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Your worst nightmare has happened. Someone has broken into your business, damaged your property and stolen valuable items. Before you make an insurance claim, be sure that you understand the nature of the crimes perpetrated against you.

Before we discuss anything further in this article, it is important to get a handle on the differences between theft and vandalism. With theft, someone takes your property without your permission. This can be a result of illegal entry onto your premises, but you can also be the victim of theft from someone who is on your property with your permission, such as an employee or approved visitor. Vandalism, on the other hand, is the willful and malicious damaging of your property by someone who does not own it.

While theft and vandalism often go hand in hand, they are two very distinct crimes and are viewed as such by insurance companies. Insurance for commercial property can differ as to what is covered and to what extent. For that reason, it is vital that you take some important steps before filing your claim.

  1. Be sure you understand the scope of your commercial property insurance policy. It will spell out the coverage levels for theft and vandalism explicitly. If it does not, contact your agent immediately to be sure of the type of coverage you have and if it is sufficient.
  2. You need to gather documentation that proves your ownership of the property that was stolen or damaged. Credit card receipts, videos, pictures, appraisals and insurance company endorsements are just some of the proof that you can use to substantiate your claim. If you have no title or proof of ownership for larger items, your insurer will probably conduct a procedure known as an examination of the ensured under oath (EUO). Tax returns and other financial documentation might also be requested.
  3. Perhaps most important of all, it is crucial that you file a police report as soon as you discover the damage or loss. This document will help the insurance company verify that the theft or vandalism actually occurred. It is also a way to document a complete list of all items that were affected by the criminal event.

Once the above steps have been taken, you and your insurer should go over your policy exhaustively. In most cases, exclusions apply in the case of theft and vandalism unless they are previously scheduled into a policy. Purchasing what is known as an inland marine floater policy can help to enhance your coverage and put higher limits into effect. However, this policy must be in place before the theft or vandalism occurs and cannot be retro-fitted.

It can be profoundly upsetting when someone takes what is yours or destroys goods or property that you have worked to maintain and improve. This is why it is to your advantage to have a thorough understanding of the nature of the crimes perpetrated against you. Furthermore, taking the time to attain comprehensive knowledge about your commercial property insurance can make a huge difference in how quickly your claim is processed and whether you will be paid for the damage and theft in full.