We recently had a conversation with our insurance carrier, being in the unhappy position of having to file a claim for two violins that were damaged during shipping. I have spoken with many instrument owners who are un- or under-insured and I thought I would share what I have learned.
Our agent tells me that they see the most claims from two types of risks: shipping instruments, and airline baggage. You may have heard and read stories about instruments mangled by the baggage handlers on airlines, or even experienced that sort of damage yourself.
We’re located in rural Vermont, not on the beaten path and hours away from the urban centers where fine instruments are in demand. Clients do visit frequently from all over the world, but not all clients have the means to do so. If we want folks to try violins and violas, we have to get them there somehow; to the fine instrument dealers who handle the instruments, to private clients, to shows and competitions. Shipping instruments is commonplace but it is risky. Having complete coverage from a company that understands how our business works is essential for us; but even if you never ship your instrument; if you never check it on a flight; even if you never leave your house with it, we still recommend that you have full coverage on any instruments you have.
Get Full Coverage
Adding your instrument(s) to your homeowners or renters policy is better than nothing, but it may not be sufficient. A specialty company will have a policy that insures the full value – no deductible. Your homeowners policy will apply the deductible. A specialty company will compensate you for the depreciation in the value of your instrument if the value drops due to a repair. The specialty premiums will be higher than adding a rider to another policy, but the increase in coverage may well be worth it. If you use your instrument for work, it very likely will not be covered by a homeowners or renters policy.
Setting the Value
There are different ways of setting the value for your instrument(s), bows and other equipment. Agreed Value – where the insured value is set in advance, Actual Cash Value – where you state the value, and when a claim is filed, you must justify that value in order to be compensated, and Replacement Cost – which you might use when the cost of replacing an instrument is likely to be more than you paid for it (especially if you purchased a fine instrument many years ago). Discuss the risks and benefits of each with your insurance agent.
Read Your Policy
I have my own instruments insured with Heritage Insurance (link below). They have a minimum premium which insures up to just over $40,000 worth of instruments, so I have included my Cox violin, my bow, and two lesser violins. It’s first-dollar coverage (no deductible); I am covered in case of damage, including depreciation. I am covered in case of theft. I am covered if I forget my instrument in a taxi or just plain lose it. I may not be covered if I leave it in my unlocked car, though. And UNLESS I let the company know that I am checking them as luggage or shipping them before I do it, I am not covered in case of damage under those two scenarios – and they are the most likely.
by Laurie, 1/24/2014