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12 holiday movie disasters – would your insurance policy cover them? – The Capitolist

by Capitolist Staff | Dec 23, 2022
With many Florida homeowners shopping for alternative property insurance this holiday season, now might be a good time for a reality check on what sorts of holiday disasters are actually covered by insurance.
While it’s funny to see Walt Griswold’s Christmas tree go up in flames when Uncle Lewis lights a cigar, is the inevitable smoke and flame damage in your living room actually covered by your policy? In the movies, some of the scenes are so over-the-top there’s no way they could happen in real life. Right?
But some of those stranger-than-fiction accidents happen every day, and some of them are even covered, according to the editors at, who put together this list of a dozen holiday movie disasters and rate the likelihood it could actually happen, and whether or not your insurance company would cover the mess:
1. Ice flies out of a gutter and goes through a neighbor’s window.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)
The disaster: While installing “25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights,” Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) takes a tumble and grasps onto the gutter, which rips away from the house. A gutter-shaped chunk of ice flies off and goes through the neighbor’s window, destroying a stereo system (and melts, leaving the carpet mysteriously wet).
Could it happen? While the setup to this incident is typically over-the-top, it’s certainly possible for ice to break a window and do damage in a neighbor’s home.
Is it covered? If you’re at fault for unintentional damage to a neighbor’s house, the liability portion of your homeowners insurance will pay for the repairs. Even for Margo and Todd.
2. Your home is flooded by burglars with a flair for the dramatic.
The movie: “Home Alone” (1990)
The disaster: Two burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) leave every house they rob flooded by plugging drains and leaving the water running, a calling card designed to earn them the nickname “The Wet Bandits.”
Could it happen? Yes. Especially if you’re away for a long time, such as over the holidays, water overflowing could cause serious flooding. And criminals topping burglary with vandalism isn’t an unlikely scenario.
Is it covered? Even though homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding from natural sources, like a lake or river, you’re covered for vandalism and malicious mischief, even of the wet variety.
3. Your Christmas tree is too large for the room. Much too large.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)
The disaster: Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) opens up the Griswold family Christmas tree in the living room, sending enormous branches through several windows and shattering them.
Could it happen? It’s pretty unlikely that you’d be able to get a tree that size into your living room in the first place, but if you did, it could certainly break your windows.
Is it covered? Yes. Accidentally broken windows are covered by the dwelling coverage portion of your home insurance policy.
4. You set the turkey on fire.
“The Santa Clause” (1994)
The disaster. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) tries to cook a turkey for Christmas dinner but opens the oven to find flames and smoke.
Could it happen? It happens all the time, and unlike in the movie, it often results in far more fire and smoke damage to the house.
Is it covered? Yes. Home insurance will step in to pay for fire and smoke damage to your house, even if it’s caused by poor cooking skills.
5. You purposely crash a company limo into a van – for a good reason!
“Die Hard” (1988)
The disaster: Limo driver Argyle (De’voreaux White) spots the terrorists’ van in the parking garage under Nakatomi Plaza, and crashes purposely into the van, helping to save the day.
Could it happen? The crash, absolutely. The hostage crisis? Hollywood is great at dreaming up wild scenarios that may or may not have plot holes; we won’t weigh in the realistic nature of “Die Hard.” We will, however, stand our ground that it is a Christmas movie.
Is it covered? As a general rule, insurance doesn’t cover damage done intentionally. However, being a company car, the limo service’s insurance may pay for damages done by an employee.
6. Your uncle lights a cigar and sets the Christmas tree on fire.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)
The disaster: Next on the long list of disasters in this classic, Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) heads into the living room after dinner to light up a stogie and burns the Christmas tree to a blackened mess in a matter of seconds.
Could it happen? Christmas tree fires are all too common, and in this case, the damage is actually mild. This type of fire can result in serious damage, even a total loss of the home.
Is it covered? Yes. Fire is covered by homeowners, although the tree fire alone probably isn’t worth paying the deductible in order to file a claim.
7. Your son, left at home over the holidays, sets up a series of booby traps to fend off burglars.
“Home Alone” (1990)
The disaster: Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) fills the house with booby traps to keep two burglars from getting to him. The result is a huge mess and two very injured (yet somehow still coherent) burglars.
Could it happen? This is definitely one of those over-the-top plots that’s a bit too wild to be real. That said, setting up booby traps for trespassers is something that can and does happen.
Is it covered? Bad news – Kevin’s mom and dad could get sued here. It’s actually illegal to set up booby traps to injure trespassers. Furthermore, your homeowners insurance requires you to keep your home a safe place, and setting up booby traps is generally considered unsafe. The odds are good here that both the injuries to the burglars and the damage to the house could land on the McCallisters.
8. Satellite dish installation goes awry.
“Four Christmases” (2008)
The disaster: Brad’s (Vince Vaughn) attempt at a winning Christmas gift for his father becomes a disaster when he and the satellite dish fall off the roof, tearing cable from the walls and sending the TV across the room, where it bursts into flames, igniting the carpet.
Could it happen? Electrical fires caused by damaged wires do happen, although this exact scenario is an extreme example.
Is it covered? Homeowners insurance covers fires, including electrical fires, caused by accidents. In this case, the TV and related damage are likely to be covered.
9. A neighbor’s badly-behaved dogs break into your house, destroying the Christmas feast.
“A Christmas Story” (1983)
The disaster: The Bumpus hounds, which seem to have no discipline whatsoever, pour through the door to the Parker home, decimating the Christmas turkey and leaving the door hanging from its hinges.
Could it happen? Dogs breaking down a door for turkey? We’re going to say yes.
Is it covered? You’re responsible for anything your pets do, which means in this case the Bumpuses are liable for their hounds’ actions. Their liability insurance will cover it, assuming the insurance company hasn’t excluded the dogs for past turkey-purloining.
10. An explosion results from a combination of toxic fumes and an errant match.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)
The disaster: After Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) empties his RV toilet tank into the sewer, Uncle Lewis (William Hickey), whose cigar-smoking has already burned down the Christmas tree, tosses a match towards the sewer. It explodes, sending Santa and his reindeer on a voyage over town.
Could it happen? Methane gas could be present in black water from an RV toilet tank, which is definitely flammable. Certain chemicals used in this type of toilet may also be flammable; formaldehyde was commonly used (it’s illegal in many places today) and is also flammable.
Is it covered? A standard HO-3 policy covers explosions, both internal and external. That said, there are several levels of negligence and liability here that could complicate a claim.
11. Car crash on Christmas Eve.
“The Family Stone” (2005)
The disaster: After an emotionally disastrous Christmas Eve dinner, Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) attempts to back down the snow-covered driveway too fast just to spin out and then crash into a tree.
Could it happen? Definitely – snow-covered roads can be difficult to gain traction – that’s why drivers in cold climates should always carry kitty litter/sand for help with traction and tire chains.
Is it covered? This crash would be covered under a collision claim for auto insurance. However, if Meredith’s boyfriend, Everett (Dermot Mulroney), only has liability coverage – unlikely since the vehicle is a luxury car – it wouldn’t be covered. His property damage liability coverage might need to kick in if the tree was badly damaged.
12. A Christmas gift goes very badly wrong and results in an infestation of destructive creatures.
“Gremlins” (1984)
The disaster: Don’t feed him after midnight, and don’t get him wet! After receiving a strange, adorable pet as a Christmas gift, Billy (Zach Galligan) does both, resulting in a rampage of gremlins that trashes the entire town on Christmas Eve.
Could it happen? We feel safe saying no on this one. However, there have been cases of people keeping exotic pets that have escaped and done some damage.
Is it covered? As a homeowner, you’re responsible for both your kids and for any pets in the household and any damage they might do. If you have exotic pets, it’s a good idea to find out if they’re covered since most home insurance policies exclude them from liability. While we’ve never seen a policy that specifically excludes gremlins running amok, we’re going to stamp this claim as denied.
While we all hope nothing remotely like a movie disaster ever happens, it’s good to know insurance is there in case you need it. So, while you’re making that list and checking it twice, make a note to yourself to check in with your insurance company once the holiday rush is over.
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