Will your insurer always pay out?

When the sun comes out and the weather warms up, many of us head for the garden but fun in the sun can be costly if you haven't invested in the right seasonal cover.

Whether you are throwing a garden party, setting off for a family holiday or hosting an August wedding, don't let the warm weather turn into a headache – read on to make sure you are properly insured for fun this summer.

Garden theft

Sunnier days and lighter evenings are perfect for barbecues but the longer days also encourage garden thieves.

In fact, theft from gardens, sheds and garages shoots up by more than 12% over the summer months. According to figures from Lloyds Bank Home Insurance, the average claim for unforced burglary last summer was £900.

What is more, according to the latest ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW ), around 777,000 thefts from outside the home were recorded last year, representing 11% of all recorded property crime.

"We know that the majority of thefts from gardens and sheds are opportunistic, so it is worrying to see so many people leaving themselves exposed by investing in gardens without adequate insurance," says Tim Downes, senior claims manager at Lloyds Bank Insurance.

Bear in mind that those who keep items such as bikes or gym equipment in their outdoor sheds will also require cover, so it's important to keep these as secure as possible to ensure your insurance remains valid.

"When it comes to protecting our properties, homeowners must remember that what's on the outside also counts, so taking some small easy steps could help prevent having to stump up for lost garden goods should the worst happen," says Downes.

Avoid your expensive statue or costly plants going missing by taking steps to ensure they remain secure. For instance, permanently fix the sculpture on to a purpose-made concrete foundation block by drilling a hole into the base of the item and cementing it on to a metal rod. Planting through chicken wire, then covering the area with soil or mulch can secure large plantings of new shrubs, while using locking brackets can protect hanging flower baskets.

You should also be wary of leaving windows open on a hot night – it makes the burglar's job that much easier and can potentially invalidate your home insurance as many policies include a clause stipulating that you must take 'reasonable care' of your property and possessions.

Different insurers and policies will deal with unforced entry claims in different ways but whether you know your insurer's attitude to this point or not, you should always make it as difficult as possible for thieves to get in.

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Summer parties

When it comes to fun in the sun, it's not just thieves you must protect yourself against: many of us will be throwing garden parties this summer and hosts must consider the potentially catastrophic costs if an accident occurs without adequate cover.

While most insurers cater for these in their basic home package under contents or building cover, those who have opted for a cheaper policy may not be protected from liability should an accident occur.

Trampolines are the latest craze among children in the UK but figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) indicate that almost four in 10 children who hurt themselves on trampolines are so badly injured that they require surgery. Approximately three-quarters of injuries occur when more than one person is on the trampoline and the person weighing less is five times more likely to be injured.

If you are not fully insured against this kind of mishap, the cost of medical bills and/or repairing damage can snowball, so you should check with your insurance provider to see how extensively you are covered.

"If someone is injured on a trampoline, you won't automatically be deemed liable – but if the equipment was faulty or children weren't properly supervised, you could be blamed and sued, especially if there are medical and care bills for treatments not provided
by the NHS," says Kevin Pratt, insurance expert at MoneySuperMarket.com.

"You'll have cover under your home insurance policies but it's worth checking to see if the amount that would be paid out is realistic."

Remember that legal costs for liability claims can vary widely depending on the severity of the claim.

Any case involving serious injury to a child is likely to be very expensive to resolve as there are many factors – including long-term care, adapted living accommodation and medical expenses.

This highlights the importance of ensuring that as well as being protected for physical damage, you may want to consider cover for legal expenses, should you be challenged and taken to court. Individual insurers' legal expenses cover can vary but most policies state that as long as it is agreed beforehand in writing, the insurer will pay all defence costs and expenses. It makes sense to check that you have adequate cover.

The staycation

With family finances being squeezed, research by BDRC Continental shows that almost half of us are opting for a 'staycation' this year. But while holidaying close to home might save money, forgoing insurance could be a costly mistake.

While a standard travel insurance policy will provide what you need in terms of cancellation or baggage cover and personal liability, just because you haven't jetted off to a far-flung destination does not mean you do not need protection.

"Travel insurance is useful for UK holidaymakers in case they need to cancel their trip because of illness or bereavement, or lost or stolen baggage," explains Pratt.

"But you'll need to be staying more than 20 miles from home and for a minimum of two nights. The cost will be low compared to international policies because any medical problems will probably be taken care of by the NHS. In fact, you can probably get cover for a family for under £20."

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If you're planning to get hitched this summer, you may want to consider arranging wedding insurance to cover the big day. Planning a wedding is costly and while it might seem like an unappealing outlay, this type of insurance can save you thousands if anything goes wrong.

"With the average wedding now costing £21,000, wedding insurance is a must-buy – especially as you can get policies for under £50, or even less if yours is a relatively modest affair," says Pratt.

"As with any insurance, it is there to protect you from the unexpected. If you need to cancel your wedding due to an unexpected illness or extreme weather conditions, then having wedding cancellation insurance will help cover the costs to re-arrange the wedding."

Not only that, but it will cover the cost of wedding vendors such as caterers, photographers or car-hire companies, who fail to supply. You will also find cover to protect the most important parts of the wedding - the wedding dress and the wedding rings. Costs can be recovered to repair and/or replace these items in the event of damage, loss or even theft.

It's sensible to keep track of your spending, save receipts and make sure you buy cover that's sufficient for your needs.

Bear in mind that there is a huge variation between different wedding insurance policies in terms of special features and types of cover. Although price will always play a role in which product to choose, it is important that you place more emphasis on the features offered by different wedding insurance policies to ensure you arrange the cover that best meets your needs.

Wedding insurance policies list all the elements of cover they provide, and the sum they will insure up to for each of these elements.

"There are a number of policies to compare, differing in price and the coverage they offer," says Pratt. "Always read the terms and conditions and pick the policy that suits you best. While wedding insurance will not cover you if either the bride or groom gets cold feet, some policies do cover the cost of any counselling that may be required as a result."

One way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to visit Defaqto.com, where couples can see a star ratings system, which outlines the benefits policies offer.

Remember that some home insurance policies may include cover for a wedding, or offer the possibility of extending cover, which may be cheaper than taking out an additional policy.

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