts on holiday insurance claims

As you dive into the December holidays, it’s critical that you have adequate insurance coverage for your home and property, and that your liability coverage is adequate. Gift yourself peace of mind knowing that you’re safe and protected from the most common holiday insurance claims. Do you have concerns about whether your insurance policy is appropriate or want to purchase additional coverage? Contact one of our isure representatives in advance to discuss your holiday plans and any add-ons you may need.

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