One of the scariest and most defeating feelings a driver can experience is to see someone burglarize, vandalize or successfully steal their care. No one wants to think about the prospect, not just because of the significant safety threat to drivers and their families, but also because of the inconvenience brought by being left without a reliable form of transportation. Still, it’s just an unfortunate fact that vehicle theft can happen anywhere, to anyone, even to those who least expect it.
However, if you do become the victim of vehicle theft, then don’t panic. There is help available, both from your auto insurance company and from the police. Keep in mind the essential steps that you should take if this ever happens to you.
Never fight a thief.
If you witness a vehicle theft, then you should not try to fight the burglar. Instead, try to take a photo of them with your mobile phone. Additionally, immediately telephone the police so that they can rush to your location. Most car burglars carry some form of weapon with them, and sometimes these are well-hidden but ready to strike at a moment’s notice. The vehicle is replaceable—you aren’t.
Call the police.
Call the police the moment you realize your car has been stolen. Give them as many details about the theft as possible (including a description of your vehicle, license plate number, and registration details). The police might also ask you for your identification, proof of insurance, and proof of vehicle ownership.
Many people don’t realize it, but most vehicle thieves are not strangers. Often, they are someone who has been on your property before—a neighbor, repairman, disgruntled ex, and beyond. If you have any ideas about who might have stolen your car, then give the police this lead.
At this time, the police will complete a report on the theft, and initiate a search for the vehicle. You will need the information contained in the report to help you with your insurance claim later on. Additionally, if you had any credit cards, identifying information or electronics in the vehicle, then immediately contact the appropriate parties to help you avoid identity theft.
Call your insurance agency.
Even if the police recover your vehicle, you might still need to turn to your auto insurance company for assistance. It is never wise to avoid notifying your insurer of theft, as leaving them in the dark can lead to significant problems.
In order to receive compensation for the costs resulting from the theft (including the cost of getting a rental car or an entirely new car), make sure your auto insurance policy has comprehensive coverage.
Comprehensive coverage provides compensation for vehicle damage or loss related to non-collision hazards. It might cover damage from fire, falling objects, wind, hail, vandalism, and yes, theft. Without this coverage, you will not be covered if someone steals your vehicle and causes damage.
Thankfully, insurance is flexible when it comes to damages caused by others. So long as the vehicle is reported stolen, and your insurance agency is aware of the incident, damages that are caused by the thief (including bodily injury and property damage) should be covered. Additionally, the insurer will generally not consider you at fault for the accident, since someone else stole your car and was driving.
Report the theft to your DMV.
Sometimes, the police will work with your local DMV to help track stolen vehicles. However, it is best to notify the DMV on your own. The DMV needs to be aware of the theft in case someone tries to change the title to the vehicle, use your plates or otherwise gain access to your registration information.
What if my car is found?
If the police recover a stolen vehicle, the matter of dealing with your insurance company might get a bit complicated. Say you’ve already filed a claim and received compensation for the lost car, but then the vehicle is found. What happens now?
In some cases, if an insurance company has already paid out compensation to you for a lost vehicle, then they might claim the vehicle as theirs, which would leave you to buy the vehicle back from the insurer. This doesn’t happen in all cases, but it might. All cases are handled individually and there is no sure way to decide how the insurance provider will handle the situation. If you’ve already purchased a replacement vehicle, this may not be a big deal.
Additionally, if your vehicle is returned to you, now is a good time to start applying new safety features to the car. After all, if you didn’t have them before, what better proof do you need that your car needs additional safety perks. Even having a light on the dash can deter thieves who are looking for a quick and easy theft. Make sure to keep valuable items in the car out of sight from the windows and, whenever possible, keep the vehicle in a locked garage or well-lit area.
Regardless of the outcome of theft, it’s crucial to keep your insurance agency updated about lost, stolen, or found vehicles. Keeping secrets from your insurance agency can lead to you not having coverage when you need it. Any sign of fraud can convince an insurance agency to cancel your auto policy.