Saturday, May 12, 2007

My laptop was stolen from my car. Will my homeowners insurance cover it?

Imagine how awful you would feel if someone breaks into your car and steals your laptop. If that does happen, you could take solace in knowing that your homeowner insurance policy probably would cover such a loss.

Your homeowners policy generally includes off-premises coverage [that] would provide coverage for your laptop or other possessions you own that were stolen from your car," says Cynthia Heismeyer, assistant vice president of corporate communications for Selective Insurance, in Branchville, N.J. Heismeyer described another insurance wrinkle - "If, however, your laptop was actually 'installed' in your auto, your coverage is under your automobile policy. The amount of coverage you have would be specified in your policy."

"In all likelihood yes, subject to the deductible of course," says Bob Hartwig, chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute, in New York. "There could be homeowners policies that exclude that, so double-check your policy wording to be sure of what's covered and what's not."

Your homeowner policy covers theft. "Your policy follows your possessions around, so if you carry your laptop from your home office to your car, and someone breaks into your car and steals your computer, you'd be covered," says Eric Goldberg, assistant general counsel for the American Insurance Association, in Washington, D.C.

Goldberg offered advice on the matter of policy deductibles. "Homeowner policies have deductibles, which are amounts the insured must pay before coverage kicks in. Deductibles often run $500 or $1,000. Keep that in mind if you are thinking about filing a claim. Let's say that you have a laptop that you bought for $2,000 five years ago. That computer may only have a replacement value of $700 today. That means that if you have a $1,000 deductible, you're carrier isn't going to pay you anything."

Chubb spokesman Mark Schussel took a different approach on the subject. "The old saying of 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' applies in this instance. By that I mean, you shouldn't leave a computer, purse, jewelry, or other personal valuables on the front or back seat of your car. Don't leave something in the car that could attract the attention of a thief. However, if you have to leave a laptop in your car, put in your trunk and lock it."

"Under a Chubb homeowners policy, there is coverage for both theft of equipment and for the expense of recreating any data lost with that lap top," says Chubb's Schussel.



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