Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family, enjoy a delicious feast, and reflect on the things that people are thankful for in their life. The last thing people expect to happen on Thanksgiving is a serious car accident, a kitchen fire, or that a family member’s home is broken into while they are visiting a loved one. Unfortunately, these accidents happen every year and can cause serious property damage. Fortunately, there are steps homeowners can take to prevent these accidents that can cause serious injuries and property damage. However, if a kitchen fire, car accident, or some other unexpected accident does occur, an experienced property damage lawyer can closely review the client’s homeowner’s insurance policy and assist with the claims process.
What Are the Most Common Thanksgiving Hazards That Cause Property Damage?
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are more house fires caused by cooking equipment on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. Too many cooks in the kitchen and multiple dishes being prepared at one time can cause people to lose track of food that is in the oven or on the stove. Cooks can become distracted and leave oven mitts, napkins, or wooden spoons too close to the flame. Hot oil from a deep-fried turkey can cause serious burns and other injuries. The following are some of the most common safety issues related to Thanksgiving:
Kitchen fires: It is easy to get distracted when there are so many people in the kitchen, particularly if alcohol is being consumed while prepping and cooking. Moreover, kitchen fires can spread very quickly. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were approximately 2,400 residential fires on Thanksgiving between 2014 and 2016, which resulted in five fatalities, 25 injuries, and $19 million in property damage. On Thanksgiving and throughout the year, cooking is the leading cause of house fires, particularly when cooks are not paying attention to the food that is in the oven or on the stove. Homeowners are urged to keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Check on the food frequently, particularly if there is food on the stove and in the oven. For dishes that take longer to cook, such as the turkey, the timer should be set so that food is not left in the oven for too long and overcook or burn.
- The house should not be left empty if there is food in the oven or on the stove.
- The workspace should be cleaned often, and cooks need to make sure that oven mitts, paper towels, napkins, and other flammable items are not left too close to the oven’s flame.
- Those preparing the meal should avoid wearing loose, billowing clothing when cooking. If the fabric gets too close to the flame, it can easily catch on fire.
- Homeowners must make sure that all the smoke alarms are working, and that the batteries have been replaced recently.
- Drinking alcohol should be avoided while cooking.
Deep frying a turkey: There are many people who purport that there is no better way to cook a turkey than to deep fry it. However, any cooking method that involves a large amount of scalding hot oil has its risks. For example, turkey fryers are known to tip over. If too much oil is used, it can splash onto the burner, which is dangerous because overly hot oil can ignite and cause a fire. In addition, the fryer, as well as the hot cooking oil, can cause severe burns. According to the NFPA, fires caused by turkey fryers are responsible for approximately five fatalities, 60 injuries, the destruction of roughly 900 homes, and over $15 million in property damage each year. When frying a turkey, cooks should keep the following safety tips in mind:
- A turkey fryer should never be used inside or in a garage. It should be used outside, on a flat surface, a safe distance from the house, wooden decks, or covered patios.
- A fire extinguisher should be kept nearby and be ready to use if necessary.
- A turkey fryer should never be left unattended. A thermometer should be used to monitor the oil temperature to make sure that it does not get too hot or catch fire.
- A frozen turkey should not be placed into hot oil. The turkey needs to be completely thawed out first.
- Children and pets should not be anywhere near a turkey fryer.
Car accidents: Unfortunately, car accidents are more common during the holiday season because of a number of factors, including heavy traffic, speeding, distracted driving, and drunk driving. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, in 2017, the only holiday that had more travel-related fatalities was Independence Day. Holiday travelers are urged to take the following steps to reach their destination safely:
- Motorists must not drink and drive. This should be obvious, but people continue to get behind the wheel after having too much to drink during a holiday celebration. Travelers should either plan to stay the night, pick a designated driver, or arrange for a ride home with a cab or a ride-sharing service.
- Drivers should allow for extra travel time. Thanksgiving weekend is known for having heavy traffic. In addition, the weather can be unpredictable this time of year. Drivers who take their time are less likely to drive too fast, tailgate, or swerve in and out of lanes.
- Loose items in the car should be secured. Keys, cups, food, and other loose items can cause injuries if they strike the occupants of the vehicle in an accident. Pets should also be properly secured in a harness of a safety belt so that they are not injured if the driver must brake suddenly.
- Drivers should pack an emergency kit that includes things such as flashlights, extra blankets, water, non-perishable food items, extra batteries, and a first-aid kit.
Break-ins: According to the American Heritage Group, when homeowners are traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, their home may be vulnerable to break-ins. Unfortunately, thieves understand that homes are likely to be empty for days at a time over the Thanksgiving holiday, and they will take full advantage of the situation. There are proactive steps that homeowners can take to protect their belongings while they are away, including the following:
- Families should not post travel plans on social media. If a criminal sees the post and knows that the home will be vacant, they are more likely to break into the home. Homeowners should wait until they return from their trip to post pictures on social media outlets.
- Homeowners can put indoor lights on a timer and use motion detectors for outdoor lights. This can help deter people from trying to break into the home.
- Valuables such as jewelry, family heirlooms, and important financial documents should be locked up in a safe.
- Homeowners should arrange to have mail held or ask a neighbor to collect mail from the home. If a burglar sees mail accumulating outside the house, it can tip him or her off that the homeowners are away.
- A yard service company can be hired to clear away snow, ice, or leaves so it looks like the home is occupied.
- Homeowners should consider investing in an outdoor security system that can be monitored from anywhere.
How Can Homeowners Protect Their Property While They Are Away?
Homeowners should take the following steps to avoid potential problems:
- All appliances must be turned off before leaving the house, including washers, dryers, and dishwashers.
- Homeowners should turn off the water to the washing machine hose. If a hose breaks while no one is home, it can cause severe water damage.
- If there is an alarm in the home, it should be set before leaving the house. Many security alarms are equipped with fire alarms as well.
- Homeowners should consider investing in deadbolts, as they provide an additional level of security beyond the regular door lock.
- The pipes should be wrapped during the cold weather. This will help prevent them from freezing and bursting. Keeping the water heater on can also help prevent pipes from freezing.
What Precautions Can Be Taken for Those Hosting Thanksgiving?
When hosting a group of guests at one’s home, homeowners are urged to review their insurance policies to make sure that they are protected in the event of an unexpected accident. For example, before hosts send out invitations, it is highly recommended that they check the social host liability laws in the state so that they know their liability if a guest is injured or the property is damaged. Depending on the homeowner’s policy, it may deny protection for social host liability or it may limit the coverage, or it may not provide any coverage for a guest who gets behind the wheel after having too much to drink. Most insurance agents recommend carrying between $300,000 and $500,000 in liability protection. The Insurance Information Institute suggests that individuals who own a home and a vehicle should purchase an umbrella policy for as much as $1 million.
Los Angeles Property Damage Lawyers at ACTS Law Assist Clients with Property Damage Claims
If a fire, a car accident, or some other unexpected incident caused damage to your property, you are urged to contact the Los Angeles property damage lawyers at ACTS Law at your earliest convenience. We will closely review your insurance policy and thoroughly explain the financial benefits you are entitled to receive. Our skilled legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process and address all your questions and concerns. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online.
With offices located in San Diego and Los Angeles, we serve clients throughout Southern California, including Orange County and Los Angeles County, encompassing Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Hidden Hills, Pasadena, San Marino, Brentwood, Encino, Newport Beach, and Foresthill.