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DR. TIM QUERY

Insurance coverage during a pandemic can be complex

Posted

Recent events in the United States can be aptly described as being anything but “routine occurrences.” It is prudent at times like these to review our personal insurance policies.

If you have comprehensive coverage included in your private passenger auto policy, damage to your cars would be covered. However, keep in mind that comprehensive coverage is optional, and according to the Insurance Information Institute, only around 75 percent of policyowners have this coverage. Comprehensive coverage provides indemnification (after the deductible is paid) for damage to the vehicle and its contents caused by falling objects, fire, vandalism or riot. If your windshield is cracked or shattered, your comprehensive coverage will also reimburse the insured, with no deductible for some policies.

If you home is damaged by an explosion, fire, riot or civil commotion, vandalism or malicious mischief, standard homeowners’ policies would provide coverage for these types of losses. Coverage would extend to the structure of the home along with any personal belongings. In addition, if you are unable to live at your dwelling due to an insured disaster, standard homeowners and renter’s insurance policies provide reimbursement for additional living expenses. Additional costs of temporarily living away from home, such as hotel bills, restaurant meals, extra mileage to work or school, etc. would be covered while your home is being repaired.

What happens if you are peacefully protesting at an event that turns violent, and are injured? There is technically a possibility that some insurance companies may deny you coverage for the cost of any medical attention required.

Under the exceptions and exclusions listed by several Aetna student health insurance plans and UnitedHealthcare plans, there is language that could preclude coverage if you were actively participating in a riot or civil disorder or in the commission of a felony. However, many experts believe that it is highly unlikely that an insurer would deny coverage for someone injured at one of the recent protests.

In addition, insurance policies are contracts of adhesion. Any ambiguities in the contract are generally decided in favor of the insured, and several descriptions of a riot in these policies are not clearly defined.

Our society generally does a commendable job maintaining civil order. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen recently, this isn’t always the case. Coverage for property damage, fire, vandalism or other violent acts resulting from a civil disturbance is essential for protecting your home, personal property, vehicles, and health. It also contributes to peace of mind during traumatic periods of civil discontent.

If you are unsure of coverage, it is recommended that you contact your insurance agent for clarification.

Dr. Tim Query is a faculty member in the Risk Management and Insurance Studies Program at New Mexico State University

Dr. Tim Query