Fireworks cause $59 million of property damage a year. Your insurance policy may cover it


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What homeowners and renters insurance likely cover

The typical homeowners insurance policy has two coverage areas.

One is for property: your home and the things in it. The second is for liability; this covers you if you’re liable for injury or property damage to another person, perhaps a friend or neighbor harmed by an errant firework. The latter coverage is generally available anywhere your liability occurs in the U.S.

A renters policy is similar but wouldn’t cover the physical structure of the home — only the things in it.

Fireworks caused $59 million in direct property damage in 2021, according to the most recent data from the National Fire Protection Association.

Home insurers reconsider policies in Florida and California due to severe weather

Fireworks-related damage would most likely result from a fire started by the pyrotechnics, said Robert Passmore, vice president of personal lines at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, a trade group.

Fireworks started 12,264 reported fires in the U.S. in 2021, according to NFPA. Twenty-eight percent of fires during 2014-18 were reported on July 4.

Homeowners policies generally cover fire damage, whether to the house, patio furniture or other property, Passmore said. Policies generally have deductibles; policyholders are often on the hook for the first $500 to $1,000 of damage.

This is true whether the policyholder lights the fireworks or someone else, such as a neighbor or friend, does so, Passmore said.

“It happens every year, and people need to be aware it can cause a lot of problems, particularly if they live in a wildfire-prone area,” Passmore said of fires from fireworks.

Policies may also cover other damage, such as a broken window from an errant projectile, he added.

Fireworks-related injuries have also “increased significantly” in the past 15 years, with 10,200 fireworks-related injuries reported in 2022, NFPA said. Liability insurance may cover a policyholder if they’re legally liable for such an injury, experts said.

Illegal fireworks may not be covered

However, as is often the case with insurance policies, there are exceptions.

Insurance policies generally carry exclusions. The fine print outlines instances in which the insurer would not pay a claim.

Insurers have been using exclusions more frequently, and the details vary from policy to policy, Kochenburger said.

For one, a policy likely wouldn’t cover intentional behavior, such as damage from purposefully firing a bottle rocket at someone’s house, experts said.

In rare instances, a policy may also explicitly exclude coverage for fireworks, experts said.

You want to make sure the fireworks you’re purchasing are legal in your state.

Peter Kochenburger

executive director of the insurance law program at the University of Connecticut

A more likely scenario: Your policy may not cover “wrongful or criminal acts” — meaning the insurance wouldn’t pay a claim for damage or injury resulting from illegal fireworks, Kochenburger said.

Coverage in a fireworks-related scenario will depend on the circumstances, type of fireworks, how they were used and how policy exclusions have been interpreted by state courts, he added. The exclusion also generally applies more often to liability claims and less frequently with personal property, Kochenburger said.

However, you avoid the risk and uncertainty by using legal fireworks.

“You don’t want to get tripped up by exclusions for wrongful or criminal acts,” Kochenburger said. “You want to make sure the fireworks you’re purchasing are legal in your state.”

This article was originally published on CNBC