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What Does My Home Insurance Cover?

5 unusual claims that can test the limits of your policy

Terrorism

Homeowners insurance typically excludes acts of war. The same blanket exclusion doesn't hold true for acts of terrorism, which are more akin to a criminal act than an armed conflict. Wilson says insurers should cover damage due to explosion, fire and smoke resulting from a terrorist attack, even if terrorism isn't specifically referenced in your homeowners policy.

For example, take the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Residences near New York's World Trade Center suffered blown windows and smoke damage. In that instance, those repairs were covered. Insured property losses from the 9/11 attacks totaled nearly $23 billion in 2009 dollars, estimates the III.

But coverage of a terrorist attack isn't guaranteed since there's little precedent in the United States save for 9/11. In the unlikely event that you ever need to file a terrorism-related claim, figure your home insurer will treat it on a case-by-case basis. Besides acts of war, typical homeowners policies don't consider nuclear accidents a covered peril.

Falling objects

A limb breaking off a tree during a storm. Debris dropping from an airplane passing high overhead. Even a meteor falling from the sky. If any of those objects damage your home, rest assured your homeowners insurance should cover the repairs up to your policy limits.

Keep in mind that while the hole in your roof is covered, any ensuing damage might not be unless you make reasonable efforts to prevent further damage. If it's raining, for example, you should cover the hole with a tarp as soon as it's safe to do so to prevent more water infiltration. Wilson suggests holding off on making permanent repairs until your insurance adjuster can assess the extent of the damage.

Accidents outside the home

If someone gets hurt on your property, perhaps slipping on an icy stairwell, your homeowners policy should cover the medical bills. What you might not know is that your homeowners coverage can extend to injuries beyond the home, too.   

Let's say you're at the grocery store, and you crash your shopping cart into another patron. Your homeowners insurance would cover the other person's medical expenses. Same goes for the golf course and if you hit someone with a stray drive. As a bonus, coverage provided by a standard policy extends to anywhere in the world, not just to the United States.

Homeowners insurance excludes these types of claims related to use of a car, Wilson says. You need to rely on your auto insurance then. If you have a lot of assets to protect and you're worried about getting sued, look into umbrella insurance. An umbrella policy kicks in when you exceed the liability limits of your home and auto policies.

10 Most Expensive States
for Homeowners Insurance

1. Texas
$1,460 per year
2. Florida
$1,390 per year
3. Louisiana
$1,155 per year
4. Oklahoma
$1,048 per year
5. Massachusetts
$1,026 per year
6. New York
$983 per year
7. Connecticut (tie)
$980 per year
7. Mississippi (tie)
$980 per year
9. District of Columbia
$926 per year
10. Kansas
$916 per year
U.S. Average
$791 per year

Source: Insurance Information Institute (average annual premiums based on 2008 data)

Next: Which states have the least expensive insurance rates? »

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