Riots and Violence: Understanding Your Protest Property Coverage

Riots and Violence: Understanding Your Protest Property Coverage

June 17, 2020

First, there were protests. Then there were anti-protests. Then there were riots. Then, in some cases, there was violence, looting, damage and, sadly, loss of lives.

According to insurance industry estimates, the cost of property damage across the United States will run into billions of dollars. The cost of loss of life is incalculable. 

In the case of protest damage, most commercial property, homeowners and auto insurance policies cover what they call "riot, vandalism and civil commotion". Those wise enough to have these policies in place, will likely be able to recoup a large part of their losses.

Let's take a closer look at this crucial element of protection in these troubled times.


Commercial Insurance and Protests

One key element of business insurance is protection against damage and loss, whether accidental or willfully caused. This means physical damage to a property and damage or loss of contents, including losses arising from looting.

In many cases, policies will also cover lost income that's attributable to the interruption of a business. This can even include lost income if your business is forced to shut or reduce hours as a result of a police or fire department closure of an entire area -- a situation insurers call a "civil authority provision".

These protections are generally covered in an all-risks policy -- that is a policy that covers all types of hazards except for any that are specifically named as exclusions. 

In named risks policies, civil commotion or other similar wording is stipulated in the list of risks.

This coverage may be part of an individual commercial property insurance policy, fall within the broader scope of a business owners policy (BOP), or (unusually) be insured separately through a standalone riot insurance policy.

Sometimes, separate, additional coverage is required for plate glass windows. Check your policy or with your agent to see whether you have or need this coverage as an endorsement to your main policy.

If you have commercial auto insurance, you should have similar protection for any damage caused to your trucks, vans and cars -- subject to any deductible.

Key issues for future protest property coverage:

  • If you rent your business premises, check with your landlord on the scope of their coverage -- for example, what's covered beyond the structure of the building.
  • It's important to have a detailed inventory of stock, furniture fittings, equipment and any personal property stored on your premises, so you'll know what's lost or damaged.
  • If you suffer damage or looting, draw up a detailed description, supported by photographs if possible. Take your pictures as soon as you can after the event.
    Don't discard damaged items. Keep them for the insurance company, who will almost certainly send out an adjuster to assess damage for large claims.
    The more information and evidence you have, the faster and easier will be the resolution of your claim.
  • You should also document your loss of income. You can estimate this from past records and arrange with your insurer to update the figures and claim for them retrospectively if your business remains disrupted for an extended period.
  • Make your building safe from further incursions, for example by boarding up windows as quickly as you can. The cost of these protective measures is usually covered in your policy, but check with your insurer.
    If you don’t have the ability to carry out securing action, identify a service provider now (usually a glazing company) so that you can contact them immediately if you suffer damage in the future.
  • File your claim as soon as possible, even if you don’t know all the final costs yet.
  • If you need support in advocating for a settlement with the adjuster, contact your agent. And if you are unhappy with the way your insurer deals with your claim, contact the Nebraska Department of Insurance ( or your equivalent department if you're in another state.


If you're a landlord rather than the occupier of a targeted building, you must have landlord insurance that covers the structure, and make sure you have relevant measures in place to secure the building if it's damaged. Liaise with your tenant on this.

As a landlord, you may also qualify for loss of income coverage to offset the loss of rent if the tenant is forced to leave. Discuss this with your agent.


Home and Car Insurance Against Riot Damage

Homeowners have similar protections to business people in terms of potential damage or loss to buildings and personal property.

Note that vacant homes that have been unoccupied for 60 days or more likely will not be covered against civil commotion damage unless you have specifically insured against this risk for a longer period.

Most policies, including renters insurance, also include provision to meet the costs of temporary accommodation and other expenses (e.g. restaurant meals) if your home becomes uninhabitable as a result of riots, vandalism or other incidents.

Things are a little different with auto insurance. If you have the most basic liability coverage, you will not be insured against vandalism or other damage to your vehicle.

For this level of protection, you will need comprehensive coverage. If you don’t have it, your policy likely can be quickly and easily updated (at a cost) to include this.


Who Pays?

It's comforting and reassuring if you have appropriate insurance coverage against riot damage. But who will pay for the billions of dollars' worth of damage?

Maybe you. Even if you weren't directly affected.

While insurers will be the front-line payers, one outcome of riots, even if they're not on your doorstep, is a likely rise in future insurance premiums. The insurance industry will want to recoup the heavy claims it pays out.

As always, it will help to have an independent agent capable of shopping around for the best rates.


Are You Sufficiently Insured Against Riot Damage and Looting?

At times like this, it's important to know the extent of your insurance coverage, whether it's adequate to provide the protection you need. All policies, business and home, specify limits to the amount they will pay out. It's important to feel that these limits will be adequate for your potential needs.

If you don’t have sufficiently high limits or are unsure, or, indeed, if you're not insured, feel free to check in with us at Harry A Koch Co. for a free and no-obligation chat.

If you're in an area that's potentially at risk during any civil commotion, it's important to act sooner rather than later because insurers may be unwilling to issue a policy when trouble looms or they might invoke a waiting period before a policy becomes active.

These are troubled and uncertain times for business people and other citizens alike. It’s precisely in these times that insurance provides the protection and peace of mind we all need.

Please note: This article is provided for information only and does not constitute either legal advice or a representation of any individual insurance policy.