How to Make an Insurance Claim for Stolen Photo/Video Gear
Help! My equipment was stolen!
Is there a worse feeling than walking out to your car and realizing you've just had your equipment stolen? One of the unfortunate realities of working on location is the potential for theft. While we've created gear management processes that serve to prevent opportunities for gear loss, we recently experienced a loss of gear due to theft. As we were covered by insurance, we have been able to replace the equipment; but having gone through the experience has provided some lessons and action items for us, and we thought we'd share a few tips if you ever need to make a claim.
1. File a Police Report Immediately
One of the important pieces of documentation you will need in order to file a claim with your insurance company is a Police Report. You can obtain this by calling your local police (use the non-emergency number unless you are in the process of being robbed) and reporting the theft. The dispatcher will send a police officer to you and fill out their report. You will want to take pictures of everything as you find it (the 'crime scene' if you will) as well. Do your best to remember everything that is missing, but make sure to take the police officer's card in case you remember something later that you didn't initially notice was missing.
2. Compile All Evidence of Ownership
Hopefully, you already have a solid inventory of your equipment. If not, we're providing a sheet you can download and use to create one here. Your insurance company will most likely want the item name, make/model, amount you originally paid (receipts are preferred), age (years you have owned item), condition, where you purchased the item, and the potential replacement cost. If you don't have all of your receipts, have no fear; your insurance company will often accept photographs of the items if they can obviously show your ownership. If you don't have any documentation of your inventory, now is the perfect time to utilize this free google sheet template and cover your assets. As an added step, we take pictures of all of our inventory and link them to the sheet for easy confirmation.
3. Call Your Insurance Agent
Who covers the loss? That depends. If you are covered under your business with production insurance you will want to contact them first. If you are covered under your homeowners or renters policy you will want to contact them. Often, people assume that a theft that occurs from a vehicle would be covered by automotive insurance, but it is actually your homeowners/renters policy that provides the coverage. Definitely check with your specific agent to make sure you have sufficient coverage, the specific details of that coverage (the location of the theft can affect the coverage), and whether or not you are covered for replacement cost, or if you should prepare to cover your deductible as well as the cost of depreciation.
4. Complete Your Paperwork
Once you contact your insurance agent to make a claim, they will ask you for the itemized list of items that were taken, a copy of the police report, and potentially a list of replacement items/cost. It is important to complete these steps in a timely fashion, as insurance companies will often send a physical check to cover your claim. Even with full replacement cost coverage and efficient filing, it's going to take a few weeks for the entire process to happen. The quicker you do your part, the quicker you can replace your gear and get back to creating.
5. Keep Your Eyes Out
Often, photography and video equipment ends up on craigslist, facebook marketplace, or even local pawn shops. It's always a good idea to keep an eye out for your stolen goods, as they may be recoverable. While it goes without saying, if you do see one of your stolen items listed for sale your next step would be to call the police officer handling your case. Do not attempt to confront the seller yourself.
6. Keep Your Head Up
If you don't have insurance, get it. If you do, make sure your gear inventory is up to date, and make sure you have receipts or photographs of all of your equipment. While losing equipment to theft can be one of the most frustrating experiences a creator can face, a small amount of preparation on your part can help make a bad situation a little more manageable. Knowing you have your own back takes the stress out of location work. Happy Shooting!