Holiday Claims

These Are the 4th of July Claims Underwriters Fear Most

From fireworks to boating accidents, July 4th brings out some hefty summertime claims.
By: | June 27, 2018 • 5 min read

Every year we gather ’round for fireworks and fun, but did you know the 4th of July is considered one of the most dangerous holidays in the United States?

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“What we don’t always realize is that the 4th of July has people gathering together for good times and drinking. It’s summertime and they want to be on the water, which gets us into boating accidents,” said Coleman Brown, vice president, loss control, CBIZ Insurance Services.

“Now combine that with fireworks [and their risks]. Plus there is eating, and food safety becomes a big part. It’s hot, so people need to hydrate to avoid dehydration. It’s a lot of risks for one day.”

Fireworks

We ooh and aah each 4th of July as fireworks light up the night sky. But, the truth is, fireworks are scary things.

People can be killed or injured by these explosives. Burns are most common, while injuring and even losing a hand to premature explosions are a close second. Loud bangs can damage human ears, and pets can find their way to the vet each July 5th with ruptured eardrums.

“People are not used to handling fireworks. They don’t take the time to support a firework with a sand base,” said Brown. He added that about 8,000 to 9,000 individuals each year need some sort of ER treatment for firework-related injuries.

One of the biggest culprits of injury is the least expected: “The metal sparklers we give to kids — if you touch the top of that sparkler, it’s 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That can easily start a brush fire. If unattended, that could become a big problem.”

Additionally, cars and buildings are not immune to a firework blaze, and entire forests have been known to go up in smoke thanks to a rogue rocket.

Brown estimated underwriters see about $43 million in direct property costs each year from fireworks.

“It’s always advisable for people to go to public displays put on by professionals,” said Brown. But, if others choose to create their own firework magic, “have a bucket of water available. Have a hose available. Create a designated area with minimal combustible materials away from homes, dry leaves and trees,” he said.

For more at-home safety tips, visit the American Pyrotechnics Association.

Drunk Drivers

The 4th of July is a time for celebration! It’s our nation’s birthday, after all, and for many that means celebrating independence with a toast … or two … or three.

The issue comes in when people decide to drive after their festivities. An estimated 34.3 million people travel by car each 4th. That’s a lot of extra people on the road.

According to Esurance, 40 percent of highway deaths between 2007 and 2011 were caused by drunk driving accidents over the July 4th weekends.

A 2016 4th of July report showed 188 people were killed in drunk driving crashes.

“Ensure that those who decide to drink do not drive an automobile, operate a boat or shoot off fireworks,” Brown said. “Have a designated operator, driver or shooter.”

Drowning Risks

Summer is known as the time for swimming in pools, lakes and the ocean. This also makes summer the key time for drowning incidents, especially for children.

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It only takes a few seconds for the fun in the sun to turn deadly. The USA Swimming Foundation reported that at least 163 children younger than age 15 drowned between Memorial Day 2017 and Labor Day 2017. Nearly 70 percent of the victims were 5 and under.

The USA Swimming Foundation also stated that no child is ever 100 percent water safe — but formal swimming lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88 percent.

What makes the 4th particularly heinous for swimmers is the extra amount of people in the water. It’s not that lifeguards, or parents for that matter, aren’t attentive; it’s that there is a lot to watch during a 4th of July celebration and a drowning can happen in seconds. The best thing to do is teach basic swimming and water safety to children and never leave a swimmer unattended.

Food Safety

“Cooking and food safety are very important for a safe and enjoyable holiday,” said Brown.

He gave the examples of coleslaw, potato or macaroni salad, all 4th of July staples.

Every year, these side dishes accompany barbecues across the country. With a mayonnaise base, this particular dish is not safe sitting in the sun, yet that’s where it lives each 4th.

“Never leave out for more than two hours at a time, and keep them on ice,” he warned.

Undercooked meat and food contamination also plague festivities each year.

Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter are the top bacteria responsible for causing an estimated 76 million cases of food-borne disease in the U.S. every year, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Grilling Accidents

Though grilling is a summer activity, the 4th may bring out the worst in your George Foreman.

“Grilling accidents happen when people leave the grill unattended,” said Claudia Cervantes, personal lines claims consultant, Golden Bear. There could be leaks in the propane lines or a buildup of grease, and explosions or fires can occur, she said.

“Failure to clean is a leading cause of fires.”

Cervantes also noted that, every year, fire departments respond to nearly 10,000 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues, which could add up to more than $133 million in direct property damage per year.

Smoke, soot and ash can also be an issue.

“There’s cleaning your property. But smoke and ash can also get inside, into the AC unit and ducts,” Cervantes added.

So here is what you can do to prevent a grill fire:

  • Check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line for any leaks or blockages
  • Don’t overfill the propane tank
  • Wear tighter-fitting clothes around an open grill flame
  • Don’t add lighter fluid to an already-lit grill
  • Douse hot coals with plenty of water and stir them to guarantee the fire is out
  • Grill outdoors; indoor grilling is a slippery slope to carbon monoxide poisoning

Boating Incidents

 The American Boating Association calls the 4th of July “the busiest, and often deadliest time of the boating season.”

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Why?

Boating activity increases during the summer months, particularly on the three top holidays — the 4th, Memorial Day and Labor Day. More boats in the water leads to higher rates of accidents. Often, the holidays are the first and only time people enter into the water as a boat captain, too, which places inexperienced drivers in the middle of uncharted waters — literally.

Every year, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers several tips to stay safe on the 4th, including always wearing a life vest, never mixing alcohol with boating and being aware of the other boats on the water. &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

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The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.

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R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.

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R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]