Riot, Vandalism And Civil Commotion Insurance

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Riot, Vandalism And Civil Commotion Insurance

Riot, Vandalism And Civil Commotion Insurance

Riot, Vandalism And Civil Commotion Insurance. The subject of damage to property due to riots and civil commotion is, by no means, a new issue. As a cause of loss (peril), riots and civil commotion have become a covered source of loss since shortly after our country's Civil Rights period of the 1960s.

Widespread property damage that occurred when many protestors and law enforcement resorted to violence was first handled by emergency funds from the Federal Government. Later, as disturbances abated, private insurers began offering protection under standard residential and commercial property insurance forms.

The latest, heightened interest in this source of loss has occurred during the Pandemic when crowds around the nation demonstrated in opposition to deaths of persons at the result of police arrests. A number of protests included confrontation with various authorities and outside, opposing groups that, in some dangerous instances, devolved into violence and destruction.

While police shootings and political protests have been the focal points of most riots, other incidents have involved tax protests, anger with post-hurricane aide, sports championship celebrations, pipeline construction and crowds staking and taking over (occupying) various sites and buildings. Riot, vandalism and civil commotion insurance can protect against damage caused by fire, riots, vandalism, or civil commotion.

Riot, vandalism and civil commotion insurance is crucial to protect your business from property damage in the event of a riot or civil disturbance. Learn how riot and civil commotion coverage can help your business rebuild from related damages.

What Is The Definition Of Riot, Vandalism And Civil Commotion Insurance?

Neither "riot" or "civil commotion" are defined by insurance contracts. This means that riot, vandalism and civil commotion insurance source of loss relies upon common definitions.

What Is The Common Definition Of A Riot?

A riot is generally understood to be highly visible, violent public disturbances that involve crowds. While a large number of people are typically participants in such disturbances, as few as three persons can constitute a crowd.

Black's Law Dictionary refers to it as a public disturbance that involves either of the following:

  • "An act or acts of violence by one or more persons making up part of an assemblage of three or more persons, which act, or acts shall constitute a clear and present danger of, or shall result in, damage or injury to the property of any other person or to the person of any other individual
  • A threat or threats to commit an act or acts of violence by one or more persons part of an assemblage of three or more persons having, individually or collectively, the ability of immediate execution of such threat or threats, where the performance of the threatened act or acts of violence would constitute a clear and present danger of, or would result in, damage or injury to the property of any person or to the person of any other individual."

A rioter is a person who participates with two or more others in a course of disorderly conduct in any of the following ways:

  • With purpose to commit or facilitate committing a felony or misdemeanor
  • With purpose to prevent or coerce official action
  • When the actor or any other participant to the knowledge of the actor uses or plans to use a firearm or other deadly weapon

Black's Law Dictionary ends its definition of riot by referring to unlawful assembly.

Bouvier's Law Dictionary suggests a riot is composed of the following, five elements:

  • Three or more persons must be involved.
  • There must be a common purpose.
  • There must be an actual inception or execution of that purpose.
  • There must be an attempt to help one another or to cooperate by force if necessary.
  • There must be a display of force or violence such as to alarm a person of reasonable courage.

Typically, common understanding of rioting extends to threats of violence as well as looting (theft of merchandise or belongings from property damaged during the violent, public disturbance). Such theft, even without damaging property, qualifies a person as a looter/rioter.

What Is The Common Definition Of A Civil Commotion?

This is a disturbance among, or a popular uprising of, a large number of people. Some court decisions have described it as "an uprising among a mass of people which occasions a serious and prolonged disturbance and an infraction of civil order, not attaining the status of war or armed insurrection."

Even with the reference to warlike activity, civil commotion is not distinguishable from rioting.

Why Is Riot, Vandalism, And Civil Commotion Insurance Important?

Riots/civil disturbance may take the form in many different ways, such as the following examples:

  • Violent street behavior accompanying a World Trade Organization meeting
  • Demonstrations that erupt in a neighborhood over a child custody dispute
  • Worker strikes that escalate into acts of violence
  • Police action shootings that trigger multiple, violent demonstrations
  • Violence that arises out of protests over enforcement of immigration policies
  • Disturbances arising out of immigrants protesting events in their native countries
  • Environmentalists who resort to violence while protesting or engaging in civil disobedience

Many of these and similar events involve damage to business and residential property. Sometimes, damaged property has been targeted.

Business and residential property owners have concerns with these frightening events and the coverage that applies. Commercial property, homeowners, and dwelling property policies generally cover losses caused by riot and civil commotion.

Insurance companies and agents can respond to these questions by reviewing the applicable coverage forms and causes of loss or perils involved. Coverage applies to direct physical loss or damage caused by riot or civil commotion, regardless of the causes of loss or perils insured form used.

Does coverage apply to merchandise or other contents removed from property during a riot? Generally, coverage applies to looting that occurs at the time and place of rioting. If thefts take place significantly after such disturbances, riot coverage is inapplicable.

The expectation, both to meet insurance company and public safety concerns, is that damaged property be secured as quickly as is safe to do so.

The elements necessary to determine if an event is a riot or civil commotion are always the same, regardless if proof is revealed in a civil action or a criminal proceeding. Using the criteria outlined above, a single or random act of destruction without a common purpose is defined as vandalism or malicious mischief.

When there are coordinated acts of violence and destruction with a common purpose, that qualifies as riot and civil commotion.

This distinction is especially important when applying the commercial lines vacancy clause which excludes acts of vandalism to buildings vacant for 60 or more consecutive days. The same clause covers loss or damage caused by a riot or civil commotion, subject to a 15% penalty. This protection does not extend to loss that includes any form of military or war activity.

Riot, Vandalism, And Civil Commotion Insurance - The Bottom Line

Most property insurance policies have enough built-in riot, vandalism and civil commotion insurance coverage - both in commercial and personal lines policies. If you think your business is at a higher risk, there are specialty stand-alone policies that offer higher coverage limits.

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Small Business Insurance Articles

Get useful tips and information about how much commercial insurance costs, small business risks and exposures, how insurance regulations effect your businesses' and detailed descriptions of coverages and exclusions and more. Most small businesses need to buy the following four types of insurance at a minimum to cover their operations from every day risks:

Property Insurance: This policy covers a business if the property used in the business is damaged or stolen as the result of common perils like fire or theft. Commercial property insurance covers the buildings, structures and also business personal property - which includes furniture, inventory, raw materials, machinery, computers and other items.

Liability Insurance: Any company can be sued. Slip-and fall lawsuits are very common and be costly. Customers can claim you injured them or damaged their property - and lawsuits are very expensive. Commercial liability insurance pays damages and can include attorney's fees and other legal expenses. It also ca pay for the medical bills of injured third parties

Commercial Auto Insurance: For vehicles owned by the business. Commercial auto insurance pays bodily injury or property damage costs for which the business is found liable - up the the policy limits for liability and property damage.

Workers Compensation Insurance: In almost every state employers must provide workers comp when there are W2 employees. Workers compensation pays for the medical care of employees and can replace a portion of lost wages - regardless of who was at fault for the injuries.


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