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Injured at a protest? Knowing your health insurance coverage is key

Posted at 1:31 PM, Jun 24, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In small to large protests, Americans from coast to coast are exercising their right to free expression. In some cases, though, protests that started out peaceful have turned violent.

“Injured three people, cuts and bruises,” said Mat Davis, a protester in Indianapolis, who saw a vehicle strike several protesters. “It was bad.”

In Michigan, Bailee Majeske experienced a protest get out of hand.

“There was a lot of rioting, just cars parked in the street were getting smashed,” she said, “and then there was a brick thrown at my head and my friend was stabbed.”

So, what happens if you are injured during civil unrest? Getting medical attention is a first priority but knowing exactly what your health insurance covers is key.

“You'd need to know what is in the policy - what is covered and especially what is not covered,” said Ray Farmer, who heads up the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). “If a protest happens to turn violent and include some rioting, I think that would be extremely difficult for an insurance company to prove that those injuries occurred due to an excluded act, even if the policy had such a provision.”

Some policies, though, do have exclusions, like if you take part in “illegal acts” or participate in “civil unrest.” How that’s specifically defined would be up to an insurer, but it could range from vandalism and property damage to violating a community’s established curfew, or failing to leave an area if police order you to do so.

However, Farmer says there are some things a consumer should be aware of, in the event they are denied coverage for the treatment of injuries sustained during civil unrest. One – ask the insurance company to point out the specific language being used to deny a claim, and two – reach out to your state’s department of insurance for help navigating the process.

“That's our job is to regulate the insurance industry, but more importantly to protect consumers,” he said.

While Farmer said there are no reports of protesters’ claims being denied so far, before it even gets to that point, it’s important understand the details in your health insurance coverage.

“You certainly don't want any surprises,” he said.

As for those who have been caught by surprise, there’s some advice from them, as well.

“If you notice there are riots breaking out, it may be time to go home and support from a distance,” Majeske said.

For more information on your state’s Department of Insurance, click here.