Don't Fall Victim to These Holiday Hazards

It's the most wonderful time of the year -- unless you're one of the millions of people who have to report an insurance claim during the holiday season. Thanks to a new review from Allstate (NYSE: ALL  ) , one of the nation's top property and casualty insurers, we have a better understanding of the big risks associated with the multitude of holiday gatherings and festivities. Here's what you should avoid or be watchful of during the coming weeks.

1. Fires
It's the season of lights, but with the celebrations come bigger risks of damage from fire hazards. Within the holiday season alone, the average number of fire-related claims jump 15% compared to other seasons. Some of the largest causes of fire-related damage (and their median costs) include:

  • Christmas trees: Median cost of related fire claim -- $100,000. Because Christmas is a decoration-heavy holiday, and Christmas trees are a must, it's no wonder that the majority of claims stem from the festive trees. Whether it's caused by traditional candles on the tree, a faulty string of lights, too many plugs in an outlet, etc., Christmas trees are both beautiful and potentially perilous.
  • Candles: Median cost -- $50,000. Who doesn't want their house to be cozy and cheery as the winter weather rolls in? But those new spruce-scented candles could end up costing you more than you paid for them. Unattended candles cause a huge number of fires each year around the holidays -- making them the second-most likely culprit of the increased claims traffic.
  • Fried turkeys: Median cost -- $29,000. Gobbling up plenty of turkey may make you sleepy (thanks tryptophan!), but preparing the bird itself could make you very unhappy. Frying turkeys has become a more and more popular way to prepare the Thanksgiving centerpiece, but each year, thousands of fryers end up causing big grease fires that are tough to put out. You can check out some bad examples on YouTube by searching "turkey fryer."
  • Fireworks: Median cost -- $14,000. New Year's Eve is a time for the celebration of beginning again, and fireworks are a must have. But beware the sparkly masterpieces; they can quickly get out of control and end up causing damage.

2. Theft
The Wet Bandits may not have been the most successful thieves, but they had the gist right. Most people won't be surprised that the rates of theft claims rise during the holiday season by 7%. Avoid posting your holiday plans on social media, especially if you'll be away for an extended period of time. Also, when shopping, be sure that you don't leave bags of gifts in plain sight within your car -- even if you're popping into another shop for just a minute.

3. Other fun surprises
Entertaining the in-laws or other extended family may not be at the top of your Christmas list, but if you get through the holidays without a sewer back-up claim, be thankful! Allstate reported that those types of claims increase by 19% during the festive season -- making me recall a National Lampoon Christmas Vacation moment I'm glad I won't ever have to deal with.

Have a fun, safe holiday season!
There are plenty of things to look forward to this season, whether you're celebrating Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or any other festive holiday. But be sure that you keep an eye on those decorations, cooking methods, and other risks that pop up this time of year. Otherwise, you may be sharing the holiday with your insurance agent instead of your family.

The start of a new year
We're quickly closing out the remainder of 2013, so here at The Motley Fool, we're looking forward to the coming year -- and the opportunities it will bring. The market stormed out to huge gains across 2013, leaving investors on the sidelines burned. However, opportunistic investors can still find huge winners. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has just hand-picked one such opportunity in our new report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." To find out which stock it is and read our in-depth report, simply click here. It's free!


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