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Winter Wonderland

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December 2, 2018

Best's Review
By Lori Chordas

Homes and organizations across the world will soon be lighting up the holidays with elaborate outdoor light displays that can potentially attract hundreds or even thousands of onlookers. But inside those ornate exhibits lurk potential dangers.

In 2014, a Los Angeles man suspected of driving under the influence injured 13 people after he drove into two parked vehicles that hit a group of holiday light display onlookers standing on a residential sidewalk.

Distracted driving isn't the only potential risk. Slips and falls by visitors who venture onto the property of homeowners or businesses and injuries sustained by individuals assembling those exhibits are among the most common claims generated by outdoor light displays, said Stephanie Waldron, senior vice president of events and attractions at K&K Insurance.

Last year, an 82-year-old man from Burlington, Ontario, died after falling off a ladder while examining a roof leak at his home's Christmas light display.

Light display-related losses are typically covered under business, auto or homeowners policies, said P.J. Miller, chairman and a partner at independent insurance agency Wallace &Turner. A standard homeowners policy, for instance, typically provides about $1,000 of medical payments coverage for injuries, regardless if the homeowner was negligent or not.

Those policies also cover property losses, such as fires. Overloaded electrical outlets, faulty bulbs and poorly placed lights can send light displays up in smoke.

Coverage begins to blur when homeowners and display organizers charge a fee for spectators to view their illuminated spectaculars. “Then it becomes a question of whether it's a residential display or a commercial display and where does personal insurance stop and commercial insurance begin,” said Jason Metzger, senior vice president of risk management at PURE Insurance.

Many of PURE's policyholders hire outside contractors to decorate or hang lights. “Those third-parties can potentially be injured, and that's where coverages like personal excess liability will help,” he said. PURE insures only high net worth individuals and families.

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