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Drumstick drama: Are you covered?

What happens if your Thanksgiving guests get sick? Do you know whether or not your homeowners insurance covers food poisoning?

By MSN Money Partner Nov 21, 2011 7:12PM

This post comes from Melissa Neiman at partner site


You have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season -- friends, family, your health and your mother's prized pecan pie recipe. And here's one more item to add to that list: your homeowners insurance policy. You will be very grateful that you covered your bases if you happen to get sued by the guests at your Thanksgiving table.


Food-borne illnesses account for 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of these outbreaks result from contamination during the preparation and handling of food.


So remember to wash your hands before touching the sweet potatoes, separate the raw turkey from the cranberry sauce, and use a food thermometer to make sure your bird is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees -- otherwise, Aunt Martha might just take you to court.


"If a guest gets sick as the result of the Thanksgiving feast you prepared, it's possible that you could be liable," says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.


Safeguarding against a cornucopia of calamity

And your liability as a host or hostess doesn't end with the bounty on your table. You may also be held accountable if a guest is accidentally injured on your property or imbibes a little too much holiday cheer and crashes into another motorist. The latter is known as "social host liability" and laws vary by state.


"That's why it's important to make sure you take steps to prevent any harm to your guests," Walker says. She recommends:

  • Asking about food allergies;
  • Properly cleaning and cooking food;
  • Offering non-alcoholic beverages;
  • Shoveling and salting sidewalks;
  • Crating pets.

"All of these steps can help you avoid Turkey Day legal troubles," she says.


The good news is that your homeowners insurance should cover you if you accidentally poison a friend or relative with a bad batch of stuffing or if one of your dinner guests chokes on a drumstick and decides to sue.


"If your guest gets sick and sues you for damages, your insurer will pay for your legal expenses for a resulting lawsuit, even if the suit is groundless," says Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.


But how much insurance coverage should you have in case your Turkey Day takes a turn for the worse? Post continues below.

"You should buy enough liability coverage to protect your assets," says Walker.


If you own property and/or investments that are worth a great deal more than the liability limits on your current homeowners policy, Walker advises you discuss umbrella insurance coverage with your agent or company.


"We live in a litigious society and you need to consider what could be at stake if you had a claim or lawsuit filed against you when someone is injured on your property, or if you, a family member, or your pet is responsible for hurting someone or causing damage to someone else's property," she says.


How much coverage can I expect from typical homeowner insurance?

Worters agrees that it is better to err on the side of caution.


Generally, most homeowners insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability insurance, but higher amounts are available. Increasingly, homeowners are urged to consider purchasing at least $300,000 to $500,000 worth of coverage of liability protection, Worters says.


She says it is "advisable" to purchase an additional $1 million in umbrella insurance coverage.


"An umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit on the underlying liability coverage in a homeowners, renters, condo or auto policy. It will also cover you for things such as libel and slander," she says.


According to Worters, you can purchase a $1 million personal umbrella liability policy for about $150 to $300 annually.



More on and MSN Money:

Nov 22, 2011 12:06AM
People who would sue me over an accident or their own stupidity are not invited.
Nov 23, 2011 10:02PM
MSN, SHUT THE F**K UP !!!!!!!!!! Are you trying to start a trend, you litigious sacks of crap?
Nov 23, 2011 11:16PM

Are you friggin crazy?!  Is there not enough stuff to write about or do you just have a severe case of writers block?!


I don't EVEN want to hear you bytching about your insurance rates increasing at renewal.  With writing stupid articles like this, YOU deserve a rate hike!


Shame on you!!

Of course they urge 100,000.-300.000. thousand dollar policy with a "One Million Dollar Umbrella Policy" attorneys love deep pockets and hey they gotta make their car payments too. 
Nov 24, 2011 9:48AM
so when uncle fred gets drunk and aunt annie start mouthing off about their horrible marriage and grandma wonders out the door due to her dementia and the dog has been eating pies while unattended in the kitchen, your daughter calls home to let everyone know that she is dropping out of college to marry 55 year old insurance agent in bangor main, at this point do we care if someone got sick from careless cooking? go ahead, sue me, take me to jail and lock me up so i will not volunteer to do dinner again next year!!!
Nov 24, 2011 10:19AM
Just get everyone to sign a waiver prior to entering the property or eating any food.  I should probably do that anyway the way my cooking turns out.
Nov 24, 2011 9:08AM
if they get sick tell-em to suck it up ,sshit happens
Nov 24, 2011 12:33AM
As an absolutely average Celtic white guy exMarine raised in what was (or still is?) the most racist city in America (which means in the World) Chicago, Illinois, I have discovered that a rather small reading of History and a small amount of thought leads inexorably to the question: What is the essential difference between celebrating Thanksgiving and celebrating Kristallnacht, except for the relative triviality of Kristallnacht in comparison? Learning and thinking can be such a ****, particularly to one's own group myths. It's no wonder that so few Americans do it and conservatives are so afraid of it. Hitler was an amateur compared to us. Happy engorgement. And, while gorging in gratitude for all we have taken from others, thank the insurance industry for adding just a little more self-serving fear to your free time with the above article.
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