Labor Day Weekend: Keep Yourself Covered with Good Insurance
By Brian O’Connell
It’s the end of summer and the living is easy.
However, it can even be easier if you cover potential holiday-related hazards with a thorough insurance strategy that takes you safely through Labor Day and into the autumn and winter holiday seasons.
That’s especially the case this Labor Day 2022, a time when external factors like inflation, high energy prices, and ongoing travel red tape, lead to scenarios that make insurance more crucial than in recent years.
“Summertime is all about fun and adventure, activities like the following should be considered for coverage – road trips, boating, pool parties, mountain biking, nature hikes, fireworks, and ATV excursions, among other activities,” said Charles Valinotti, chief operating officer for COVU, in Redwood City, Cal., and a personal lines underwriter for three decades. “It’s in these times that people try to cram as much as possible in the ending weeks and even spread it to September.”
Here’s a closer look at the most common Labor Day hazards that require scrutiny, and the consumer insurance options that may work best in curbing any negative impact from end-of-summer scenarios.
Insurance Must-Haves for the Hot and Hazardous:
Let’s examine the potential threats at the top of the list – one at a time. For starters, Labor Day house parties bring their own set of safety needs and hazards. These include:
Barbecues, fire and smoke: whether you’re enjoying a small family meal or hosting a neighborhood end-of-summer blowout, outdoor cooking appliances come with a unique set of dangers.
“While most grills and grilling activity is covered by a standard homeowners policy, fire pits and freestanding barbecue structures may not be,” said Angel Conlin, chief insurance officer at Kin Insurance, in Tampa, Fla.
The key to avoiding any fire is to check local laws and ordinances around fires.
“In fire-prone areas of the country, recreational burning is often banned or heavily restricted,” Conlin said. “In other areas, municipalities may require you to place or build fire pits a certain distance from your home or your neighbors’ property lines. Homeowners insurance policies won’t cover damage from illegal activities, so if fires are off-limits where you live, avoid them or risk losing coverage through your policy.”
The food itself isn’t the only source of risk at a barbecue or picnic, Conlin noted. Bad grilling habits can cause fires, so you should also remember to:
- Only grill outdoors.
- Set your grill on a flat surface away from your house and any tree branches.
- Don’t throw starter fluid on already-ignited charcoal.
- Pay attention to your grill whenever it’s on and be sure to turn it off when you’re finished.
- Keep a spray bottle or fire extinguisher on hand.
Fireworks: Labor Day celebrants who intend to set off fireworks at home shouldn’t light a match until they check state law.
“Massachusetts is the only state that bans consumer fireworks entirely, but the rest have regulations prohibiting various pyrotechnics for individuals,” Conlin said.
[AR1] The good news? Most home insurance policies cover fires.
“But if the fire was caused by illegal activity (i.e., you set off fireworks in a state where they’re not legal or you intentionally aimed a firework at your home, someone else’s home, or a person), home insurance likely wouldn’t cover it,” Conlin said.
If you are lighting your own legal fireworks, then follow these safety tips:
- Keep fireworks out of the hands of children.
- Always point fireworks away from people or animals.
- Keep a bucket of water, garden hose, or fire extinguisher on hand.
- Use eye protection if you are lighting fireworks.
- Never try to relight duds
Navigating Travel Issues
Various types of travel insurance should be in play for Labor Day weekend getaways, including insurance policies for rental cars, trip cancellation and flight insurance, hotel, and Airbnb insurance, among other issues.
On the upside, there are plenty of holiday travel insurance options for even the most ambitious Labor Day vacationers.
“If you’re traveling for one- or two-week vacations, your standard homeowners insurance policy will cover your home while you’re away,” Conlin said. “But if you’re planning to be gone for more than 30 or 60 days (depending on your policy), you may be required to carry vacant home insurance on top of your normal homeowners policy.”
That’s because a vacant house is more susceptible to certain risks (such as theft and vandalism) and insurance companies want to make sure they’re calculating the risk properly, Conlin noted.
“If you don’t feel like getting more insurance, consider hiring a home sitter you can trust to maintain your property for the duration of your trip,” he advised.
While homeowners insurance can offer you some protection while you’re on vacation, it won’t protect your investment in the vacation itself or compensate you when certain things that might go wrong.
“For example, the medical expenses portion of your homeowners policy will not pay out if you or another member of your family gets sick or injured on vacation,” Conlin added. “For that kind of protection, you may want to consider travel insurance..”
Travel insurance can offer multiple types of protection, according to Conlin, including:
- Medical and dental expense coverage. Some travel insurance policies include coverage for emergency medical treatments you need while on vacation.
- Reimbursement for canceled trips. Many travel expenses (flights, hotels, rented cars, tour costs, etc.) are non-refundable. Travel insurance policies, though, can reimburse you if you’re forced to cancel at the last minute.
- Partial reimbursement for shortened trips. If bad weather forces you to head home early, travel insurance may offer compensation for the part of the vacation you were forced to miss.
- Baggage protection. Damaged, lost, or stolen luggage can ruin an otherwise successful trip – but with travel insurance, you can at least receive money to replace whatever you need to.
- 24-hour assistance. Some policies even offer a hotline you can call for guidance if something goes wrong. This can be handy if you have spotty internet, don’t speak the local language, or need to know which medical facility has the best reputation.
Outdoor Activity Insurance
Insurance for boating, hiking, amusement parks and other popular outdoor Labor Day destinations should also be under review for holiday celebrants.
“A few different types of insurance may be needed when engaging in activities like boating, hiking, or visiting amusement parks,” said Randy VanderVaate, chief executive officer at founder of Funeral Funds of America, in Dallas, Tx.
VanderVaate lists them in the following order.
— Personal liability insurance protects you financially if you are held liable for an accident that causes injury or property damage.
— Medical insurance can help pay for medical expenses if you are injured while engaging in a risky activity.
— Travel insurance can compensate you if your trip is interrupted or canceled due to an unforeseen event.
Key Insurance Tips to Priorities This Labor Day Weekend
With the end of summer and Labor Day here, Americans should review their insurance coverage and make sure any hazards are covered.
Here are a few key tips for insurance consumers to keep in mind:
— Check your coverage levels. “Ensure you have enough coverage to protect your family and possessions,” VanderVaate said. “Review your home, auto, and liability insurance policies to ensure you’re adequately covered.”
— Shop around. Don’t be afraid to shop around and compare rates from different insurers. “You may be surprised at how much you could save by switching providers,” he added.
— Review your deductibles. This is the amount you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket before your insurance policy kicks in.
“If you have a high deductible, you could be on the hook for a significant amount of money if you have to make a claim,” VanderVaate noted. “It’s important to ensure you can afford your deductibles in an emergency.”
— Update your policy. If you’ve made any significant changes (e.g., getting married, having a baby, buying a new home), update your insurance policy to reflect these changes.
— Get good quotes. If you’re shopping for a new policy or renewing an existing one, get quotes from multiple insurers. “This will help you compare rates and coverage levels to find the best policy for your needs,” VanderVaate said.
The Takeaway on Labor Day and Insurance Issues
Of all Labor Day-related insurance policies that need to be reviewed and addressed (if needed), the most pressing is homeowner’s insurance.
“Most people think of their homeowners insurance as something they’ll need if a tree falls through the roof,” Conlin said. “That’s not incorrect, but in addition to providing coverage for repairing or replacing damaged property, most homeowners insurance also offers liability coverage.’
This part of your policy (also called Personal Liability or Coverage ) can pay for repairs and
even legal expenses if someone accidentally gets hurt on your property during end-so-summer celebrations.
“If things go according to plan, you’ll never need to use your home liability coverage,” Conlin said. “But if something goes wrong, it’s great to have.”
“After all, liability claims tend to be expensive,” he added.