Car insurance and riots: Essential guide for policyholders

Businesses across the country suffered destruction over the weekend as protesters unleashed their anger over the death of George Floyd on commercial enterprises - from the offices of major multinational corporations to local, family-owned small shops.

Numerous cars were also destroyed by rioters, for simply being parked at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Compare-autoinsurance advises car owners to remove their cars from areas where riots may start, typical popular places and governmental buildings.

Many may wonder who pays for the damage caused by rioting and civil unrest. Can auto or homeowners’ insurance cover the damage? Is it covered the same as vandalism or other criminal activity? The short answer is yes. Insurance can cover the losses, less a deductible, subject to the terms and conditions of the policy. On a “standard” personal auto policy, the vehicle’s comprehensive coverage covers damage caused by riot and civil unrest, just is it does for vandalism or theft.

Why the need for the disclaimer, “subject to the terms and conditions of your policy”? In order for any loss to be covered it must not violate any of the terms and conditions. This can include prompt reporting of the loss and it was accidental, not intentionally nor invited by the insured. The insured has an obligation to mitigate losses by taking reasonable measures to protect their property.

What steps to follow after discovering that the car was damaged by looters:

  • Document the scene of vandalism. Don’t clean up the damage and take photos of any damage done to the vehicle. This will strengthen the police report and validate the claim to the insurer.

  • Call the police and file a report. Insurance companies will require a police report. Official documentation will also help victims if they plan filing a lawsuit later.

  • Contact the insurance company. The insurance agent will answer any questions will provide further assistance.

  • Speak to a claims adjuster. The insurance company may send a claims adjuster to assess the damage. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, the owner will be asked to provide the pictures, so that the damage is evaluated.

  • Repair the damage. The insurance company will make recommendations or instructions about where to repair the vehicle, if that’s possible.

  • Negotiate a claim settlement. Keep in mind that companies pay for the car’s Actual Cash Value. Do not accept the first offer, since it is usually the lowest offer, but bring arguments for settling to a higher reimbursement value.