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  • Writer's pictureMegan Connor

Theft & vandalism claims: we've seen it all

Updated: May 9, 2023

No doubt, theft and vandalism claims bring with them some interesting stories. From failed attempted robberies to jilted ex-partners, and disgruntled tenants to well-orchestrated commercial property hits, these claims present a host of unique challenges. Is there proof of the crime? What is the actual cause of loss? Is there evidence of the insured's story?

In this article, we'll take a look at 5 case studies involving theft and vandalism. These hard-to-believe stories prove sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction - and sometimes it's just normal wear and tear.

what is the most challenging aspect of a theft/vandalism claim?

  • verifying the scope of damage

  • determining the cost of restoring to pre-loss condition

  • obtaining proof of the incident

  • ruling out other possible causes of the damage

You can vote for more than one answer.

Case Study #1: Turkey vs Treadmill

Forced Impact Damage to Commercial Fitness Equipment

Gymgoers were alarmed when the violent crash occurred. Shards of plate glass erupted from the point of impact, infiltrating a set of commercial-grade treadmills. Thankfully no person was injured; however, the same could not be said for the large turkey that generated the damage.

The motive of the turkey could not be determined, yet the significant property damage was undeniable. When the adjuster for the claim received an estimate of more than $24,000.00 to replace the claimed treadmills, Zap Consulting was deployed to assess the damage and determine if full replacement was in fact necessary.

Contrary to the explosive nature of the loss event, an on-site assessment by Zap Consulting revealed relatively minimal damages. Glass damage was observed to the treadmill decks and belts; however, the electrical components were found to be intact. Zap Consulting obtained an alternative repair estimate from a local area commercial fitness equipment company, totaling around $3,900.00.

The confirmed repairability of the treadmills ultimately saved the insurance company more than $20,000.00 or around 83.0%.

commercial fitness equipment treadmill theft vandalism damage claim property loss gym Zap Consulting Zap determination investigation electronics settlement estimate repair replacement

Case Study #2: The Simplest Explanation...

Commercial Sign Damage from Wear and Tear

When Zap Consulting received this assignment, red flags were all over the place. Initially, the claimed cause of loss for the two commercial lighted signs was theft and vandalism.

According to the point of contact, a perceived increase in criminal activity in the area had preceded the sign damage, leading them to conclude vandals had inexplicably targeted the insured's business signage. However, according to the point of contact, in addition to the alleged uptick in crime in the area, severe storms had also occurred in the weeks preceding the damage, suggesting storms could be the source of the damage.

During Zap Consulting's on-site investigation, the cause of loss to the commercial signs was clear. Obvious signs of wear and tear were observed. No evidence of vandalism was discovered. No evidence of storm-related damage was observed.

Our assessment confirmed repair of the signs would be impractical due to the extent of damage from wear and tear. The nearly 15-year-old signs required replacement. Zap Consulting provided full material and labor pricing to replace the damaged signs obtained from a local area sign provider.

Case Study #3: Loose Change

Laundromat Robbery

A nightmare for coin laundry proprietors, vandals broke into the laundromat in the middle of the night and sought to steal all the cash they could find. Well, they managed to break the coin boxes off (4) Speed Queen commercial washing machines. The coin boxes, and somewhat ironically, anti-tampering plates were the only parts damaged in the crime.

Facing an estimated full replacement cost of nearly $12,000.00, Zap Consulting was called in to assess the damage and evaluate repair or replacement options. Our investigation of the commercial laundry machines discovered relatively minimal damage from the loss event. Our in-house analyst team confirmed repair part availability to restore the washing machines to pre-loss condition.

The final repair cost of around $3,300.00 in materials and labor saved the insurance carrier 72.5%. And, with a lead time of 6-8 weeks for brand new commercial laundry machines, the recommendation of repair of the washing machines saved the policyholder weeks of lost revenue.

commercial fitness equipment treadmill theft vandalism damage claim property loss gym Zap Consulting Zap determination investigation electronics settlement estimate repair replacement laundromat washing machine coin boxes dryer robbery theft vandalism

Case Study #4: Residential Break-In Fail

Forced Impact Damage to 60'' Television

If you have ever mounted a TV, you know it can be a pain, but for this homeowner, the location of the TV served as an impromptu anti-theft measure.

During a robbery of the insured's residence, the thieves attempted to steal a 60'' television from the living room wall where the television was securely mounted. Apparently, removing the television was too difficult, and in a haste, the television was ripped from the wall and dropped, resulting in significant damage to the display screen.

Zap's investigation confirmed the television was damaged from forced impact. Our in-house analyst team verified repair attempts would have been cost prohibitive due to the extent of the damage. Prior to Zap Consulting's investigation, the quality and specifications of the claimed television had been notably overestimated. Our team confirmed the unit could be replaced with a like kind and quality television at a fraction of the originally claimed value.

Case Study #5: Organized Chaos

Convenience Store Break-In

This assignment stands out. The bad actors in this case took their time and systematically dismantled security measures the business owner had in place to avoid detection and rob the place blind. Despite the presence of multiple motion-activated security lights, as well as a multiple-camera surveillance system, this convenience store location was targeted for a break-in.

Zap Consulting's on-site assessment discovered extensive damage to the claimed security lights and surveillance cameras. The security lights had been smashed and destroyed by an unknown implement. Similarly, the surveillance cameras had been dislodged from the locations on the exterior of the convenience store and bashed. The circuit boards were exposed and in pieces. Based on the evidence obtained, these items were destroyed prior to breaching the storefront, at which point thousands of dollars in cash and goods were stolen.

While the damage from the loss event was obvious to the naked eye, our speedy assessment and in-house reporting process allowed the policyholder to restore the damages in a timely manner and get back to business.

The claim was resolved quickly and accurately, mitigating the sense of uncertainty and stress undoubtedly experienced by the owners of the small business.

What to do if your property is vandalized or broken into

While property crime is on the decline according to FBI statistics from 2019, you should always take steps to protect your home or business.

Investing in a security system and exterior motion-activated lighting may assist in deterring property crimes, but what do you do if these measures fail?

If your home or business has been impacted by a property crime, be sure to take the following steps to assist you in the claims process.

  • File a police report

  • Take photos of the damage

  • Make an inventory of missing or damaged items

  • Locate any original purchase receipts or invoices

  • Contact your insurance company

Have questions about a theft or vandalism claim? Reach out to Zap today.


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