Unfortunately, every few years a devastating boating or automobile incident in Muskoka occurs and reminds us of how fragile life can be. Some incidents result in property damage, but all too often the result is injury or loss of life.
The ugly truth is that these events also result in high-profile, high-value lawsuits.
These unforeseen situations can have serious financial consequences for cottagers and homeowners if they don’t have the right insurance, explains Ted Currie of BST Prestige, a division of BST Insurance Brokers Limited which exclusively handles high-net worth clients, their valuables and liability.
With more and more time spent at the cottage – and indeed many families deciding to live in Muskoka full time – there are increased chances of an unfortunate situation causing accidental injury or damage.
“When people are at their vacation home or second home, especially when hosting a gathering, there is greater exposure,” says Ted. “This is why we make sure our clients have the right liability coverage ensuring they are not exposed.”
Accidents don’t need to be alcohol-related to cause problems. A guest might slip on a wet dock, trip over a child’s toy in the dark, or stumble over the dog and fall. No matter how it happens, if someone is injured, they may end up looking for some form of compensation.
Even good friends can end up in a legal tangle, particularly if an injury prevents someone from working for an extended period or requires expensive rehabilitation.
“Having the right amount of umbrella/excess liability insurance protects you in these instances,” says Ted. “This covers liability for accidental injuries or property damage to a third party – or their valuables.”
There has never been a better time than the present to review your insurance policies – specifically the umbrella coverage – to ensure adequate limits.
“Everyone loves Muskoka and the cottage lifestyle, but there are stormy days, and you have to think about your insurance,” says Ted.
Ian Baxter, a co-owner at BST Prestige, says umbrella insurance also provides protection when other situations – such as a barbecue fire on a deck – lead to disastrous results for neighbouring properties if one were to be held liable.
Having the proper safety items such as a fire extinguisher nearby is essential for preventing a major incident, but also when it comes to a post-incident interaction with an insurance rep.
“Cottages have burned down because someone made a mistake causing the accident,” says Ian. “Whether it was a guest, a family member, or the owner themselves. Not only do you need the right policy in force but having a broker advocate for you through difficult and challenging times can make all the difference as you work with your insurer.”
BST Prestige recommends regular reviews of your policies, and not only to determine umbrella coverage. They use their expertise to examine every part of a policy, so their clients aren’t left dealing with incidents out of their own pocket.
Those who have had new builds, renovations or additions done need to be sure their insurance covers the new value of their property. As well when adding new boats, cars, or other high value items, it’s time to sit down with your broker and review your insurance policy.
“If it’s been a while since you’ve done a full review, or if you have never done one, then it’s a good idea to do one now,” says Ian. “The last thing you want is to find out you aren’t fully insured during a claim.”
Snow and ice
When reviewing their client’s policies, Ian and Ted look to find out if they have the “weight of snow and ice” included. Many older seasonal property policies historically had this excluded, but with ice damming and the subsequent water damage becoming a major issue over the years, BST Prestige isn’t taking any chances, and coverage as a whole has improved and become more available in the industry.
Fall and winter will be here sooner than anyone would like, so now is the right time to check your coverage.
“We had a lot of snow in the Muskoka region this year, and ensuring coverage for water damage during a melt, or when ice damming occurs is very important,” says Ted. “A lot of families who have had the cottage passed down over the years may have also inherited a lean policy that has simply automatically renewed without realizing that more comprehensive and superior insurance products are now available.”
Knowing their clients’ needs and how to help is part of the holistic approach to insurance the BST Prestige team brings to the table. As cottagers themselves, Ian and Ted understand the ins and outs of living in Muskoka – be it year-round or seasonally.
“We’re not just another insurance company; we’re your neighbours,” says Ian. “That’s why we understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all insurance solution for the whole area. We create custom policies for each individual’s needs.”
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN