States Issue Guidance on Civil Unrest Claims
Jun 10, 2020

LEAD STORY

Millions of people around the country have been marching in protest after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.   While many protests have been peaceful, businesses across the country suffered property damage caused by looting or vandalism during the civil unrest.  Fortunately, most insurance policies cover damage in uprisings and civil unrest.  Let’s take a look on how states are addressing these claims.

 

THE EMPIRE STATE

The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued an emergency regulation requiring New York-regulated insurers to accelerate the claims process for businesses and individuals suffering damage from a riot or civil commotion in the state.  The regulation allows policyholders to make immediate repairs to damaged property if necessary to protect health or safety and to submit reasonable proof of loss, including photos or video recordings.

 

THE LAND OF LINCOLN

The Illinois Department of Insurance issued a bulletin to insurers that requests insurance companies to expedite claims filed by looted businesses.  It also requests insurers to advance claim payments and “err on the side of the policyholder” when paying claims as a result of riots, civil commotion, or vandalism even if the policyholder was unable to make full premium payments in the period since March 20 when Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued his coronavirus stay-at-home order.  Insurers are to base payouts on pre-virus business activity levels. 

 

THE KEYSTONE STATE

The Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Jessica Altman, released guidance yesterday to Pennsylvania businesses damaged during the civil unrest across its state.  The information aims to help business owners identify what is generally covered by understanding the terms in their policies and how and when to file claims.  In the release, Altman thanked insurers for the flexibility they have provided policyholders during the COVID crisis and called on carriers to again help “the commonwealth and expedite claims processes to the extent possible to help businesses and communities in need.”

 

CATASTROPHE DESIGNATION

More than 500 shops and restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul have reported damage during the protests.  Owners and insurance experts estimate the costs of the damage could exceed $500 million.  A data analytics firm has declared property damage from the civil unrest in more than 20 states across the U.S. a catastrophe, meaning at least $25 million in insured losses.  Keep watching for state regulations or guidance on these claims in the near future.  Stay safe.

 

Coronavirus Presumption

ENACTED

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the workers’ compensation bill that creates a rebuttable presumption that COVID-19 was contracted during the course of employment for first responders and front-line workers.  Illinois became the six state to pass legislation establishing a presumption for compensability for COVID-19 for certain workers.  California data shows more than 5,000 coronavirus-related workers’ compensation claims were filed in the state during the first five months of the year.

 

INTRODUCED

The Colorado Senate introduced legislation to extend workers’ compensation benefits to essential workers who contract coronavirus.  The bill would create a rebuttable presumption that COVID-19 was contracted during the course of employment for essential workers.  The legislation defined essential workers to include first responders, medical, health care and public health workers, commercial cleaning workers, grocery store workers, mass transit and airline employees, among others.  Kansas introduced multiple bills last week in an effort to pass a workers’ compensation bill creating a COVID-19 rebuttable presumption; however, all three bills failed to pass before the legislature adjourned its Special Session.

 

Making Our Way Around the Country

TENNESSEE

The Tennessee legislature unanimously passed a workers’ compensation bill that would change the timeline for an injured worker to request increased benefits from the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation from 60 days to 180 after the worker reaches maximum medical improvement. The bill also removes the requirement that a full and final hearing of the Court of Workers’ Compensation be held for an employee who has filed a claim against an employer for workers’ compensation benefits within 60 days after the notice of hearing has been filed.  If the governor signs the bill, it would become effective immediately.  These changes would only apply to injuries occurring on or after the effective date.

 

OREGON

The State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF) announced policyholders will share a $100 million dividend.  This is the eleventh year in a row SAIF has been able to offer a dividend, and the 23rd dividend in the past 30 years.  The dividend will be based on the premium for policies whose annual term ended in 2019 and will be distributed in October.

 

BURIED TREASURE

More than 10 years ago, Forrest Fenn hid over $1 million in a treasure chest to inspire people to explore nature and give hope to people affected by the Great Recession.  Well, one explorer recently found the buried treasure in the Rocky Mountains after deciphering the clues in Fenn’s 24-line poem.  As more national and state parks reopen in accordance with states’ phased reopening, explore nature and give hope to others during this challenging time.

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