Will My Homeowner’s Policy Cover Property Damage Resulting from Rioting?

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

During the last several years, civil disturbances that range from rather vocal protests to full scale riots have erupted across the U.S. related to allegations of acts of racially motivated interactions between law enforcement officers and African-Americans.  Although the Trayvon Martin incident was not precisely the same because George Zimmerman was a private citizen engaged in his own informal neighborhood watch, the roots of the “Black Lives Matter” group trace back to the Trayvon Martin incident that resulted in an unarmed African-American’s shooting death at the hands of Zimmerman.  With the number of high profile incidents related to this type of violence affecting communities across the U.S., many property owners are wondering whether they are protected from loss in the event of a riot in the neighborhood of their business or home.

Many policyholders will have coverage if their home, furnishings, business, or motor vehicle is damaged, but there are limitations that policyholders need to be aware exist.  Most people with active property damage policies would have coverage to some extent whether the policy is a homeowner’s policy or a commercial policy.  Almost all business and homeowner policies include “riots and civil commotions” as a covered peril.  Further, many policies include “looting” within the definition of “riots and civil commotions.”

Since the typical homeowner’s policy provides compensation to rebuild or repair the covered residence as well as personal property in the home, homeowners will generally receive compensation for riot damage.  Damage from fire, which might constitute the biggest form of loss during a riot, also will typically be covered depending on the specific terms of the policy.

While property owners will typically benefit from this type of liberal grant of coverage for riots, there are some limits that apply.  If an owner of a motor vehicle carries only liability coverage without collision and comprehensive coverage, the individual’s vehicle might be left uncovered if it is set on fire during a period of civil unrest.  In many states, collision and comprehensive coverage is an option rather than mandatory, but this form of additional coverage can be critical when a policyholder’s vehicle is damaged in a riot.

Similarly, commercial policyholders will generally have coverage though certain exclusions might apply unless additional coverage is purchased.  If a business like a restaurant has commercial coverage, the owner will generally be covered for a direct loss.  This coverage typically will provide reimbursement for lost profits during the period of a shutdown.  However, the issue becomes less clear when the loss of profits is caused by actions of a civil authority, such as a government imposed curfew.  If the business does not suffer any direct damage from the riot, this scenario also is more ambiguous in terms of coverage for lost profits if the owner has purchased civil authority coverage.  However, personal property like coverage for the facility generally will be covered.

While we have tried to present a general overview of some coverage issues related to riots, the specific language of your policy and other factors might determine whether you are protected in the event of civil unrest.  Our Miami insurance claims law firm invites you to contact us if you are having difficulties with your insurance company.  Florida insurance claims lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo handles claims against insurance companies in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations.  No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees.  Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.

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