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Winter Mishaps: Review Your Policies to Make Sure You're Covered During the Holidays

While holiday mishaps might be humorous in movies like National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation" or "Home Alone," they're not so funny when they happen to you. Winter brings a new set of risks that could have an impact on your insurance coverage. The D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners reminds you to take a moment to review your insurance policies before you celebrate the season.

Auto

Winter weather can be a challenge for all drivers. Before you go dashing through the snow, check your auto policy to confirm it's appropriate for your needs. A new luxury vehicle will require a different level of coverage than an older car. You should also check your liability limits to make sure you have adequate protection against injury or damage if you cause an accident.

Be sure you know what to do if you get in a car accident. Always keep a copy of your insurance card and your insurance provider's contact information in the car. To take the stress out of filing a claim after an accident, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners created WRECKCHECK, a free smartphone app that walks you through the process of gathering information following an accident. You can then email the report directly to your insurance agent. WRECKCHECK is available on iOS and Android devices. There is also a PDF version available for download.

Home

Your homeowners or renter's policy can protect you against common holiday debacles, so check your policy before you deck the halls. If someone slips and falls on your icy driveway, your homeowners policy will pay for some medical expenses, but ask your insurance provider if you have adequate liability limits. In addition, if your gifts are stolen, check to see if they are covered by your policy.

A standard homeowners policy will also provide coverage, subject to your deductible, if your home suffers damage during a winter storm or a house fire, subject to your deductible. Some policies offer additional living expenses if you are unable to live in your home during repairs. Check with your insurance provider to determine what your policy covers.

The holidays are a great time to create or update your home inventory. This will help you make sure your homeowners or renter's policy provides enough coverage for your belongings, as you may need a separate rider for high-cost items like jewelry, art or electronics. A free smartphone app, myHOME Scr.APP.book, makes the process of creating a home inventory quick and easy. You can download the app on iTunes and Google Play or you can download a PDF version. Include as much information about your items as you can, such as receipts, photos and serial numbers.

Health

It's important to do an insurance check-up on your current health plan – especially if you are considering new options, such as updated plans offered by your employer or your state marketplace. Make sure to check provider lists and take note of your co-pays for in- and out-of-network providers. Once you have decided on a plan, read through your policy and keep your insurance card handy in the event of winter illnesses or accidents. Your health insurance may offer alternatives to waiting at the doctor's office or a trip to the emergency room. Ask your insurance provider if they have a nurse help hotline that can answer questions about your symptoms or if your pharmacy has an urgent care center that will accept your insurance.

If you are traveling over the holidays, review your policy and make a list of pharmacies, urgent care centers and hospitals that accept your insurance in your destination city. 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 care from an out-of-network provider, you could pay more for treatment. Bring this information and health insurance cards for all family members with you when you travel.

Winter Fun

It's already a winter wonderland in many parts of the country, but before you hit the slopes or take out the snowmobile, check your homeowners or renter's policy. Generally, ski equipment that you own will be covered by your homeowners or renter's policy. On the other hand, snowmobiles are not covered by homeowners, renter's or auto policies. Ask your insurance agent if you need more coverage on your sporting equipment or need to purchase a separate snowmobile policy.

A warm weather escape is how some survive the chill of winter. Regardless of where you're going, winter travel can be uncertain. Delays or cancellations are inevitable. You may want to consider travel insurance, which can cover everything from lost luggage to delays and cancellations.

More Information

If you have questions about your insurance options or insurance coverage, contact the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking at (202) 727-8000.