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Summer Fun: Is It Covered by Your Insurance?

Summer is the season for fun. But it also poses plenty of risks for homeowners. A stray firecracker could set your home's roof on fire. A neighbor could drown in your backyard swimming pool. Your brother-in-law could even suffer serious burns from a backyard barbecue accident.

This leads to the big question: Do you have enough homeowners insurance to protect yourself from summer fun gone wrong? As the warm weather hits, it doesn't hurt to take a closer look at what could happen in your backyard this summer and how you can protect yourself when injuries, fires or even deaths occur.

Fireworks ban could keep your insurance from paying

No time of year is better for outdoor celebrations than summer. And more and more homeowners like to celebrate with a big fireworks display in their backyard.

"Our members companies are reporting strong consumer fireworks sales numbers and we predict revenues could exceed $800 million for the 2016 fireworks season," says Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association

But homeowners who don't take the time to study their state's fireworks laws could find themselves facing a big bill should their pyrotechnic displays set their homes' roofs on fire. The APA says that only three states completely ban all fireworks: Delaware, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Four other states -- Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Vermont -- only allow wood or wire sparklers among other novelties. A total of 43 states, and Washington, D.C., permit residents to blow off some or all types of consumer fireworks permitted by federal regulations.

It's important, though, for homeowners to check their state's regulations. Louisiana, for instance, forbids residents from shooting off cherry bombs, roman candles that emit more than 10 balls of flame and firecrackers larger than one-and-a-half inches in length. In Colorado, residents are only allowed to shoot off specific fireworks including ground spinners, cone fountains and glow worms.

If you set your home on fire with fireworks that are legal in your state, your homeowners insurance or your renters insurance should provide coverage. But if you indulge in fireworks that are prohibited in your state? Your insurance policy might not provide any coverage at all. The best move is to call your insurance provider before you schedule a backyard fireworks display to determine if your policy will cover the damage that these fireworks might cause.

Even better? You might decide to skip your backyard fireworks and attend a professional community pyrotechnic display.  In 2011, the latest year for which stats are available from the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structural fires. These fires caused an estimated $32 million in direct property damage.

Fireworks can also cause injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there were eight deaths and an estimated 11,400 consumers who were injured because of fireworks in 2013.

If you are using legal fireworks on your property and one of them injuries a neighbor or friend, your homeowners insurance will provide medical coverage, as long as you didn't injure someone on purpose. If someone sues you for fireworks injuries they or their children suffered on your property -- and you were, again, setting off legal fireworks -- your policy's liability coverage should protect you.

"While the number of fireworks-related injuries and fires has declined significantly, safety must always be the No. 1 priority when using fireworks," Heckman says. "Fireworks, when used appropriately and in accordance iwth legal safety standards, are a safe, enjoyable and family-friendly entertainment experience."

Do you need an insurance rider for your swimming pool

Swimming pools provide plenty of summer fun, but they can be dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that each year from 2011 to 2013, an average of 300 children from the ages of 0 to 14 died in pools and spas in the United States.

This risk factor is why many providers of homeowners insurance won't cover homes with backyard swimming pools. Those that do might require homeowners to purchase a rider, at more expense, to cover injuries or fatalities from backyard pools or spas.

If you have a backyard pool or spa, make sure that your homeowners policy will actually cover you if someone dies or is injured when swimming. Your insurer might also require that you follow certain safety guidelines. You might need to fence off your pool and install gates that are both self-latching and self-closing, for instance, to receive full coverage.

You might also invest in a personal umbrella policy. This type of policy provides extra protection beyond your standard homeowners insurance policy. Say a neighbor child drowns in your pool. If the child's parents sue you for $2 million and your homeowners insurance policy only provides $500,000 worth of liability coverage, your personal umbrella coverage will kick in and cover any shortfall.

Again, the smartest move is to call your insurance provider to determine how much coverage you need for your swimming pool or spa. And never install one of these without first contacting your insurer. You might not receive any coverage if you install a pool without your insurer's knowledge.

Barbecues, outdoor festivities a fire risk

You might not think that grilling burgers in your backyard poses much of a safety risk. But the National Fire Protection Association said that gas barbecue grills were involved in an annual average of 7,200 home fires from 2007 through 2011. Charcoal or other solid-fueled grills caused an annual average of more than 1,400 home fires during the same time.

Injuries aren't rare, either. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 18,000 people in the United States each year are rushed to emergency rooms because of grilling injuries.

Fortunately, your homeowners insurance policy will cover you if your backyard grill accidentally sets fire to your deck, garage or home. Your policy will provide liability protection, too, if someone visiting your home suffers a burn or other injury from your backyard grill. If you injure yourself, or members of your household suffer a grill injury, you'll have to receive coverage instead from your health insurance policy.

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