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Thursday, May 5, 2011
By John D. Doak, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner
Memorial Day is right around the corner, bringing with it a summer season filled with fun on Oklahoma’s highways, byways and waterways. It’s wise to follow all safety rules and to consider appropriate insurance coverage to protect your life, health and property, minimizing the chance that your good time will be spoiled.
The personal property coverage in your homeowners’ policy might cover a small boat for $1,500 or less in physical damage. However, your liability coverage is limited. Home insurers usually provide liability insurance on small sailboats and powerboats with small motors (check your policy for size limitations). But a boat of any significant size will be excluded from your homeowners’ policy for both property and liability coverage, and will require a separate policy to repair or replace it after a mishap and to cover your liability as an operator.
Personal watercraft will also likely require a separate boat insurance policy.
Policies for boats and watercraft can usually be purchased through the company that insures your home, or you might choose to contact a specialty insurer with expertise in boating coverage.
Some questions to ask before putting a boat in the water:
Motorcycles and Scooters
Motorcycles and scooters are not covered by your standard auto policy. You will need a separate policy covering liability and, depending on the value of your motorcycle, comprehensive and collision coverage. Your premium will depend in part on the motorcycle’s engine size, its age and how often you ride. In getting a quote, tell your agent who will be operating the cycle or scooter and ask if the company offers discounts to members of various associations or for taking rider safety courses.
Insurers have differing requirements for helmet use. Oklahoma law requires a helmet be worn by any motorcyclist or passenger age 17 and under, and helmets are required for use on some low-power scooters, as well.
If you carry seasonal coverage on your motorcycle, which allows you to eliminate liability and perhaps collision coverage in winter months when you do not ride, be sure that your policy is active now that nice weather has returned and you’re back on the road.
All-terrain vehicles enjoy widespread popularity in Oklahoma, but are too frequently the source of fatal accidents involving children. Several of these children were riding the vehicle alone, sometimes carrying passengers their own age or younger, and perhaps were riding without sufficient adult supervision. While ATVs are considered by many to be simple recreational vehicles, many models are quite powerful and are beyond the handling capabilities of young riders. And while in Oklahoma helmets are not required of riders or passengers while driving these vehicles on private property, it is safest to always wear a helmet while aboard an ATV, especially for child operators and passengers.
Much like motorcycles, ATVs are not covered by standard auto insurance; however, your homeowners’ policy might partially cover your liability while operating an ATV. Ask your agent or insurer if this coverage is adequate for you and your family. A separate ATV policy would offer more coverage.
Other questions to ask before operating an ATV:
Pools and Trampolines
These backyard staples of summer fun can be dangerous and will increase your insurance risk. You might want to consider purchasing an umbrella policy to provide liability limits above what your homeowners’ policy already offers. Be sure to determine whether your homeowners’ policy specifies any safety measures you are required to install, such as fences of a certain height or locked gates.
Some companies might not insure your property if you have a trampoline, or might have policy exclusions for any liability related to trampoline injuries. Be sure to understand exactly what damages and injuries your homeowners’ policy covers before allowing anyone on the trampoline.
Be aware – an insurer can deny coverage or cancel your policy if you do not follow the policy’s safety guidelines or do not inform the company when you add a pool or trampoline to the property. Check with the agent or company that insures your home to determine policy rates and safety requirements before installing a pool or purchasing a trampoline.
Keep your family’s health insurance up-to-date, and contact your agent or insurer if you have any additional questions about protecting your family and property against summer’s unique risks. You can also learn more about health, home, life and auto insurance options through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ education site at www.insureUonline.org. For Oklahoma-specific information, to check the state licensing status of an agent or company, or to voice complaints or concerns about your insurance policy, call the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Consumer Hotline at (800) 522-0071 or visit us online at www.oid.ok.gov.