Stolen vehicle – what to do now?
Though we do all we can to protect our vehicles, there remains the unfortunate possibility that it can still be stolen. What should you do in this case?
- Phone the authorities: Immediately call the police and record the date and time of the report. This step is important because unless you have Loss of Use coverage you can’t rent a vehicle until 72 hours after calling the police or your insurance company.
- Call your insurance person: If you have paid a premium for “comprehensive, all perils or specified perils coverage”, you are covered for the theft of the vehicle, subject to your deductible. Report the theft to your agent, broker or claims reporting centre. If you have purchased Loss of Use Coverage, you are entitled to a replacement vehicle at this point
- Find an alternative ride No Loss of Use? After 72 hours the insurance company will pay reasonable expenses to rent a vehicle or use alternate transportation, but only up to $900 and only until your vehicle is located and repaired or replaced. Or in the case of it not being located, when the insurance company offers you money to settle.
- Start looking into replacements: Your vehicle may never be located. Or if found, it may be damaged beyond repair, so start looking for a replacement just in case. Evaluate your vehicle for settlement purposes. Good sources are newspapers, used auto magazines and dealers. Keep evidence of all values collected, including names and phone numbers. Get your service records ready to prove that your car had low mileage or was in exceptional condition.
Tip: Remember auto insurance covers the car and attached equipment only, personal equipment located in the car should be claimed under your homeowner’s policy, except the auto insurer will pay up to $25 for any tape or CD left in the stereo.
- Evaluate your insurance offer: If your vehicle is not located or is located but is damaged beyond repair, your insurance company will make an offer based on what it considers to be the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of your car. ACV considers age, model, mileage, equipment, condition and other factors, unless your car was new at the time of lease or purchase, or the theft took place within 24 months of this and you have a waiver of depreciation. (See 6 for leased vehicles).
If you agree with the value, they will send you a proof of loss that you sign and return, at which time you will be paid. Although they have 60 days to pay your claim, if there is no dispute, there is no reason for your insurance company not to pay sooner.
If you disagree: Present your case to the adjuster for your higher value. You might also consider paying for your own appraisal if the car was found. Request a copy of the insurer’s appraisal to see if something was overlooked. If the adjuster will not consider your position, you should elevate the discussion to the supervisor, manager or ombudsman. If you can’t reach an agreement, you might have to consider the arbitration route or sue. If you decide to do this, you must begin within a year of the theft.
Tip: If your car is recovered but deemed to be a total loss, and there is a dispute over the value, ask what the salvage value is. If it is a high amount, this could mean that your car may be worth more than the offer.
- What if your car was leased? If your stolen vehicle is leased and more than 24 months old at the time of the theft, the residual value under your lease may be higher than the actual cash value of your car. This means that you might have to pay the difference yourself. Before agreeing to any settlement, review the terms of your lease carefully. Remember as a loss payee on your policy, any cheque issued by the insurer will be made co-payable to the leasing company and you.
- What if your car is found later? Once you have settled with your insurance company and your car is found, the vehicle belongs to the insurance company. If you have misrepresented the condition of your vehicle and your insurance company believes that they have been mislead about the value, they may consider this to be fraud, and they may try to recover their payment.
- Get it fixed up: If your car is repairable, your insurer might want you to use their preferred auto body shops over your own, but you are not required to agree. As long as the amount for repairs has been agreed to, you may take your vehicle wherever you want.
Tip: After the theft of any vehicle, there may be hidden damage which was not evident during the appraisal. If this is the case, do not proceed to repair any damage without first letting your insurance company re-appraise. The additional repairs may make your car a total loss and you may not want to be forced to repair a vehicle in this condition.
- Be prepared for a potentially long ride: If your vehicle was stolen from a place where it should have been kept safe, such as an auto repair shop or a secure parking lot, your insurance company may decide to try to recover their payment. If they do this, you will have to co-operate in any action they decide to bring. Does this mean insurance company won’t pay until the other party ie. Repair shop or parking lot pays?
- Rate increases: After you are done, the good news is that theft is considered a Not-At-Fault-Claim and should not impact your rates.
Tip: Don’t leave your original Vehicle Registration in your car. When your car is stolen, so is the registration. Leave a photocopy in the car and keep the original with you.
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