One of the most unsettling feelings imaginable is the experience you have when you exit your home, a restaurant, or the store you’ve just been shopping at, only to discover that your vehicle is now missing. As sad and frightening as an experience like this can be, don’t let the shock overwhelm you! If you ever find yourself in this situation, don’t let panic overtake your faculties. Report the theft to your local police department immediately.
Once you’ve contacted the police, the next most important step is to immediately call your insurance company. You’ll want to begin the process of filing a claim in order to recover the loss of your vehicle. Have all of the necessary information available when you call, which includes your VIN, license plate number, what kind of car you had, and so on.
Stolen Cars: What Kind of Insurance is Necessary?
Stolen car coverage is usually considered as part of your comprehensive coverage package. If you’ve purchased this kind of coverage from your insurance company, what it means is that generally, the company will pay for the loss of the car, minus any applicable deductibles. The vast majority of insurance companies will make you wait for a short period of time before making a payout in the event that your car is discovered and returned.
While it might seem silly to pay for insurance on a car you no longer have, it’s usually a good idea to continue doing so until the car is found and returned to you, or the insurance company makes a payout. This will also avoid having your credit damaged for non-payment. If there’s ever a delay in the settlement, meaning that you continue to pay for insurance on a car you no longer have, your insurance company will almost certainly refund you the money paid when the claim is settled.
Furthermore, keep in mind that you won’t be without a vehicle this whole time. If you have comprehensive coverage, your insurance company should provide you with a rental car for a short while – usually long enough for the car to either be recovered or for a payment for your loss to be made.
Disputes and Settlement Offers Concerning Stolen Cars
It’s possible that your insurance company will make a loss offer on the value of your car which is less than you believe the car is actually worth. In the event that this happens to you, decline the offer and keep working with your insurance company to negotiate a fair price. Unfortunately, sometimes an agreement cannot be reached. If this happens to you it’s possible that you’ll want to consider litigation.
How a Stolen Car Claim is Settled
Similarly to how an insurance company handles a settlement for a totally destroyed vehicle (a “totaled” car), your insurance provider will pay you what it considers to be the actual cash value for your vehicle. Expect that they will deduct the depreciation value of the vehicle, which includes aging, miles driven, and normal wear and tear.
Keep in mind that your insurance company – no matter how honest they are! – will almost certainly start by making you an offer which rests on the lower end of the value of your vehicle. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Also, if you had made any modifications which would have raised the value of your vehicle, mention these to your claims adjuster (ideally during the first conversation you have). Such modifications might include stereos or other entertainment systems.
Claim Denials and Bad Faith Denials
Similar to the arson investigations that house insurance companies conduct, your insurance company will investigate the theft of your vehicle before making a settlement payment. It’s possible that at this time your insurance company will refuse to make a payout by accusing you of attempting to defraud the company (e.g., that you faked your car being stolen). Keep in mind your insurance company can only do this if you’ve misrepresented what the industry calls a “material” fact.
If you have not done this – made a false claim – you may again wish to consider litigation. Remember that they must prove this, otherwise, it’s likely that a settlement payment will have to be made.
After you and your insurance company reach an agreement regarding the value of your vehicle, you’ll have to provide them with the title to the car. Once they’ve received this, you’ll get a check for the value of your car. At this time, your claim will be closed.