What do you do if a headstone or monument that you own is damaged or vandalized at a local cemetery in Washington or Allegheny County?
Very few people think about it but what can you do and who pays for the damage?
One of the many considerations involved with planning for a burial is the selection of a headstone or grave marker, often made of bronze or granite, which can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
We are often asked about the longevity of different types of grave markers, how the cemetery will take care of them, and what would happen if it was damaged or vandalized.
Some cemeteries may tell people that markers purchased through third parties will not be covered if they are damaged, but what the average consumer doesn’t know is that headstones, grave markers and monuments are usually covered by an individual’s homeowner’s insurance policy.
Damage to Headstones Caused by Vandalism
Every once in a while, there will be story in the news about vandalism at a local cemetery. When a bronze marker is involved, people might be more concerned about theft, as even bronze vases could be stolen and sold as scrap or be melted back down.
The good news is that many homeowners’ policies explicitly state “Cemetery Property” as a covered item in the Personal Property section of their policy, and if not, these memorials may still be considered “contents” of one’s home.
Even though they are not physically in the home, it is typical in standard policies for there to be coverage of up to $5,000 for damage to grave markers, including loss caused by various perils including vandalism.
Damage to Headstones Caused by Machinery
A cemetery might tell you that the grave marker would be covered by them if damaged as a result of machinery used to cut grass, open and close graves, etc., but that you would be without recourse if a marker is vandalized or stolen.
In reality, it is worth knowing whether or not your physical property in cemeteries is covered by your homeowner’s policy regardless, because in the event that a grave marker is damaged, the cemetery may ask that you prove that the damage was caused by their equipment, which is often impossible to do. The easiest way to determine your coverage would be to read through your homeowner’s policy, or to call your insurance agent.
If you are able to estimate the value of a marker that has been damaged, the insurance company would treat it at it would treat any other lost property claim and pay for the cost of repair or replacement minus your deductible.
It is important to note that while these standard types of policies generally cover the headstone or grave marker of spouses or children, they may not explicitly state coverage of markers on the graves of other family members such as siblings or parents. But if you as the policy owner paid for or otherwise own the marker, it should be covered. Again, your best course of action is to consult your policy documents or contact your insurance agent for clarification.