Nobody ever expects that their vehicle is going to be broken into, let alone stolen. Unfortunately, any vehicle owner can fall victim to these crimes. While it's true that GPS tracking devices and other anti-theft technology have made break-ins and theft less common, Michigan's Peter Vitale reminds insurance customers that these crimes still occur-and on a fairly regular basis.
For this reason, all drivers should be aware of the proper steps to follow in the event that they become victims of a car break-in or auto theft. In this article, auto insurance expert Peter Vitale offers an explanation of the role of comprehensive coverage in these scenarios, as well as what drivers should (and shouldn't) do if they end up victims of either of these crimes.
Understanding Auto Insurance Coverage for Break-Ins and Thefts
One of the biggest mistakes drivers make when it comes to buying insurance coverage is assuming that their basic, state-minimum coverage includes protection against car break-ins or auto thefts. In reality, only a specific type of car insurance coverage known as comprehensive coverage actually protects drivers from damages caused by break-ins or thefts.
What is Comprehensive Coverage?
Specifically, comprehensive coverage is a type of auto insurance coverage that is typically considered an "add-on." In most states, it is not required that a driver carry comprehensive coverage unless he or she has a car that is currently being financed. In this case, the lending institution handling the vehicle's financing (whether it be a lease or an outright purchase) will likely require the borrower to carry both comprehensive and collision coverage (in addition to state-minimum liability protection).
Even more specifically, comprehensive coverage is designed to protect against things like theft, vandalism, break-ins, and even damage to a vehicle caused by "acts of god" (hail, for example). In some cases, comprehensive coverage may also protect against auto glass damage, such as a cracked windshield.
Does Comprehensive Insurance Cover Stolen Cars?
Typically, comprehensive coverage does cover losses due to theft. However, just like collision coverage, comprehensive coverage comes with its own deductible. This means that a driver whose car is stolen may have to pay a deductible before the coverage kicks in and pay to replace the stolen vehicle.
Likewise, depending on the amount of comprehensive coverage that is purchased, there is also a chance that the policy may only cover the car's estimated value at the time of the theft. These are just a few things to keep in mind when shopping for comprehensive insurance.
What About Personal Items?
Comprehensive coverage can also cover damages related to a car break-in, including actual damage to the car caused as a direct result of the break-in (broken glass, for example). On top of that, depending on the specific policy, it is also likely that a comprehensive policy will include reimbursement for personal items stolen out of the car. However, the driver will need to have proof that each item was actually stolen from the car, as well as information about its value, in order to get reimbursement. This isn't always easy.
With all this in mind, it's important for drivers to make sure they have adequate car insurance coverage to protect them in the event of a theft or break-in. Adding comprehensive coverage to an existing car insurance policy, Michigan-based insurance specialist Peter Vitale explains, is a great way to enjoy some added protection and peace of mind.
What to Do in the Event of a Car Break-In
Nobody wants to think about the possibility of their car being broken into. Unfortunately, it's something that can happen to anybody and at any time. For this reason, knowing what to do (and what not to do) in the event of a car break-in is a must.
Document as Much as Possible
One of the most important steps to take after discovering the break-in is to document things as much as possible. This includes taking photos of the damage to the car (such as broken window glass or a busted door handle), as well as the area around the car.
Upon investigating further, it is also important to start taking inventory of things inside the car. If anything is missing, be sure to create a list of potentially stolen items; this information will be important for processing any insurance claims down the road.
File a Formal Police Report
The next step is to file a formal police report. This should be done with the police department or other police agency in the location where the break-in occurred. In order to file a police report, there is some documentation that may be required. This may include:
a list of stolen items
photos of the damage to the vehicle
a driver's license
auto insurance ID card
proof of vehicle registration
Upon filing a police report, it is important to obtain a copy through the department directly. A copy of this will be required in order to process any insurance claims related to the incident.
Keep an Eye on Credit and Bank Accounts
If any bank cards, checks, or other sensitive information was compromised as a result of the vehicle break-in, it may be necessary to place a "freeze" on one's credit. This will help to cut back on the possibility of any thieves stealing or opening up bank accounts/lines of credit in the victim's name. For any bank cards or credit cards that may have been stolen from the car, it is also vital to contact each bank respectively to cancel these cards and order replacements.
File an Auto Insurance Claim
Victims of auto break-ins need to report these incidents to their auto insurance agents as soon as possible. This way, the claims process can get started quickly, which can cut down on the delay between filing and receiving compensation for lost/damaged items. When filing an insurance claim for a break-in, policyholders should generally be prepared to provide their:
insurance ID/policy number
itemized list of damaged/stolen items
copy of a formal police report
Those filing an insurance claim should also be prepared to pay any deductible associated with their comprehensive coverage.
What to Do in the Event of a Car Theft
Dealing with a car break-in can be stressful enough, but what if the car is stolen outright? While some of the steps to follow may be similar, there are a few other things to keep in mind when dealing with a stolen car.
Make a Police Report
Filing a police report as soon as possible is perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with an auto theft. Be prepared to provide as much information about the car as possible so that local police can keep a lookout for it and make every attempt to recover it.
Start an Insurance Claim
While it is estimated that more than half of cars stolen in the United States are eventually recovered, the unfortunate reality is that these cars are often not in one piece when they are recovered. With this in mind, those who have fallen victim to auto theft should not delay filing an auto insurance claim to get the ball rolling on a replacement vehicle.
When contacting an insurance agent to report a stolen car, some important things to have available include:
a copy of the police report
a title to the car
details about the theft (date, time, etc.)
Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles
It is also recommended to contact the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or equivalent institution to let them know about the stolen car. This is because the DMV keeps a detailed database of stolen cars so that if somebody attempts to register a stolen car, the original owner can be tracked down and notified.
The Final Word on Auto Break-Ins and Car Insurance Coverage
Knowing what to do in the event of an auto break-in or theft can help to expedite the insurance claims process and take at least some of the stress and uncertainty out of the situation. Likewise, carrying the right type and amount of insurance coverage can make all the difference. And, as Michigan insurance professional Peter Vitale explains in this article, affording comprehensive auto insurance coverage doesn't have to be difficult.