Rebuilding businesses damaged by police protests—does insurance cover it?


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–As Jack Stewart assessed the damage looters inflicted on the optical shop he owns on Delaware Avenue, his priorities turned to securing the store and getting his Buffalo Optical back open.

Stewart estimated damage and theft of merchandise could reach $45,000, but was left wondering whether his insurance carrier would cover the losses, and if so, how much would be covered.

“The biggest thing for us is we don’t know if insurance is going to cover it. We don’t know if the federal government is going to step in and cover it.  But right now we are just glad everyone is safe, we are glad it wasn’t any worse than it was, and we are looking to fight another day.”

In the wake of police protests sweeping the country sparked by the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, property losses could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

While larger companies might be able to absorb the losses, smaller businesses such as Stewart’s might find rising from the ashes a heavier lift—even insurmountable.

Experts contacted by News 4 said damage from “civil commotion” generally should be a standard part of their insurance policy.

Ken Carter, Merchants Insurance Group’s Claims VP did not comment on Buffalo Optical’s damages directly, but did say those businesses damaged by the police protests in Buffalo should expect most of their losses to be be covered.

“Most business policies are going to cover ‘civil commotion,’ or damage caused by acts of civil commotion, or riot. Also vandalism and theft those are, of course, things that might happen following an incident like this.”

Insurance coverage or not, Jack Stewart re-opened Buffalo Optical, with a new look one day after cleaning up the damage. He hired a professional artist to turn his boarded-up storefront into a colorful mural with a message:  “Stand Together Bflo, United & Strong.”

Stewart said he is in better shape to re-open than other small businesses because his company, Dr. Beyer Optical Group operates several stores, and he was able to move around inventory as needed.

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