New VR headset? Watch out for these hidden costs

The growing popularity of this interactive pastime has led to smashed TVs, broken bones, and shattered windows.

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Lisa Rabasca RoepeContributing ReporterLisa Rabasca Roepe is a contributing reporter at Policygenius, where she covers personal finance and insurance news. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Fast Company, Wired, Business Insider, Quartz, The Atlantic's CityLab, and the Boston Globe.

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Global shipments of augmented reality and virtual reality headsets increased 348.4% in 2021, according to market research firm IDC. [1]  In fact, IDC estimates that Meta sold an estimated 5.3 million to 6.8 million VR devices last year.

But the growing popularity of this interactive pastime has led to smashed TVs, broken bones, and shattered windows. That’s why Insurance experts warn that you might want to check your insurance policy before strapping on your VR headset.

In the U.K., there has been a 68% increase in VR-related accidents since 2016, according to The Guardian. [2] Although there isn’t similar data tracking VR-related accidents in the United States, insurance experts say it’s a good idea to carefully read the directions for VR use and understand your insurance coverage. 

“Similar to installing a pool or purchasing a trampoline, it’s important to understand what type of insurance you have before introducing something that could be considered more risky,” says Karen Collins, assistant vice president of personal lines for the American Property and Casualty Insurance Association, a trade group.

Did you recently purchase a VR headset? We asked experts how to make sure your insurance covers any new equipment as well as any accidental damage caused from using it.

Review your insurance coverage

To ensure you’re covered for any property damage or accidental injury, review your home insurance policy. If you hold a “named perils” policy, you will be only covered for those perils specifically named in the policy, Collins says. Those perils typically include fire, lightning, explosion, theft, and vandalism, or events such as earthquakes or floods. Check your policy’s list of “Perils Insured Against” to determine what’s included, she says.

Your insurance probably won’t cover a broken leg from crashing into furniture or a cracked TV screen unless you can prove the damage was caused by a peril listed in your policy, says Pat Howard, a licensed home insurance expert for Policygenius. However, if you hold an “open perils” policy (also known as an “all risks” policy) and you crash into a wall and cause structural damage to your home or break a window, you likely will be covered, he says. An open perils policy typically covers most risks, as long as they aren’t associated with general home wear and tear, unusual circumstances, or other specifically excluded situations. 

“The burden of proof is on the insurance company to prove the loss is not covered,” Howard says.

If you’re a homeowner with a “named perils” policy, you might consider upgrading to a more robust — and more expensive — “open perils” policy, Howard says.  But if you’re a renter or own a condo, you’re more likely to hold a “named perils” policy. Insurance coverage for a renter typically isn’t as broad as it is for homeowners, Howard says.

Take some precautions 

If there is an accident, the insurance company will examine the circumstances to determine how it occurred and whether you could have prevented the damage, Collins says. 

Take steps to prevent any accidents by reading the instructions carefully and clearing the space where you use your VR device, Collins says. These immersive, interactive games encourage players to stand up and move around as you virtually explore new worlds, battle zombies, or fly through space, so make sure you’re not going to crash into the sofa or put your fist through a nearby window. 

“Whenever you’re using a device that impairs your ability to have full awareness of your surroundings, you should abide by all the safety recommendations and use your general common sense,” Howard says. 

If you invite friends over to use your VR equipment and they’re injured, you could be liable so you might want to consider getting personal liability coverage, Howard says. This will prevent you from having to pay medical and legal-defense fees if someone is injured in your home and decides to sue you, he says.

Talk with your agent

If you’re concerned about your VR equipment being damaged in a fire or other event, these devices would be covered under the personal property section of a homeowners or renters insurance policy, subject to any applicable deductible, Collins says. 

“In a homeowners policy, your personal belongings are already covered and that would cover your TV and VR headset,” Howard says.

However, you may want to talk with your agent about supplemental policies that provide additional protection for VR equipment, such as headsets and related accessories. These policies could cover certain types of losses, such as for accidental damage, theft or equipment breakdown. Insurance companies often have a $2,500 cap on the amount they pay for luxury items that are considered attractive to thieves, such as fine jewelry, fur coats, and certain electronics, Howard says. Consider asking your agent about adding scheduled personal property coverage to your homeowners policy. It will allow you to increase the reimbursement limits on certain items and cover more types of loss, including accidental damage. 

“There is a lot of new, fun, and innovative technology and insurance companies are working to make sure we can provide coverage for these new technologies,” Collins says.

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