Summer security

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Ahh, summer. It’s America’s favorite playtime. It’s also a time to check with your insurance agent to be sure you are covered for unexpected mishaps while boating, skiing, swimming in your backyard pool or taking your vintage motorcycle for a trip to the mountains.

Swimming pools may not be covered by your regular homeowners insurance policy, and in some cases, the coverage may simply not be enough. Some policies exclude pools altogether. Pools increase your liability risk because you have a greater risk of being sued and paying someone’s medical bills if they are injured or worse on your property.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, almost 400 children under the age of 15 drown each year in pools and spas. Ask your agent if you can get additional liability coverage for your pool. You may want to go further and secure an umbrella policy that increases your coverage beyond your homeowners’ policy. It costs a few hundred dollars more every year to get an umbrella policy, but if you’re sued, that coverage gives you peace of mind. Also, be sure to check with your agent about installing safety features such as locks and automatic fences to bring down your premium cost.

In addition, we learn as children that water and electricity don’t mix. As a matter of course when preparing your pool for the summer season, it’s a good idea to have the electrical components tested for safety. If it’s an older pool, consider replacing the lighting with modern lights that adhere to current safety standards. This is not a do-it-yourself task, either; always have a licensed electrician perform repairs or changes to electrical equipment. Keep an eye out for lights that may be flickering or performing erratically; this is a sign of damage that may send electricity into the water. Shut the pool down if anything seems amiss rather than take a risk.

Keep power cords, electrical devices that use extension cords, such as fans or sound equipment, or cords that might be damaged at least five feet away from a water source, even a potential splash. And it seems like common sense, but always supervise children or someone who may be intoxicated. Be watchful for swimmers who may be twitching or unresponsive; this may be a sign the pool is electrified. Have a plan in place to rescue the person; it should include turning off the power, having swimmers get out of the water without touching metal, and calling 911. All these precautions help manage your risk and keep your agent happy.

If you own a boat, check your coverage carefully. Large and fast boats may need a special policy. Jet skis may need a separate marine policy too. Your premiums may depend on your boating prowess, the type of boat you own and where you will use it. For example, a boat in California is likely to cost more in coverage because of the increased storm and theft risks.

Motorcycles are usually required to have liability coverage for both property damage and bodily injury they may cause to others in an accident. Be sure to check with your agent if your coverage protects passengers on your motorcycle. Many things are taken into consideration to arrive at your premium, such as if you’ve had a prior accident, ride in the city, or are under the age of 25. You may be able to get a discount if you take a safe driving course, own more than one bike or belong to a motorcycle club. Plus, owning your own home can get you discounts.

If you decide to leave your vehicle at home and rent a car, van or motor home, know what your auto insurance covers before you sign the rental company’s policy. The insurance sold at the rental counter usually includes liability coverage for lawsuits, personal accident insurance for medical or ambulance needs and personal effects coverage for theft of your items in the car. But you may not need all of that coverage. Your auto policy and your credit card agreement may provide car rental coverage too. Just ask the clerk what will happen if the rental is damaged. Will you have to pay up front for repairs and wait for reimbursement, or will your insurance company cover the costs immediately? If you are planning to take the vehicle across the country’s border, check into the insurance requirements and carry your proof of insurance at all times.

Insurance requirements vary with vacation home rentals, depending on the length of stay. If you are planning to rent another person’s home for your vacation, talk to your agent about whether your home insurance covers damages where you’re renting. Booking through an online website may offer you property damage coverage as part of the process.

All said, summer is a time to enjoy vacations. Checking in with your insurance agent will go a long way to making it the best summer ever. HLM