As the seasons change, so do the types of claims adjusters see. Falling leaves create a skidding hazard for unwary drivers. Running deer and other wildlife rarely bother to look both ways before they cross a road. And drivers in a hurry may decide to rush off before their windshields and rear windows are fully defrosted, providing a partially obstructed view of anyone else on the road.
Here are 8 claims that increase during the fall and early winter:
Deer are no longer confined just to country areas. As development spreads into their natural habitats, these animals can be found in highly populated areas, especially as food becomes scarcer. Hitting a large animal can be just as dangerous as hitting another car, so always wear a seatbelt. Animals tend to be more active at dawn and dusk, so watch for deer, moose, raccoons, foxes and coyotes. Most wildlife-related accidents tend to occur between October and December.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), there are approximately 1.7 million rear-end collisions in the U.S. each year. Most of these types of claims occur during the fourth quarter and 87% of them are caused by drivers who aren’t paying attention. It’s important to put down the phone, stop adjusting the radio, and back up slowly, checking mirrors and windows multiple times for oncoming cars.
If you’re following a car, leave at least three seconds of time between you and the car in front of you if going 45 mph. If you’re going faster, that distance grows to 6 seconds or roughly one car length for every 10 mph of speed.
Parking lot claims
With the holidays only two months away, shoppers are flocking to malls and shopping centers in greater numbers. This means more drivers and an increase in parking lot-related claims. Damage from shopping carts, car thefts and tight parking spaces are just a few of the hazards. 25% of parking lot-related claims occur between October and December.
To lower the odds of a damage claim:
- Don’t park near cart returns. It reduces the chances of an errant cart drifting into your vehicle.
- Park further away from cars. Tight spaces can increase the chances of being hit by a car door or another vehicle.
- Park in well-lit areas and be aware of who is nearby when walking to a vehicle or pulling out of a parking space.
Snow and ice
34% of all skidding and snow claims occur between October and December. Before cold weather hits, check the tread on tires and make sure they are properly inflated. Decrease speeds on wet, icy or leaf-covered roads.
During winter months, keep the gas tank at least half full since getting stuck in snow traffic can burn fuel quickly. Also check the battery, windshield wipers, anti-freeze and wiper fluid levels. Consider leaving a shovel, blanket and some non-perishable snacks in the car in case of a breakdown.
Approximately 25% of the year’s auto theft claims occur during the fourth quarter. Cars full of gifts and other items can be tempting to thieves. Taking some preventative actions can reduce the chances that you’ll be the victim of a theft.
- Don’t leave packages, briefcases or electronics visible in the vehicle. Items like a GPS that adhere to the windshield should be removed and the ring from the suction cup wiped away.
- Take photos of high value items when you purchase them and keep your receipts to prove ownership.
- Don’t be afraid to have mall security walk you to your car.
- Make sure doors are locked and windows are closed when you leave the vehicle.
Increased fall claims aren’t limited to just automobiles. While home robberies increase about 7% in the summer, there is an even bigger increase when the weather turns cooler. That number jumps to 25% in the latter part of the year.
Smart homeowners keep lights on a timer and use motion detectors for outdoor lights. Today’s home apps let owners monitor remotely to see who is coming and going. Valuables should be stored in either a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box.
Fire and smoke
Just like summer means more grill-related fires, in the fall more time is spent indoors and fireplaces, woodstoves and candles become the culprits. According to Ready.gov, more than 2,500 people lose their lives in house fires each year, and another 12,600 are injured. Property losses from these fires total more than $7.3 billion annually, and many homeowners fail to understand that the time from a small flame to a home being fully-engulfed can be mere seconds.
Smoke and radiating heat from a fire also pose significant dangers. Smoke-related claims can account for nearly 30% of homeowners claims during the fall and winter months.
To reduce the likelihood of fire:
- Inspect chimneys annually and clean as needed. How frequently a chimney needs to be cleaned depends on how often it is used.
- Open the flue before starting a fire.
- Don’t leave candles lit in unoccupied rooms. In addition, make sure pets can’t knock them over and keep them away from curtains and clothing.
- Don’t leave pots or pans cooking unattended on the stove.
- Don’t smoke if drowsy, cigarettes can fall into furniture cushions and smolder before igniting.
- Don’t overload electrical outlets with appliances.
Water damage and freezing claims
Freezing pipes and water damage can account for 20% of claims in the fourth quarter. Burst pipes, dishwashers, water heaters, ice makers, water supply lines and toilet valves are frequent sources of water damage. Turning the main water valve off when leaving a home for several days can reduce the risk.