FYI: Fireworks could set off insurance scramble
July 2, 2010
If your Fourth of July party involves fireworks that cause a house fire, there’s a chance your insurance company may try hold you, or even a party guest who set off the pyrotechnics, responsible for some of the costs.
Four states ban fireworks completely – Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York – and six allow only very limited use. The remaining 40, plus Washington D.C., allow some or all fireworks, but certain county laws may be stricter.
The legality in your community isn’t as big an issue to insurers as whether the person handling the fireworks is negligent. And that term’s definition varies from state to state.
Fireworks cause more than 10,000 fires on a typical Fourth of July – including 1,400 structural fires. On average these blazes cause at least one death, according to The National Fire Protection Association. Property damage from fireworks-related fires is estimated at $42 million a year.
It’s not just the flashy stuff that can start a fire. Sparklers burn at up to 1,200 degrees.
The basics on coverage
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An accidental house fire is usually covered, even when it’s caused by illegal activity, says Michael Barry, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute.
Certain policies may have limits, however, so it’s worth checking your paperwork before setting anything off.
The word to remember is “subrogation,” which is used when an insurance company looks to recoup expenses paid in a claim from a third party.
If insurance investigators find the fire was due to negligence, the company may try to get some of money from the person responsible.