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Holiday Movie Disasters Covered by Homeowners or Renters Insurance

December 23, 2019
Eric Andrews

Holiday Movie Disasters Covered by Homeowners or Renters Insurance

During the holiday season, my family has a tradition of watching what we call the trilogy of Christmas Movies: “Home Alone,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” and “A Christmas Story.” Who doesn’t enjoy watching Kevin McCallister set disastrous traps for the Wet Bandits? The infamous scenes in “Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold has trouble hanging Christmas lights from the roof and Uncle Lewis burns up the Christmas tree? Or the you’ll-shoot-your-eye-out theme from “A Christmas Story”? While these timeless scenes provide us with entertainment, they also highlight catastrophes associated with the Christmas season. This begs the question, would insurance cover these disasters in real life?

Fortunately, most of the movie disasters in our favorite movies are covered by homeowners or renters insurance.


Homeowners or Renters Coverage for Injuries on Your Property

Although most of the traps Kevin McCallister sets for the Wet Bandits are far-fetched, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that someone could slip on an iced-over sidewalk causing a personal injury accident on your property. Homeowners insurance policies generally provide liability protection against lawsuits for slip and fall incidents on your property.

Homeowners insurance policies generally afford four types of coverages within the policy: dwelling and personal property, personal liability, medical payments, and additional living expenses. Renter’s policy generally affords the same coverage, with the exception of protection against damage to the building itself.

The personal liability portion of policies covers you against lawsuits in the event of someone falling and injuring themselves on your property. The liability coverage in your policy pays both for the cost of defending you and paying for any damages the court rules you must pay. Unlike the other coverages in your policy, liability insurance does not have a deductible you must meet before the insurer begins to pay losses. The basic limit for liability coverage is usually $100,000 for each occurrence.

Homeowners and renters policies also include medical payments provisions, which can be used for medical expenses of those harmed. Medical payments coverage pays if someone outside your family is injured at your home regardless of fault. This includes payment for reasonable medical expenses incurred within one year from the date of loss for a person who is injured in an accident in your home. The coverage does not apply to you and members of your household. The medical payments portion of your homeowners policy will also pay if you are involved in the injury of another person away from your home in some limited circumstances. Medical payments coverage limits are generally $1,000 for each person.


Falls from roof While Installing Christmas Lights

The medical payments provision of homeowners and renters policies will likely provide coverage if someone other than a resident of the house falls off the roof. However, if you fall off your own roof, you will likely need to look at your own personal health insurance coverage for your injuries rather than homeowners coverage. Homeowners and renters policies don’t cover injuries to you or members of your household.


Food Poisoning

Everyone loves the scenes in “Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold carves the dry turkey and Cousin Eddie says “save the neck for me, Clark,” or when Clark notices cat food in Aunt Bethany’s Jell-O mold. In the event one of your guests ends up with food poisoning from a meal you negligently prepared, the medical payments provision of a homeowners or renters policy will likely provide coverage. The medical payments provision typically has limits of $1,000 to $5,000. If you’re sued because of the meal, your insurer would pay for your legal fees plus any settlement (up to your home insurance liability limits).


Items Stolen from the Home

In “Home Alone,” the Wet Bandits were casing homes in Kevin McCallister’s neighborhood to burglarize while the homeowners were on vacation. What happens if your home is burglarized before the holiday and your gifts are stolen? Most standard homeowners and renters insurance policies cover damage to your home and the theft of your possessions, including gifts.

Personal property coverage will pay for personal belongings including household furniture, clothing, and other personal items. The amount of insurance coverage is usually 50% of the policy limit on your dwelling. The coverage is also limited by the types of loss listed in the policy. The coverage only pays the current cash value of the item destroyed, unless you purchased replacement cost coverage. You would need to file a police report and make any emergency repairs that protect your home from further damage. So, if it’s snowing outside and the thief broke a window, cover it with wood or a tarp to keep the elements from coming in and causing more damage to your home.

Additionally, most homeowners and renters insurance policies also provide off-premises coverage. This means the policies cover your belongings against theft even when they are not inside your home. Your insurer will reimburse you for the cost of replacing your suitcase and its contents if it were lost or stolen while you were on vacation, but only for replacing them with items of like kind and quality.

Most of us won’t experience Christmas gatherings like the characters in these Christmas classics. However, we can rest assured that provisions in our homeowners or renters insurance policies will afford us coverage in similar real-life situations.

If you are interested in learning more or have a question about homeowners or renters insurance, feel free to reach out to attorney Eric Andrews. At MWH Law Group we are committed to helping our clients increase their awareness on this issue.

This article is a publication of MWH Law Group LLP and is intended to provide general information regarding legal issues and developments to our clients and other friends. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or situations. For further information on your own situation, we encourage you to contact the author of the article or any other member of the firm.

© MWH Law Group LLP 2019. All rights reserved.



Eric Andrews
Eric L.  Andrews
Senior Associate – Milwaukee

735 N. Water Street, Suite 610, Milwaukee, WI 53202
P: (414) 436-0353 / F: (414) 436-0354
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