Charlotte-area riots and looting could be covered by insurance

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Businesses in Charlotte, North Carolina will most likely be covered by property insurance for damage caused by protesters. Additionally, some may be able to recover lost business income.

Over the last two evenings, Charlotte has been the site of protests as a result of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43 year old man. On Tuesday night, protestors blocked Interstate 85 near the UNC-Charlotte area, and looted a nearby Wal-Mart. On Wednesday night, the Uptown area near the Epicenter was the site of most of the demonstrations. The protests, and resulting police response, have caused business disruptions in various parts of Charlotte.

Today, it is reported that many of the largest employers in the urban center of the city, including Bank of America, Duke Energy, and Wells Fargo have asked or permitted employees to work from home. Governor Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency and requested the assistance of the National Guard.

Local news reported that a number of Uptown Charlotte businesses were damaged or looted during the violent overnight protests. These included the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Charlotte Hornet’s team store, the Charlotte Convention Center, the United Way of Central Carolinas, the Bank of America headquarters, and several restaurants.

Property Insurance
Generally, businesses have a commercial property or business-owners property policy (sometimes called a BOP). The standard ISO commercial property and business-owners property policies have provisions that cover riot, civil insurrection property damage, and looting. This would include physical damage to a building, as well as merchandise that may have been stolen. Damage from fire will also be covered as a named peril.

On the other hand, photographs from social media and news reports show many shattered windows in Charlotte. Plate glass window insurance is usually offered as an add-on or additional insurance, and is not covered by many standard policies.

Businesses which are routinely in possession of someone else’s property – such as a shoe repair or auto repair shop – would likely need to have specific bailee insurance to cover the cost of replacement of a customer’s property which was damaged.

Business Interruption
If any curfew is imposed in Charlotte, or other restrictions on access to a business by either its customers or employees, the company may have a claim for business interruption or lost business income, depending on what coverages were selected. These policies typically provide require the insurer to pay for necessary extra expenses and lost business income as a result of a civil authority prohibiting access to the business.

The usual business interruption policy will only be triggered if there is sufficient physical damage to the business’s property such that the business must suspend its operations. Business owners should carefully read their policies however, as the trigger for business interruption may not begin for 24, 48, or 72 hours after the first civil authority prohibits access to their premises. Although the policy may not require an additional deductible prior to business income coverage being available, the 24 to 72 hour waiting period serves as a “time deductible.” Even once the business interruption coverage is triggered, it will not be retroactive to the date of the event. In other words, for damage caused on Wednesday night, business interruption coverage will not begin until Saturday night. As a result, some losses will not be recoverable under the standard policy. The business interruption during the first 72 hours could be covered by a captive insurer, however.

Often, this is a critical period of time for business owners immediately after a civil insurrection. During this waiting period, policyholders should take prompt repair measures to mitigate their damages even though lost profits will not be recoverable. Extra expense coverage, on the other hand, typically is triggered as soon as the first civil authority action.

Businesses with claims should immediately take photographs and put their insurance companies on notice. If claims are denied, there are typically internal appeals processes available to policyholders. If claims continued to be denied, business owners should consult with a knowledgeable insurance attorney about their options.

 


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP | Attorney Advertising

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