An act of vandalism is defined as an intentional act to damage property you don't own, including a vehicle. While vehicle vandalism is frequently considered a misdemeanor and not a serious crime, the cost of repairing the damage can be more than you are able to pay out of pocket. But unless the vandals are caught which doesn't happen often-and required by law to make restitution to repair the damage, the cost of repairs to your vehicle is covered only if you carry comprehensive auto insurance.

Why You Need Comprehensive Coverage

Although comprehensive coverage generally is an optional add-on to your auto insurance policy, the coverage gives you protection in the event of theft, vandalism or damage that occurs as the result of a weather-related incident. You pay extra for the coverage, but it saves you out-of-pocket expenses if your vehicle is vandalized. If you financed the purchase of your vehicle with an auto loan, the lender may require that you carry comprehensive coverage to help pay for damage not related to a collision.

How Insurers Estimate the Cost of Comprehensive Coverage

When estimating the cost of your comprehensive insurance coverage, along with other factors such as the make and model of the vehicle you are insuring, insurers look at the frequency of vehicle vandalism in your area. The reason they do this is because acts of vandalism are more likely to occur in some neighborhoods than in others, particularly at night and in areas that are poorly lit.

What to Do If Your Vehicle Is Vandalized

Notify the police immediately if your vehicle is vandalized-even before notifying your auto insurer. The insurance company will request a copy of the police report or the incident report number when you file the claim. Filing a police report is important since many insurance companies will not process a claim without it.

Photos of the damage can be helpful when you file a claim. Any photos you have of your vehicle showing its prior condition before the vandalism occurred may also help speed the process and get your insurance claim paid. What you shouldn't do is to repair any of the damage until after the insurance company sends a claims adjuster to assess the damage.

What Information to Give Your Insurance Company

When talking to your insurance agent, let him or her know the date the vandalism occurred and where your vehicle was parked when it was vandalized. You'll also need to provide a description of the type of damage your vehicle incurred.

Once the claims adjuster looks at the damage to your vehicle and you can take it to an auto repair shop, you'll have to pay the deductible on your insurance policy. However, if vandalism was the deliberate act of a family member or individual named on your auto insurance policy, the damage to your vehicle won't be covered.

When Vandalism Claims Raise Red Flags

Although insurance companies differ in their guidelines for rating risk, if you're worried that your insurance rate may go up if you file a vandalism claim, you can rest assured that isn't likely to happen. Insurers generally don't increase premium rates for that reason-unless, of course, you've submitted a recent stream of vandalism claims. In that case, you can expect your insurance company to take more time to investigate the claim.

Unfortunately, fraud occurs and costs the insurance industry billions of dollars each year. According to the Insurance Information Institute, auto insurance is one of the forms of insurance most prone to fraudulent activities, including false vandalism claims. For that reason, insurance companies often assess vandalism claims more closely. They do it to protect you and other insurance consumers from paying higher premiums that can result from unusually high numbers of fraudulent claims.

Since it's important to adequately insure your vehicle against all potential types of losses, the insurance agents at Jones Group Insurance Services can provide additional information about vandalism coverage and the other extra protections that comprehensive auto insurance offers.