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Bears & insurance…oh, my?

By: Parish Lowrie, Owner/Agent

Parish Lowrie Insurance & Financial Services, Inc.

Big Canoe and its resident bears have received a lot of attention lately. Those close to our bear issues have been counseling Big Canoe homeowners for years about the do’s and don’ts when it comes to attracting bears. Much has been written on that subject, so I’ll leave it to the experts.

As an insurance agent with almost 25 years’ experience in the industry, I frequently get asked whether or not damage to one’s home caused by bears is covered under their homeowners insurance policy. As a disclaimer, each insurance claim comes with its own individual circumstances and, as such, I am unable to make blanket statements regarding whether a particular loss is or is not covered. Additionally, I represent one insurance company and because each company writes its own insurance policy, my remarks are limited to the policy with which I am familiar.

Homeowners policy coverage generally falls into two broad categories: named peril policies, where coverage is limited to a list of covered perils or hazards, or as open peril policies, where coverage is provided against any peril or hazard that is not specifically excluded. Some homeowners policies do both, where they act as a named peril policy for loss to personal property, but also act as an open peril policy for loss to the dwelling.

Either way, a homeowner needs to know how his/her policy works so they can begin to understand what is or is not covered. Another thing important to understand, is even in a named peril policy, there could be exclusions that limit or eliminate coverage if certain additional circumstances arise. For instance, vandalism is generally a covered peril in a named peril policy, however, damage caused by vandalism is excluded to a dwelling if the dwelling is considered vacant.

Generally, most policies provide coverage for damage by wild bears to both the dwelling and personal property; you may have to look a little deeper to find such proof of coverage in your policy. It is typical for an open peril policy to exclude damage due to “all animals, birds, or insects,” but then give coverage back if such damage is caused by wild bears or deer. In other words, the policy excludes damage by animals unless such damage is caused by a wild bear or deer, in which case coverage would apply.

Lastly, please note such losses will very likely be subject to the homeowner’s policy’s deductible, which represents the portion of the loss the homeowner is willing and able to retain.

While I hope our “bad bear” days are behind us, if nothing else, perhaps they have provided us with a good reminder to get familiar with our insurance policy’s coverage and, more importantly, lack thereof, so we have a better understanding of the risks we face.

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