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Holiday season mishaps might be humorous in the movies, but not so funny when they happen to you. So, before your family and friends gather to celebrate the season, New York State Insurance Superintendent James J. Wrynn suggests you take the time to review potential mishaps and understand how your insurance might apply. This is general advice that will apply to most policies, but be sure to check with your agent or broker about what your policy covers.

Auto Insurance
What if you and a family member are taking turns driving your car to a family gathering and you get into an accident while your relative is driving?
Auto insurance coverage follows the vehicle, so your car will generally be covered while your relative is driving, the same as if you were driving, presuming they are driving with your permission. But keep in mind that your premiums might increase due to the accident.

What if you take someone else’s car (with their permission) to the store because it was the last one in the driveway, and you accidentally back it into your neighbor’s car parked across the street? 
The existing auto insurance policy on the borrowed vehicle generally would provide primary coverage in the event of a claim. Your auto policy will generally provide excess liability coverage over the primary vehicle’s liability limits since the named insured is covered for any vehicle he/she drives as long as he drives the vehicle with the permission of the owner. As always, check with your agent or broker about the specifics of your policy.

What if you decide to visit your extended family in Canada or Mexico? Will you have coverage for your vehicle there?
All New York policies cover travel in Canada. Policies may not cover travel in Mexico or may have specific limitations. There may also be special conditions or requirements even for travel to Canada – check with your insurance agent or broker before crossing the border.

What if you loan your car to a family member and they get pulled over for driving while impaired or intoxicated?
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or while intoxicated is a serious and too common crime – especially during the festive season – with major consequences, including death to innocent parties. Don’t do it and don’t enable anyone else to do it. If you were not aware nor had reasonable cause to believe the person to whom you lent your car was operating or would operate under the influence of intoxicants, your automobile coverage probably will not be affected if that driver is simply ticketed for a driving violation, though there may be exceptions, especially if the driver is a member of your household. In addition, if there is an accident, severe consequences may result, including civil liability. In any case, the company might non-renew your policy or charge a higher premium. Have your family member take mass transit. Have them take a cab. Have them stay over. But over the limit means under arrest, and that’s the best that could happen. Every auto insurance policy includes detailed information on the legal and financial consequences of being convicted for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But even that pales compared to the risk of causing injury or death. Everyone has the right to enjoy the holidays safely. Do your part.

Homeowners Insurance
What if someone breaks your car’s window and steals gifts from the back seat while your car is parked at the mall?
There are theft exclusions in many policies downstate, but policyholders may be able to buy that coverage back. Standard homeowners and renter’s insurance policies provide coverage for this peril, subject to the policy deductible and coverage limits. Some automobile policies also provide coverage. If this happens to you, talk with your insurance agent or company to find out under which policy you should file your claim.

What happens if your coworker, a guest at your holiday party, slips and falls on your icy driveway?
First of all, you need to report the accident as soon as possible to your insurance company. Standard homeowners insurance policies provide limited medical payments coverage if your guest seeks medical attention. If the coworker sues you for additional damages, your standard homeowners insurance policy should provide liability coverage. Check with your insurance agent or company to be sure you have adequate liability limits.

What if an ice or snow storm causes a tree to fall through the front window of your house?  
Standard homeowners insurance policies generally provide coverage for damage to the home — as well as the cost to remove the tree (generally up to $1,000) — if the tree fell due to the weight of ice or snow, minus your deductible. (This is for the cost of the part of the tree inside the house or in contact with the house. There are limits on debris removal.) Check your policy to find out what limits of coverage you have. However, your homeowners policy will not help you purchase a new tree.

What if your presents are stolen from under the Christmas tree in your living room? 
Standard homeowners insurance policies provide coverage subject to the deductible and special sublimits for certain goods, such as electronics and jewelry. For example, if the wrapped package was a $300 gift card to an electronics store, there might only be $200 coverage; if the package contained $2,000 worth of jewelry or furs, there might only be $1,500 coverage; and if the package contained a silver-plated tea set, there might only be $2,500 coverage. Standard condominium and renter’s insurance policies provide similar coverage. Check your homeowners policy for specific sublimits.

What if someone steals the holiday decorations in your front yard?  
Under a standard homeowners insurance policy, decorations are generally covered, subject to your policy deductible and coverage limits. These items would also generally be covered if you have a condominium or renter’s insurance policy.

What if your holiday candles cause a house fire?  
Under a standard homeowners insurance policy, your home and belongings will be covered if they are destroyed by a fire, subject to your deductible and policy limits. Standard policies typically provide additional living expenses if you are unable to live in your home due to damage from a fire or other disaster.

Credit Card Theft
What if you lose your credit card and someone uses it to buy a big screen television?
Credit card theft might be covered as part of your credit card contract. Standard homeowners insurance policies typically provide up to $500 of coverage toward your legal obligation to pay your creditor. However, coverage is not provided if a family member, entrusted with the card, buys a big screen television without your permission. Federal law also limits a cardholder’s responsibility as long as the issuer of the credit card is promptly notified in accordance with the terms and conditions of the cardholder agreement.

Health Insurance
What if the holiday eggnog is bad and you end up in an urgent care while you are out of state?
Health insurance policies are required to provide coverage for emergency room visits while traveling within the United States. Be careful with urgent care centers as they may not be covered if you don't have out-of-network benefits. If you plan to travel, be sure to take your health insurance information for all family members — including your identification cards and your insurer’s contact details — with you. Prior to leaving town, it is also a good idea to check with your insurance company about in-network healthcare providers at your destination. If you receive medical care from an out-of-network provider, you might be subject to higher deductibles, coinsurance and/or co-payments.

More Information
It is important to read and understand the terms of your policies, including limitations. If you have questions, contact your insurance agent, broker or company. If you need more help, contact the New York State Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau at 1-800-342-3736 from 9 to 5 workdays. Information is also available at the Department’s website,


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