Winter Safety and Insurance Tips

Winter brings a unique set of hazards that call for special safety precautions; for instance, fire losses increase and more auto accidents occur.

Winter brings a unique set of hazards that call for special safety precautions and, sometimes, an insurance tune-up.

In most instances, you need the same kind of coverage for your auto and home in winter as you do the rest of the year. But winter is still a good time to check to make sure you have the right coverage, according to Janet Scott-Buckley, manager of Harrington Insurance Agency’s North Andover, Mass., office. She adds that there are many more auto accidents during the winter months.

“Towing coverage and substitute transportation coverage are both valuable,” she says. “The former pays for towing and the latter for a rental car if your car has to be repaired after an accident.”

Having a zero deducible on auto glass makes particular sense in winter. And make sure you have enough property coverage to repair or rebuild your home in case of a major loss. Fire losses increase during the winter months as woodstoves and heating systems are put to use — make sure these systems are inspected and maintained properly.

Everyone with sufficient income or assets to protect should have ample liability insurance as part of their homeowners, renters or condo policy, plus their auto policy. It’s especially important in winter, when cars are more likely to spin out of control on icy surfaces, Scott-Buckley says.

But even the maximum coverage possible via auto and homeowners insurance isn’t enough for many people. That’s why many should consider buying a personal umbrella liability policy for more protection from potential lawsuits.

A $1 million umbrella policy typically costs less than $200 a year and provides peace of mind as well as protection, Scott-Buckley says.

In addition to the right coverage, there are some actions to take to help avoid winter-related claims all together.

“Make sure you always have ample windshield wiper fluid in the reservoir,” she says. “If you run out, it can be very hard to see when you’re driving during a drizzle or the day after a snow storm when cars are spattering mud and salt around. Storing a bottle in the trunk is a good idea.”

Make sure you clean all snow and ice from the roof of car, not just the windows, Scott-Buckley adds. Snow or ice can blow off and hit the car behind you and possibly cause an accident. Always keep a brush and ice scraper in your car.

Passing another car at high speed on a slush-covered highway will create a big splash of slush that can blind the other driver until his or her wipers clear it, which can take a while, adding to the chance for an accident, she points out.

In winter, “It gets late early out there” as baseball great Yogi Berra once said. Make sure you turn on your headlights by late afternoon so other motorists and pedestrians can see you. Even if there’s enough natural light for you to see, it doesn’t mean others can see you, especially if you have a dark-colored vehicle, Scott-Buckley says.

“Be extra careful in parking lots,” she says. “I see a lot of claims caused by people backing up at the mall and getting in collisions.”

At home, keep your downspouts clear, she recommends. A clogged downspout can cause a flow of ice across your walkway.

If you go away for the winter or part of it, have someone keep an eye on your house, Scott-Buckley says.

“If mail and newspapers are piling up, it’s like giving burglars a green light to break in,” she says.

Harrington Insurance Agency is an insurance agency with locations throughout Massachusetts. A member of the Arbella Insurance Group, Harrington Insurance represents many national and regional insurance companies.