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Tips to Help Protect Yourself from Unforeseen Holiday Hazards

Family delivering presents at christmas.

‘Tis the season for family visits, holiday parties and merrymaking– and also the season for unexpected accidents and injuries. Fender benders in crowded parking lots, intoxicated party guests, and Black Friday identity theft can turn anyone into a Grinch. While no one likes to think about injuries or accidents during the holiday season, advanced preparation may help prevent a minor problem from snowballing into a major disaster. Here are some tips to help you and your family enjoy a safe holiday season:

Check your car insurance coverage.

Will the kids be home from college over their winter break? Will out-of-town relatives need to borrow the car? With more cars on the road than usual and the threat of icy weather in the forecast, you’re just one distracted driver away from a fender bender. While these accidents may seem minor, they could be a major repair and insurance headache. Worse, if you allow an intoxicated, impaired or unlicensed driver to operate your vehicle, you could face additional liabilities.

While policies vary, in general a relative living in your house is typically insured under your policy, unless explicitly excluded. For friends or family members who don’t live with you but use your car occasionally, they are generally covered as a permissive driver, reports the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Car insurance generally follows the vehicle, not the driver. If your aunt gets into an accident in the mall parking lot while driving your car, for example, your insurance would likely be the primary coverage applied in the accident, while your aunt’s insurance would be secondary. This means you would need to file a claim with your insurance company to help pay for any resulting damages. As a result, you may have to pay a deductible and may experience an increase in your premium. However, policies vary by state, so it’s best to talk with an insurance agent to fully understand your coverages before loaning out the family car.

Be a responsible party host.

Between the eggnog, mulled wine and bottles of bubbly, holiday parties may get out of hand. As a party host, you could potentially be held liable for injuries or deaths arising from an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident involving one of your guests, cautions I.I.I. While social hosting liability laws vary state-by-state, I.I.I. reports that more than 30 states have statues or case law holding hosts liable for accidents caused by their intoxicated guests. Standard homeowners’ insurance policies may provide liability coverage, but this coverage may not be enough should you be named in a lawsuit.

Before hosting a holiday party, familiarize yourself with your state’s social host liability laws. Offer non-alcoholic beverages, including plenty of water, and always serve food. Limit alcohol service towards the end of the party. If a guest seems too intoxicated or tired to safely drive home, take away the car keys and arrange a safe ride home via a taxi or ride sharing with another party guest.

Shop till you drop safely.

Whether you’re hitting the stores for Black Friday door buster deals or sticking to online shopping this year, take steps to reduce your risk for identity theft. While the new chip readers may have reduced the risk for credit and debit card skimming, it still pays to be vigilant. Keep a close eye on your bank and credit card statements during the holidays. Policies may vary between debit and credit card providers. For example, some banks may require you to report unauthorized or disputed charges within two days, or your out of pocket losses may increase. Or in other instances, you may have to wait over a week before the money is put back in your account, cautions U.S. News & World Report. Reporting fraudulent charges and eliminating these charges from your credit card rather than debit card account is generally a much faster process.

Worried about identity theft? Talk to an insurance agent about adding identity theft coverage.

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