Category Archives: Homeowners Insurance

Independence Day Summer Fun Also Carries Risks

By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I

Independence Day is associated with fireworks displays, barbeques, and poolside parties, yet even summer fun carries risks.

Here are four summertime liability risks you should be aware of and recommendations on what you can do to protect yourself:

FIREWORKS: Fireworks may be a Fourth of July tradition, but they can also cause either injuries or fires. More than one of every four (28 percent) fireworks-caused fires nationwide each year occur on the Fourth of July, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA.) In recognition of Fireworks Safety Awareness Week (June 28-July 4), the Triple-I encourages everyone to follow federal fireworks laws and local fireworks laws

GRILLS: About four out of five (79 percent) grilling fires involve gas grills, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). Patios, terraces, and screened-in porches are the leading home locations for grill fires, the USFA has found. The NFPA reports an average of 8,900 home fires are started by grills each year, with numbers peaking during the month of July. Grill-related fires can damage your house, outdoor possessions and structures and cause injuries to guests. The latter could result in a lawsuit.

POOLS: Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children aged one to four years old and, between 2016 and 2018, 83 percent of these tragedies occurred at residential pools, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported. In addition, non-fatal pool and diving board accidents can leave victims with long-term health issues.

ALCOHOL: Social host liability laws vary widely but 40-plus states have them on the books. Most of these laws offer an injured person a method to sue the person who served them alcohol while on their premises. Criminal charges may also apply under some social host liability laws.

Any of these scenarios pose a liability risk, so homeowners are advised to review their insurance policies to understand their policy’s liability limits. A liability limit of at least $300,000 is often a cost-effective step to take in consultation with an insurance professional.

In addition, consider adding an umbrella liability policy, which provides liability protection over and above current coverage. 

Cost of Lightning-Caused Claims Soared Due to 2020’s U.S. Wildfires

By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I

For the fourth consecutive year, the number of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims decreased in 2020, even as the average value of those claims has more than doubled since 2017, according to Triple-I’s analysis of national insurance claims data. 

Lightning-related homeowners insurance claim costs nationally rose dramatically due to a series of lightning strikes across Northern California in 2020.  The average cost per lightning claim in California was $217,555 in 2020, while the national average for this type of claim was nearly $29,000.

Triple-I also found that:

  • More than $2 billion in lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims were paid out in 2020 to 71,000-plus policyholders
  • The average cost of a lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claim increased 141 percent between 2019 and 2020 (from $11,971 to $28,885) and 168 percent from 2017 to 2020 (from $10,781 to $28,885)
  • The average number of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims decreased by nearly 7 percent between 2019 and 2020 (from 76,860 to 71,551)

The wildfires in California and elsewhere damaged homes which had to be either repaired or rebuilt with more expensive construction materials. The National Association of Home Builders reported that, between mid-April and mid-September 2020, lumber prices soared more than 170 percent nationwide, adding $16,148 to the price of a typical, new single-family home.

The August Complex Fire, started by lightning strikes in August 2020, was the largest in California’s history, as defined by acres burned, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). It spread across 1 million acres and impacted seven counties.

State-by-State Numbers

Florida – which has the most thunderstorms— remained the top state for lightning-caused homeowners insurance claims in 2020, with 6,756, followed by Georgia (4,686), Texas (4,675), and California (4,233).

Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Damage caused by lightning, which results in a fire, is covered under standard homeowners insurance policies.  Some policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike, which can cause severe damage to appliances, electronics, computers and equipment, phone systems, electrical fixtures and the electrical foundation of a home.

In recognition of Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 20-26, the Triple-I and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), a national organization that establishes standards for specifying and installing lightning protection systems and promotes lightning safety, encourage homeowners to install  lightning protection systems in their homes. 

“When we think of lightning safety, we should make a distinction between personal safety and property protection,” said Tim Harger, LPI’s Executive Director.  “Personal safety is what we do during a storm and the safest place in any lightning event is within a structure protected by a properly designed, inspected and certified lightning protection system,” he said.  “Installing lightning protection systems in our homes or businesses is an action we can take before a storm that can mitigate against property damage.”  

Bracing for Another Brutal Wildfire Season

Wildfires in California and across the West are starting earlier and ending later each year.  The ongoing drought worsened last week, with every part of the state in moderate drought or worse.

After a 2020 fire season that Janet Ruiz, Triple-I’s California-based director of strategic communications, called “anything but normal,” this year’s season may be even worse.

Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt create longer, more intense dry seasons that make forests more susceptible to wildfire. The fire season’s length is estimated to have increased by 75 days across the Sierras and seems to correspond with an increase in the extent of forest fires across the state.

“Hots are getting hotter”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently expanded a drought emergency declaration while seeking more than $6 billion in multiyear water spending.

“The hots are getting a lot hotter in this state, the dries are getting a lot drier,” he said. “We have a conveyance system, a water system, that was designed for a world that no longer exists.”

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has called for property insurers across the state to play a larger role in boosting wildfire preparedness among homeowners and businesses by providing more wildfire mitigation incentives. He spotlighted eight insurance companies in the state and the California FAIR Plan, which offer discounts to policyholders that have taken adequate steps to harden homes and mitigate wildfire risk.

This group represents only 13 percent of the state market, and Lara hopes the figure will rise significantly this year.

“Insurance companies support and echo Commissioner Lara’s call for mitigation,” Mark Sektnan, vice president of American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), said in a statement on behalf of APCIA, the Personal Insurance Federation of California (PIFC), and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC).  “Insurers are working with scientists and modelers to further the science of understanding how to better mitigate wildfire risk and understanding the value of various mitigation programs and efforts. While we cannot stop wildfires, we are learning how to mitigate the risks and are moving towards understanding and quantifying the value of individual and community mitigation. Insurers encourage homeowners, renters and businesses to get their property and finances ready for wildfires, as we are facing another dry, hot summer.”

Mostly caused by people

As much as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by people, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety provides recommendations for reducing the likelihood of your home catching fire, including noncombustible siding, decking and roofing materials; covered vents; and fences not connected directly to the house. In addition, combustible structures in the yard such as playground equipment should be at least 30 feet away from the house and vegetation 100 feet away.

But given weather, climate, and population trends, more than individual planning and risk transfer through insurance will be required to head off wildfire risk and bounce back from events. Innovation and a resilience mindset on the part of governments, businesses, homeowners, and communities will need to take hold.

Want to learn more about wildfire mitigation and resilience? Register for “Wildfire Ready: How Do You Prepare Your Home and Finances for Wildfires?” on May 20 at 10 a.m. (PT)

Be prepared for hail

Hailstorms are among the most destructive weather events, with hailstones ranging in size from a pea to a grapefruit.  When these frozen missiles plummet from the sky, damage to cars and buildings can be severe.

Steve Bowen, a meteorologist at Aon and director of the broker’s Impact Forecasting unit, has said hail can contribute as much as 50 percent to 80 percent of severe convective storm losses in any given year, with tornadoes, wind and flooding providing the rest.


An April 28 storm that included apple-size hail in in some parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth region caused close to $400 million in insured losses, according to the Insurance Council of Texas. Spokesperson Camille Garcia says the loss estimate is based on 32,000 car and homeowners claims sent to insurers through May 3. Most came from Tarrant County and the city of Keller. Once roof inspections are completed many more claims are expected.

State Farm alone paid out $474.6 million in hail claims in Texas in 2020, according to the company’s most recent Hail Damage report.

While you can’t prevent hail from failing on your property, you can lessen the possible damage by putting vehicles in the garage and moving patio furniture under cover. Close blinds and curtains to prevent broken glass from blowing inside and possibly causing injuries or damage.

For homes without garages, which is common in the South, I’m told, hail-resistant car covers can be an effective option.

If you do experience hail damage, your auto and home insurance policies will cover it. Take lots of pictures of the damage and submit your claim as soon as you can.

If contractors come knocking on your door, hold off on signing repair contracts. Do your due diligence, deal with reputable contractors, and get references. Consult your insurance adjuster before signing any contracts.

Click here for more insurance tips.

For more on hail damage trends and mitigation tactics, see Triple-I’s paper Severe Convective Storms.

A Little Care Can Prevent Tree Damage to Property

People have a mixed relationship with trees. On the one hand, trees provide beauty and shade – along with reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and providing much of the oxygen we breathe. 

But let one fall on your house or bring your car to a sudden stop and suddenly trees become a problem.

For advice on keeping your trees healthy, your family safe, and preventing property damage, Triple-I talked to certified arborist Dylan Brown.

Much of the damage trees can cause to property is often covered by insurance. Generally speaking, if a tree hits your home or other insured structure, your standard homeowners insurance policy covers the damage to the structure and its contents.

Properly selected, placed, and maintained trees can provide excellent wind protection for a house, which can reduce heating costs and noise from neighbors and traffic. By putting thought and energy into planting and maintenance, homeowners can reap these benefits  while preventing much potential damage.

To minimize damage from your own trees, it’s important to maintain their health and properly prepare them for winter weather and storms.

While some trees don’t handle wind well, others can withstand some of the most powerful gusts. Blue River Restoration Services in Indianapolis recommends live oaks and maples, crepe myrtles, and cypress trees as “safe bets” when considering wind damage.

“These trees have strong roots to keep them in place and thick bark that supports them in windy conditions,” Blue River’s website says. It also recommends not to plant large shade trees within 12 feet of structures that could be damaged by tree roots.

“While most trees’ roots are not invasive enough to cause damage to your house or pavement, some will,” the website says. “Aspens, willows, American elms, and silver maples all have root systems that can stretch for acres. With these types of trees, there is no way to control their roots that can disrupt the foundation of your home.”

Tree roots don’t destroy the foundation but instead shift the soil under and around them, causing them to become unstable.

“Some homeowners deal with intrusive roots by grinding down or removing them,” Blue River says. “This can be expensive and is very harmful to the tree. Wounding a tree’s roots creates points of entry for pathogens, leaving a tree vulnerable to disease.”

A diseased tree is more likely to have branches that will break off and cause damage during high winds. Trees with inadequate root systems may blow over or break off at the ground line. A general rule is that you should not plant any trees within 20 feet of your house.

Insurance “what ifs?”

What happens if a neighbor’s tree falls on your house? You’ll need to file a claim with your insurance company. If negligence can be proved—such as a diseased tree or tree that wasn’t properly maintained — your company may try to collect from your neighbor’s policy. If that happens, you may be reimbursed for your deductible.

If a tree falls on your car, damage is covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy.

Standard home insurance polices also provide coverage for damage to trees and shrubs due to fire, lightning, explosion, theft, aircraft, vehicles not owned by the resident, and vandalism Coverage is generally limited to about $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant.

For more Information:

If a Tree Falls on Your House, Are You Covered?

Understanding Trees and Tree Maintenance (a Triple-I video)

Preventing Trees From Falling (a Triple-I video)

How affordable is homeowners insurance?

The average homeowners insurance premium was $1,249 in 2018, up by 3.1 percent from the previous year, according to the latest data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).  In 2017 the average premium was up 1.6 percent.

To put this in context, the consumer price index, a measure of the price of goods and services in the United States, rose by 1.9 percent in 2018 and by 2.1 percent in 2017.

The average renters insurance premium fell 0.6 percent in 2018, marking the fourth consecutive annual decline. 

It’s important to note that the average homeowners or renters premium is an imperfect measure of the relative “price” of insurance, according to the NAIC. That’s because the ultimate cost of your policy will depend on a wide variety of factors such as the differences in hazards, economic conditions, and real estate values from state to state.

Insurers determine homeowners insurance premiums based on the amount of coverage purchased (generally based on the value of the insured property), the type of property covered, the types of perils covered, and the specific limits and deductibles a policyholder chooses.

Click here for a state-by-state graphic of average homeowners insurance premiums.

The financial burden of homeownership insurance
Americans generally don’t view the cost of homeowners insurance as a financial burden. Triple-I’s 2017 Consumer Insurance Survey found that only 31 percent of Americans consider homeowners insurance to be a financial burden. This is the lowest level in more than a decade and represents a significant drop from the 49 percent of people in 2009 who said the cost of homeowners insurance was a financial burden.

One reason homeowners insurance has not been considered a financial burden is that Americans’ income growth has consistently outpaced home insurance costs; however this trend may be temporarily interrupted by the pandemic-related recession of 2020. According to an analysis by Risk Information‘s Property Insurance Report (PIR), the trend was already apparent in 2018.

The PIR report suggests that the trend toward more affordable insurance appears to have continued in 2019, but acknowledges that in 2022, when the NAIC releases average homeowners premiums for 2019, the HURT Index may fall lower than 1.4 percent for the first time since 2010.

Customer service

“Homeowners insurance customers are the single-most-valuable group of personal lines customers for P&C insurers,” said Robert M. Lajdziak, senior consultant of insurance intelligence at J.D. Power.

“They have a significantly higher bundling rate, 38 percent higher product penetration beyond home and auto, and their tenure is twice the length of a monoline auto customer. The potential ‘lifetime customer value’ of homeowners makes meeting their needs and motivations to renew a critical task for the industry.”

Large, established insurers and insurtech startups are expected to compete for customers’ premium dollars by delivering great service and converting renters insurance clients into homeowners insurance clients, according to J.D. Powers.

Millennial customers in particular are more likely to select their homeowners insurer based on good service experience and are much more likely than Boomers to use insurer-provided tools to inventory their possessions, thereby increasing the level of engagement with their insurer and creating additional opportunities to develop loyalty through good customer service.

Echoing J.D. Powers’ findings, a Deloitte survey found that respondents aged 18 to 34 with $50k to $100k+ annual income who have purchased a house in the past three years, referred to as the “gadget group,” are more likely to purchase a ‘connected and preventative’ home insurance service than any other type of policy.

Homeowners have also expressed a strong demand for parametric type home insurance products, according to Deloitte. This type of insurance pays claims of a pre-agreed amount automatically when an event falls within set parameters, such as a level of rainfall or speed of wind.

Dog bite claims fell 4.6 percent in 2020 despite pandemic pet adoption surge

Pandemic-related lockdowns have led many people to bring new furry friends into their homes.

A survey from the Insurance Research Council (IRC), found that 21 percent of homeowners reported adopting a dog in 2020.

Despite the increase in the number of dogs in American homes, homeowners dog bite (and related injury), claims fell overall by 4.6 percent in 2020 from the previous year, to 16,990 from 17,800 nationally, according to Triple-I and State Farm analysis.

March had the most dog-related injury claims last year, when people first went into lockdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to State Farm. Dog bites were up 21.6 percent from the previous March, likely due to dogs dealing with owner stress, disruption in routines and more people around the house throughout the day. Experts fear another disruption—this time cause by the easing of restrictions for activities outside the home—could lead to another spike in bites.

Though the overall number of claims decreased, the total cost of claims increased by 7.1 percent to $853.7 million, up from $796.8 million in 2019. And the average cost per claim increased 12.3 percent to $50,245, up from $44,760 in 2019.

Dog bite related claims costs have been climbing for years. The average cost per claim nationally has risen 162 percent from 2003 to 2020, due to increased medical costs and the upward trend in the size of settlements, judgments, and jury awards.

Claims costs are attributable not only to dog bites but also to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, and the elderly, which can result in costly injuries.

The latest Triple-I dog bite claim figures are released in conjunction with National Dog Bite Prevention Week, an event held each year to help reduce the number of dog bites.

Children are particularly at risk for dog bites and are more likely to be severely injured, so it’s essential for parents to teach their kids to be safe around strange dogs and their own pets.

Dog training is, of course, key to preventing dog bites and related injuries for everyone, and National Dog Bite Prevention Week’s organizers offer many practical tips. This year, dog experts are particularly focused on re-socializing animals that have been isolated along with their humans for the past year.

To provide more tips for pet owners, members of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition— which includes the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), State Farm, Insurance Information Institute (Triple I), American Humane and Victoria Stilwell Positively— will be hosting a Facebook Live event on Monday, April 12, at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Triple-I recommends that you check your homeowners or renters insurance policy to be sure it covers liability for dog bites and related injuries. Click here for more details about dog bite liability insurance.

Related content:

Infographic: National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Spotlight on dog bite liability

Facts about pet insurance

How to survive severe cold weather

During the deep freeze across multiple states this week, some U.S. electric companies are being forced to pull the plug on consumers in the form of “rolling blackouts” to conserve energy, Insurance Information Institute’s (Triple-I) Scott Holeman reports in the video above.

The severe cold has propelled The Homeowner’s Severe Cold Weather Survival Guide to the “most read” article position at the Triple-I’s website.

Much of North America experiences periods of severely cold weather and is susceptible to snow and ice storms—extreme conditions that can inflict considerable damage on homes and create liability risks. Standard homeowners policies will cover most disasters that result from a freeze—but when the weather outside is frightful, it’s better to minimize the potential risks.

The Survival Guide lists a few steps that can be taken inside and outside a home to reduce risks of property damage, such as:

INSIDE THE HOUSE

Check the location for the main water shutoff in your home. And refresh your memory on—or learn—how the shutoff works to prevent your home’s pipes from bursting.

Open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. In severely frigid temperatures, keeping water moving within the pipes will help prevent freezing.

Check to see that fireplaces, wood stoves, and electric heaters are working properly. Make sure no combustible items are near a home’s heat sources. This week’s widespread power outages have contributed to Kerosene Heater Safety becoming the second-most popular article at the Triple-I’s website.

OUTSIDE THE HOUSE

Watch for ice dams near gutter downspouts. Ice dams occur when water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house. Clear gutters of leaves and debris to allow runoff from melting snow and ice to flow freely at the base of the gutter, known as the downspout.

Keep your garage doors closed. This will prevent weather damage to whatever is stored in the garage. Plus, if your garage is attached to your house, the home entrance door from the garage is probably not as well-insulated as an exterior door so this will keep more heat in.

Double-check for dead, damaged, or dangerous tree branches and have them removed. Even if they looked sound earlier in the year, trees can be affected by ice, snow, or wind. When stressed, branches can fall and damage your house or car, or injure someone on or near your property.

The Triple-I has additional winter weather resources:

Snowstorm-Caused Damage Covered Under Auto and Home Policies
Winter Storms
How to file A Homeowner’s Claim
Minimizing winter weather risks
If the power goes out, can you be reimbursed for spoiled food?

Poverty and opioids unexpectedly tied to rise in personal umbrella claim severity: Gen Re

Insurers saw  more costly personal umbrella claims before the start of 2020, according to a Gen Re analysis, and the reinsurer expects  such claims  to continue as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Personal umbrella insurance covers liability costs beyond the limits of the policyholders’ homeowners or auto policies.

Gen Re has uncovered some of the top drivers for the large claims, and they have to do with some of society’s harshest ills. Top reasons cited were increases in:

  • the annual poverty rate;
  • opioid prescription rates;
  • fatal accidents;
  • brain injuries;
  • attorney representation; and
  • injuries involving a fatality and multiple claimants.

Other notable predictors linked with higher claims severity include laws permitting recreational marijuana and a lack of motorcycle helmet laws.

Gen Re said poverty, opioid use, and marijuana laws were unexpected predictors of umbrella claim severity and that all of the analysis’ findings “will facilitate deeper client interaction on this line of business.”

 “Social inflation” – a term used to describe growth in liability risks and costs related to litigation trends – has been a growing concern for insurers. The phenomenon has mostly affected the commercial auto and general liability lines, but the findings here – particularly the increase in attorney representation – suggest that it might be making inroads into personal lines.

Is my exotic pet covered by insurance?

Photo by Andre Mouton from Pexels

Did you know that December 14 is international monkey day? This delightful holiday to honor everyone’s favorite simians was invented by two Michigan State art students in 2000.

Suggestions for how to celebrate this holiday include donating to conservation efforts or reading to children about monkeys.

Of course, here at the Triple-I, the holiday naturally got us thinking about people who keep monkeys and other exotic and unusual pets, and the insurance implications.

According to several sources we consulted, keeping monkeys as pets is never a good idea. Keeping a monkey as a pet is cruel to the animal, is illegal in many jurisdictions, and may result in serious and even deadly injuries to humans.

Nevertheless, according to one animal advocacy group, about 15,000 primates are kept as pets in the U.S., and the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 1 in 10 American households has an exotic pet (defined as any animal native to a foreign country).

Injuries caused by pets, if they are covered by insurance, would be covered under a comprehensive homeowners insurance policy. However it’s important to read your policy and see exactly what’s covered. If you’re not sure, speak to your insurance agent. You should expect to pay more for coverage and carry higher liability limits if you legally own exotic animals. And homeowners insurance also frequently excludes any physical damage caused by pets.

Exotic animals can require expensive veterinary treatments. While pet health insurance is becoming increasingly available and affordable, many insurers cover a restricted list of species. Pet Assure, a discount program available through some employers, is accepted for many kinds of animals.