Discovering that your car has been stolen can be an incredibly stressful and frustrating experience. But the process of filing an insurance claim and navigating the insurer’s investigation into the theft can add even more anxiety.
Knowing what to expect during a stolen car claim investigation can help you handle it smoothly. Below is an overview of the typical stolen vehicle claim process and investigation:
Filing a Claim for a Stolen Car
As soon as you realize your car is missing, you should take the following steps:
File a police report for the stolen vehicle. This is required to submit an insurance claim. Provide all details about the theft.
Contact your insurance company to report the theft. Most insurers have 24/7 claims hotlines. Provide details like when and where it was stolen.
Cooperate fully with any questions from the claims adjuster. Be consistent with all information you provide.
Send the insurer any evidence you have, such as photos of where it was parked or surveillance video if available.
Ask what documentation is required for a stolen vehicle claim, such as the police report.
The Waiting Period
Most insurers have a waiting period before paying out a claim for a stolen vehicle. This gives law enforcement time to recover the stolen car.
The waiting period is usually 7-14 days, though may vary by state and insurer. Continue cooperating with law enforcement and your insurer during this period.
If the car is recovered within the waiting period, damaged or undamaged, your claim would be adjusted accordingly. The insurer still covers applicable repairs or loss based on your coverage.
Special Investigations Unit
If your car is not recovered within the waiting period, your claim will likely get referred to the insurer’s special investigations unit (SIU). These teams handle claims that require additional scrutiny, such as theft, fire, vandalism, and other suspicious losses.
Some things the SIU may investigate include:
Reviewing the police report and evidence files looking for anything suspicious.
Contacting you for an additional recorded statement to ask detailed follow up questions.
Interviewing any potential witnesses who saw the car prior to the theft.
Reviewing any surveillance camera footage if available.
Looking for potential financial motives, such as being behind on car payments.
Examining your policy history and previous claims.
Requesting you take an examination under oath with a court reporter present.
The goal of the investigation is to validate the details of the theft and ensure the claim is legitimate before paying out the policy limits.
Settling a Stolen Vehicle Claim
If the claim passes the investigation stage without any fraud concerns arising, the insurer will make a settlement offer. This is based on the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle minus your policy deductible.
The ACV is determined based on:
- The year, make, model, features, and condition of your car
- Local market prices and comparable vehicle sales
- The standard vehicle valuation guides like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds
Review the ACV carefully. Negotiate a fair settlement if you believe the insurer’s valuation is too low. Provide documentation supporting a higher value from resources like Kelley Blue Book to dispute it.
Once settled, the insurer will have you sign the title over to them. At this point, if the vehicle is recovered, it becomes the property of the insurance company. They retain ownership because they paid you for the loss.
Tips for the Investigation Process
Here are some tips for smoothly navigating a stolen vehicle claim investigation:
Review your policy so you understand the claim process and coverage.
Be 100% truthful when answering questions. Any deception or inconsistencies will raise red flags.
Maintain thorough records including the police report, photos, titles, loan documents and any other evidence.
Keep communicating with your insurer. Promptly return calls and provide additional documentation as requested.
Attend any requested examinations under oath. These are mandatory to continue your claim.
Don’t rush into a low settlement offer. Negotiate if you have evidence the vehicle is worth more.
If the claim is denied, consult an attorney experienced with bad faith claims before taking legal action.
When a Claim Investigation Goes Too Far
Insurers have a duty to investigate potentially fraudulent claims. But sometimes their investigation processes go too far and result in wrongfully denied claims.
For example, an insurer may make unreasonable assumptions about your financial situation as a motive to illegally dispose of the car.
Other examples of bad faith investigations include:
Car Insurance and Stolen Cars: What You Need to Know About Coverage and Filing Claims
What is actual cash value of a car?
What happens if you buy a stolen car UK?