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Q: My privately owned vehicle was damaged while parked on post. Specifically, the windshield was cracked. The vehicle was parked near the elementary school and I suspect the damage was caused by a student. Will I successfully recover damages if I file a claim with the Military Claims Office?
A: In this instance, active duty military personnel and Defense Department civilian employees are proper parties to file a claim with their respective Military Claims Office. Under U.S. Army regulation, for this type of vandalism claim, claimants are required to file a claim with their private insurance carrier prior to filing with the MCO. The other military branches have similar regulations and requirements.
Claims for vandalism to vehicles are payable only upon submission of proof that the vandalism occurred while the vehicle was located on a military installation, or was otherwise directed at the claimant’s property because of the claimant’s status as a member of the U.S. military or U.S. government employee. Additionally, to be successful in a claim for vandalism under Army regulation, the claimant must show the damage was caused intentionally, without justification. Stray marks from children playing, rocks or gravel thrown up by vehicles, falling branches, and other similar occurrences are not considered vandalism under the law and are likely non-compensable.
For claims involving theft or vandalism of a vehicle, the claims regulation presumes the loss did not occur at assigned quarters or on the military installation. Thus, to be compensated, the claimant must rebut this presumption and show by clear and convincing evidence that the loss occurred incident to service at assigned living quarters or on the military installation. To help rebut the presumption, claimants should contact the Military Police immediately to investigate the scene.
For example, an MP report corroborating that broken glass from a claimant’s vehicle was found on the parking lot outside his place of duty will help show the damage occurred on post. A statement by a disinterested third party who witnessed the vandalism will also enhance the claimant’s chances for recovery. By itself, a claimant’s unverified statement that a vehicle was vandalized on the military installation or quarters is not sufficient to satisfy the burden of proof.
These examples pertain specifically to damage caused by vandalism. The U.S. Army claims regulation applies differently when the damage is caused by other extraordinary hazards. Contact your respective service’s MCO for more details.
This column is not intended as individual or specific legal advice. If you have specific issues or concerns, you should consult a judge advocate at 421-4152/civ. 0711-729-4152.