29 Jun Unattended Vehicle Exclusions and Production Insurance
One lesson many young– and even many experienced – filmmakers should take to heart when embarking on their film making journey is the value of protecting gear and equipment from theft. Unfortunately, Unattended Vehicle Exclusions is a lesson too many are learning the hard way, only after a theft has set back their schedule, costing valuable days of shooting and thousands of dollars in lost equipment and time.
According to PERG, the Production Equipment Rental Group, a trade association of the rental equipment industry, “The Rental Guard Missing Equipment List for the 2014/15 time period includes listings valued at more than $8 million.” Of course, this is just a fraction of what was actually lost since the list is compiled of self-reported thefts from member companies and many small rental houses do not participate.
Oh, but you’re thinking your production insurance has you covered…and it might…if you’re working with an insurance broker who knows the ins and outs of film insurance and knows that standard production packages include the unattended vehicle exclusion and will not cover your loss if gear is stolen from a production vehicle that has been left unattended or unsecured.
An increasing number of rental houses are requesting that client insurance coverages have the unattended vehicle exclusion removed from their coverage before they will lease equipment while others have it hidden in the fine print of their rental agreements. If you were unaware of this detail or failed to adhere to it by making sure your insurance provider has tailored your production insurance policy to have this exclusion removed, you could be left holding the bag for the entire cost of any stolen equipment. The only exception is that some carriers will cover a claim if there is proof of an actual break-in of a secured vehicle.
So, what should you do if valuable equipment has been stolen from a production vehicle on your set? This is a question insurance brokers hear almost every day. As filming has expanded throughout the country thanks to tax credits, the number of thefts and production vehicle break-ins has increased exponentially. In actuality, the first step you should take is before a theft ever occurs. Here are a few basic guidelines to help protect yourself and your production against the costs associated with equipment theft:
- Make sure you have security on set: we recommend hiring off-duty police officers or a bonded security company
- Assign a production team member to keep a recorded inventory of gear including serial numbers and use a good risk management tool to track property
- Keep grip and camera trucks locked and parked in a secure, well-lit location when not in use
- Hire a film insurance specialist and review your production package with your broker to ensure you have the proper coverage including the removal of any unattended vehicle exclusions.
If a theft does occur, there are some very important steps you must take to ensure your claim gets handled as efficiently as possible. The first and most important step is contacting the proper authorities. Your insurance carrier will need a police report before they can begin to process your claim. Do not leave the scene of the crime without a police report. Next, you will want to:
- Take plenty of photos of the vehicle or the area where the theft occurred, whether it was from a production vehicle or on set
- Be sure to include any details of the break-in in your photos, e.g. broken locks, broken windows, other signs of vandalism
- Get a written statement from any witnesses
- Refer to original equipment inventory for help identifying exactly what was stolen and create a list of stolen items including serial numbers
The adjuster investigating your claim will request all of this information and being prepared with it can help expedite your claim, making it faster and easier for them to pay the rental company or owner of the stolen gear.
Before starting production on your next project, be sure to consult with a film production insurance specialist. A film specialist will have a full understanding of the specific types of coverage you need to protect your project and will also have access to a variety of carriers and can tailor a production package to your specific needs.
About the Author:
Stan Shkilnyi is Director of Film & Television Insurance at Barrow Group, LLC, one of Georgia’s first production insurance specialty brokers. With a BFA in Film Production from Savannah College of Art & Design, Stan has worked in a variety of film roles, including stuntman, location manager, and as a producer. Check out some of the films Barrow Group, LLC has provided insurance coverage for on our IMDb resume page.