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Space debris, cow stampedes, and hot tubs: 26 surprising things covered by insurance

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Austin Bachand/Daily News-Record/AP/File

(Read caption) Cows stand by a pond after a rain storm on Thursday, June 4 off of Grassy Creek Road near Harrisonburg, Va. If you live next to a ranch, it's good to know that property damage caused by a herd of spooked cattle is covered by homeowners insurance.

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As the daughter of a retired insurance underwriter, I get my fair share of "Did you call your insurance agent?" when I tell my mother about this mishap or that. I'm constantly reminded of things that my insurance covers.  Rocks thrown through my car window during an alley fight? Covered. The long scratch someone keyed into my car door less than a week after I bought it? Covered. The rock that chipped my windshield when I was following a truck full of gravel? Covered.

That's all pretty common policy stuff, though. Glass coverage and car damage are the things we generally already know we're paying for. What else is hiding in your policy?

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A few important notes before we dive into this list: Every insurance policy is different. The coverage limits are different. Deductibles are different. Something that is automatically included in one policy requires a special endorsement and costs extra in another. Whether a claim is approved or denied might even depend on whose desk it lands on and whether or not they've had their morning coffee. Just because we list it here doesn't mean your policy covers it, only that we know that there are insurance policies out there that do. The best thing to do is to call your insurance agent or provider and ask.

Also, this list is far from exhaustive. As I was told while researching this article, if it isn't specifically excluded, then it's probably covered. The bottom line here is that as a frugal-minded consumer, before you start spending your own money on fixing whatever went wrong, you should always call your insurance agent to ask if your policy covers it.

13 Things Covered by Homeowners Insurance

Accidents Away from Home
Random accidents that happen when you're away from home and that don't involve any vehicles are generally covered by your homeowner's insurance. So if you accidentally break someone's nose during a tennis match while on vacation, file a liability claim through your homeowners policy.

Dog Bites
Roughly one-third of homeowners claims are for dog bites. Most policies provide $100,000 to $300,000 of liability coverage related to injuries caused by your pets, plus some medical coverage for the injured party.

Dorm-Room Burglary
If your college kid's stuff is stolen from their dorm room, you can file a claim through your homeowners policy. Yep, even though they left and took all their stuff with them to college, they still get to take advantage of your off-premises personal property coverage. However, they must be full-time students, living on campus, and under age 26. Students living off campus are on shakier ground here and may need to get a renter's policy, but this varies from one policy to the next.

Fire Department Bills
It's not uncommon for the fire department to send you a bill after they are called to your house. Depending on the reason, your homeowners policy may cover it.

Gravestones
If you're the primary caretaker, even if you didn't buy it, and even if it isn't kept on your property, many policies consider it personal property. So if your family member's headstone is vandalized, call your agent.

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Identity Theft
Some policies will help out with expenses when your identity is stolen, including lawyer fees, lost wages, and fees charged for reapplying for loans if you were rejected based on inaccurate credit bureau information.

Libel and Slander
Yep, your libelous, slanderous deeds are covered by homeowners liability insurance. So when your kid slanders their ex-best friend to their new best friends on Facebook, the liability portion of your homeowners policy kicks in to help cover the bite to your bank account when the ex-best friend's parents sue you.

Mandatory Upgrades
Let's say your city passes a new ordinance that forces you to make some costly property improvements in order to bring it up to code. Chances are good that your homeowners insurance will cover the cost. Look for ordinance coverage in your policy.

Meteorites & Space Debris
The odds of your house getting smacked by anything from outer space are slim, but it has happened - just ask poor Ann Hodgeswho was taking a nap on her couch when a meteorite tore through her roof and hit her while she slept. Meteorites, satellites, and occasionally bits and pieces of airplanes flying overhead all are covered under a "falling objects" clause in most policies. This coverage isn't limited to houses, either. Your comprehensive auto covers damage from falling objects, and your life insurance policy will pay out to your beneficiaries if you're struck dead by space rocks.

Riots & Terrorist Attacks
Did rioters loot your tool shed? Your homeowner's insurance has you covered. Did Blackhawks fans dance on your car roof? Your auto insurance has your back. Same goes for damage caused by terrorist attacks (like explosions and fires), though many policies have specific exclusions with regards to terrorist activity. At any rate, as soon as someone declares war, you're probably out of luck.

Spoiled Food
If a power outage causes your freezer to thaw and your food to spoil, call your insurance agent to see if you can file a claim. Most policies will cover spoiled groceries up to $500. Sadly, the spoiled food coverage doesn't apply if it's just because your ancient fridge bit the dust.

Stampeding Cows
It sounds kind of silly, doesn't it? But if you live next to a ranch, it's good to know that property damage caused by a herd of spooked cattle is covered. If the cows belong to your neighbor, though, it's more likely their insurance company will be the one to pay for the damage.

Volcanic Eruptions
Coverage for earthquake damage require special endorsements, and for floods you have to buy special insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. But if your house gets torched by lava, most homeowners policies cover that without any special add-ons required.

7 Things Covered by Health Insurance

Diapers for Kids 3+
Diapers for older kids with disabilities that have kept them from being potty trained by the age of 3 are often covered by your health insurance, so long as they're prescribed by your pediatrician.

Breast Pumps
The Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance providers to cover the cost of breast pumps for new mothers, though whether you can get a manual or electric depends on what your doctor recommends.

Hot Tubs
The catch here is that you need to have a legitimate medical reason for it, so this is a no-go if you don't have a prescription from your doctor, sorry. On the other hand, if you do need it for theraputic reasons, your insurer may cover the cost.

Hypoallergenic Baby Formula
Parents of babies who need prescription formula can often get reimbursed for the cost through their health insurance. We hear that it's tough to get the insurance company to honor it even when it is clearly stated in your policy, but at least 12 states mandate that insurance cover prescription formula.

Massages
If you get regular massages for chronic pain, ask your doctor or therapist to write a prescription. Your health insurance may cover it.

Vacations
Believe it or not, some health insurance providers actually offer financial incentives for you to go on vacation. If you're skeptical, check out Blue Cross Blue Shield. We found them offering 10% off and a $50 dining credit at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts through their Blue365 program, which basically makes them our hero.

Weight Loss Counseling
If you got your insurance through the Affordable Care Act (you know, "Obamacare"), then you might be eligible for free weight-loss counseling. If you get your health coverage through your employer, some programs offer discounted gym memberships. Taking advantage of insurance-sponsored preventive care programs can also net you lower premiums and deductibles. We even heard about some programs handing out gift cards as rewards!

6 Things Covered by Car Insurance

Car Seats
Replacing your child's car seat after an accident is a very, very good idea, even if it doesn't appear to be damaged - and your auto insurance may cover the cost.

Defense Attorneys
Believe it or not, your auto liability can help pay for your legal costs if an accident lands you in court. Look for something in your policy like "We will settle or defend as we consider appropriate" to see if your auto insurer might pitch in for your legal defense.

Lost Wages
If you've got Personal Injury Protection (PIP) on your auto policy, you can use it to recover a portion of your lost wages when an auto accident injury causes you to miss work.

Pet Injuries
Sure, you know that your car insurance will cover your injuries in an accident, but they may also cover your veterinarian bills if your favorite furry companion is injured as well. The catch to most policies that provide this coverage, however, is that the accident must not be your fault. This varies from one company to the next, so it may be a good idea to shop around for a policy that does provide that coverage if you travel with pets on a regular basis. Even if you don't have pet coverage on your policy, there's a good chance the other driver's insurance will cover injuries to your pets through their property damage liability coverage.

Pothole Damage
Did you know that most auto insurers consider hitting a pothole to be a collision? Good to know for us Chicagoans who emerge from winter to find a moonscape has replaced the city streets.

Rodent Damage
Believe or not, rodent damage to cars isn't so obscure as you probably think. During my freshman year of college, I left my car at home rather than pay to park it on campus, and it sat, untouched for months, in an old driveway next to a corn field at the far end of our property. When I came home that summer, I discovered a family of mice had taken up residence in my glovebox, leaving a mess of mouse pee and shredded documents. (Ever try explaining to the cop who pulled you over that a mouse ate your vehicle registration? It's about as effective as telling your teacher that the dog ate your homework.) More recently in Colorado, it wasn't mice but rabbits that were busy snacking on the ignition cables of cars in long-term parking at Denver International Airport. Well, at least the damage is probably covered by your auto insurance. Look for a clause that includes "other than collision" to see if you've got coverage for damage done by mice, squirrels, and yes, cute little bunny rabbits.

This article first appeared in Brad's Deals.