Once upon a time, large desktop computers were the golden standard of computing and portable devices were the exception. Today, almost the complete reverse is true. Laptop computers have grown more powerful and less expensive. Where college students considered typewriters to be mandatory equipment a generation ago, most today would not dream of attending college without a laptop. Businesspeople employ a variety of devices, including laptops, PDAs, Blackberries, and smart phones. Electronic book readers, led by the success of the Amazon Kindle, are becoming more popular. These devices are convenient, easy to carry, easy to use for information, entertainment, and communication, and very trendy. They are, however, also very susceptible to theft or damage, and their replacement costs can be substantial.
Any machine that runs on computer circuitry is vulnerable to certain perils. Most people who have owned such devices are familiar with the instinctually sick feeling they get when they accidentally drop one of these devices. Circuit boards are delicate components, subject to cracking if handled roughly. Moisture is also no friend to computerized gadgets. Drop one in water or spill a drink on it, and you will find yourself shopping for a replacement. Power surges, which can happen when electricity recycles after an outage, can instantly ruin a computer or electronic device. What’s more, popular electronic devices are perpetual targets for thieves.
When something happens to your laptop, will your homeowner’s insurance help pay for a new one? If you have a standard policy form, maybe not. The standard policy covers personal property of all types for a specific list of causes of loss. The list includes things like fire, lightning, explosion, windstorm and theft, but it does not list the other common causes of loss to computers. If someone steals a laptop from a dorm room, the policy will provide coverage. If the student drops it and cracks the screen, however, there is no coverage. However, additional coverage is available for purchase to protect against these common but disastrous events.
Anyone who owns computer devices should consider buying special computer coverage. This policy reverses common coverage for computers. Rather than listing those causes of loss the policy covers, it lists those that it does not cover. If a cause of loss is not on the list, the policy provides coverage. This expanded coverage applies to computer hardware, software, operating systems or networks, and other parts, equipment or systems designed solely for use with them. For example, in addition to covering laptop and desktop computers, it covers printers, scanners, modems, wireless routers, and similar devices.
The coverage does not pay for losses caused by things like temperature extremes, humidity, wear and tear, mechanical breakdown, corrosion, damage caused by household pets, and others. However, the four common causes of loss to computers (breakage from dropping, damage from spilled liquids, power surges, and theft) are not on the list. Therefore, the coverage pays for damage caused by all of these. For example, the policy will pay for repair or replacement of a scanner that someone steps on, but it will not pay for repairs to a laptop that simply fails to turn on one day.
Because computer equipment is so common now in households, homeowners and renters should discuss their coverage with an insurance agent. For a relatively small cost, homeowners, renters, and students can insure their increasingly important but delicate belongings against thefts and those accidents most likely to damage them.