Protests have always served as a format for citizens to make their voices heard on any number of issues. In 2020, protests have sprung up across the United States, primarily fighting for social justice, but also a fair number expressing displeasure with pandemic restrictions and showing opposition to political candidates during election season.  

Unfortunately, at a number of protests this year, businesses, cars, homes, and other property has been damaged. In fact, the Property Claim Services, a unit of Verisk Analytics, designated protests throughout the United States between May 26 and June 8 as a multi-state catastrophe event, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Insurance industry analysts put the preliminary estimate for insured losses between $500 million and $900 million, a number that was expected to change, per the Insurance Information Institute.

When it comes to paying to repair those damages, it’s not uncommon to ask who is responsible. In most cases, your homeowners insurance will pay for damages your home sustains during protests and civil unrest. Of course, you should speak to your homeowners insurance company or agent to confirm exactly what your policy covers. 

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Damage from Protests and Civil Unrest?

Your homeowners insurance typically will cover damage to your home and its contents that occur as a result of protests and civil unrest. “Many standard insurance policies for business owners and homeowners typically provide coverage for property losses related to civil unrest,” says Stef Zielezienshki, executive vice president and chief legal officer for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association. 

However, your homeowners insurance will not cover damage to your vehicle. “Automobile damage would typically be covered under an auto insurance policy where comprehensive coverage was purchased,” Zielezienshki says. 

According to the California Department of Insurance, a riot or civil commotion is defined as a revolt by a gathering of people in a public place, although a civil commotion usually is said to involve a greater number of people. Both events generally are listed together in your homeowners insurance policy as a covered loss. Still, you should check with your insurer to see what is covered by your policy.

What Damage Is Covered by Insurance?

The type of homeowners insurance coverage you have determines what damages resulting from protests and civil unrest is covered. “It is important to check with your insurer or insurance agent to see exactly what your policy covers,” Zielezienshki says. “Insurance policies are contracts that must be interpreted according to their specific terms and conditions.” 

According to the Insurance Information Institute, standard homeowners insurance policies cover damage to the structure of the home as well as any personal possessions. However, it also may provide additional benefits if your home is damaged to the point you cannot stay there until the damage is repaired. In that case, you may receive additional living expenses that cover the cost of living away from your home. This includes reimbursement of hotel bills and restaurant expenses you pay while your home is undergoing repairs. 

Filing Insurance Claims for Civil Unrest

First and foremost, you should call the police and file a report for any damage to your home or its contents resulting from protests or civil unrest. Next, you should call your homeowners insurance company or agent to report the damage. Ask your agent the following questions: 

  • Does my homeowners insurance cover damages from civil unrest or protests?
  • How long do I have to file a claim?
  • Will my claim exceed my deductible
  • What information or documentation do you need from me to file a claim? 

Do not remove or throw anything away from your home until after the insurance adjuster has seen it and approved the removal. Take photos and/or a video of your home and its contents to document all of the damage. You should submit copies of all photos and/or video when you file your claim

Once you have documented the damage, take steps to prevent any further damage. For instance, cover the roof or any other damaged surface to prevent rain from getting in, board up any broken windows and close off any rooms with unstable floors or ceilings. Do not try to make any temporary repairs other than to prevent further damage, so the insurance adjuster can see the full extent of the damage. If you enlist the services of others to help with temporary repairs, keep copies of all receipts, contracts and other related documentation to file for reimbursement with your claim. 

When hiring a professional contractor to make repairs, get a detailed written estimate for the project to submit to your insurance adjuster or agent. You may need to submit this before your contractor gets started; verify with your insurance company or agent for their specific procedures. Once the contractor gets started on your home repairs, keep copies of all contracts, receipts and other related documentation to submit with your insurance claim. Take photos during and after the repairs are completed.

Once your homeowners insurance claim is finalized, keep copies of all your contracts, receipts and claim paperwork on file in the event you encounter a problem in the future.

The Bottom Line

If your home sustains damage resulting from protests or civil unrest, the damages likely are covered under your homeowners insurance policy, but you’ll need to check with your insurer to see what your policy covers. Contact your homeowners insurance company or agent right away to report any damage and find out what steps you should take to file a claim.