Coverage for Riot and Civil Commotion

The recent riots in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis and elsewhere have caused some business owners and homeowners to be concerned about insurance coverage for losses caused by violent acts of destruction of property.  The short answer is that many standard insurance forms do include coverage for such losses, but determining exactly what is covered is a matter of reviewing each individual policy in light of the circumstances of the actual loss and damage.

If your home or business (or auto) is damaged by a riot or “civil commotion”, there is usually coverage for such losses subject to important limitations contained in standard policy forms.  In one standard business coverage form, for example, “riot and civil commotion” are included within the definition of “Specified Causes of Loss”, and coverage for things like building damage and business interruption are available accordingly.

The same policy does not define what constitutes a “riot”.  Courts have reached differing conclusions on what constitutes a “riot” or “civil commotion.”  A riot is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009) as:

An assemblage of three or more persons in a public place taking concerted action in a turbulent and disorderly manner for a common purpose (regardless of the lawfulness of that purpose).

An unlawful disturbance of the peace by an assemblage of usually three or more persons acting with a common purpose in a violent or tumultuous manner that threatens or terrorizes the public or an institution. 

The main thing to remember is that most business policies will provide coverage for building damages, business losses and extra expenses incurred as a result of a riot.  In the event of such losses, it is important to have your policy reviewed carefully by an insurance coverage professional.

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