Sometimes, insurance companies refuse to pay out on claims for stolen vehicles. If you complain to us about this, we’ll:
- explore the insurer’s reasons for not paying your claim
- decide what’s fair and reasonable, based on the facts of the case
Types of complaint we see
We get several types of complaint about vehicle theft claims. You may complain to us after an insurer rejects your claim because:
- your insurer thinks you left the key inside the vehicle when it was stolen
- your insurer thinks you left the vehicle unattended
- what happened is excluded by a clause in your policy
- a family member stole the vehicle or took it without your consent
We need to investigate your case to decide if we think the insurer has acted fairly and reasonably in turning down your claim or whether we think they should pay it.
What we look at
Read more about what we consider in each type of complaint.
If your insurer rejected your claim because they don’t agree the theft happened in the way you said it did
We’ll check that your insurer has considered all the circumstances. We’ll look at:
- whether your version of events is consistent in how and when you reported the event to the police – and if the police treated it as a crime
- all reports and witness statements, including any recommendations for further investigations
- whether you’ve given your insurer all the keys for the vehicle and if not, why not
If your insurer thinks you left the keys in your vehicle
Your insurer may think you left your keys in your vehicle because there’s no obvious sign of a break-in. In these situations, we’ll ask:
- how you think your vehicle was stolen
- why the insurer thinks you left your keys in the vehicle
Even though there’s no obvious sign of a break-in, it doesn’t always mean the key was left in the vehicle. So we’ll check the insurer has fully explored other possibilities. For example, could the keys have been copied, stolen through a letter box, or does the vehicle have keyless entry?
We might ask the insurer whether they’ve taken information from the engine control unit, or if the key is electronic, whether they’ve “read” the keys. This might show:
- whether another key has been programmed to use the vehicle
- which key was last used to drive the vehicle, and when
- faults already on the car that might have made a thief get rid of the vehicle after stealing it
We’ll check whether an engineer has inspected the vehicle in person or just looked at pictures. If they haven’t thoroughly inspected the vehicle, we may tell them to carry out a full inspection and then reconsider the claim.
Sometimes, a vehicle can’t be inspected because it’s been burnt out or has never been recovered.
If it’s burnt out, there’s unlikely to be any evidence that the key was used. So we might say it’s unfair for the insurer to rely on an exclusion clause relating to keys.
If a vehicle has never been recovered, we’ll look carefully at evidence and possible reasons for it being stolen, and then decide what’s most likely to have happened.
If your insurer thinks you left your vehicle unattended
Your insurer may have rejected your claim because they believe you left your vehicle unattended – but you insist you didn’t.
We’ll investigate the circumstances and ask for evidence such as CCTV footage and photos of the area. We’ll consider how close you were to your vehicle, and whether you could have done anything to prevent it being stolen.
If the vehicle was on private land, we’ll ask questions such as whether:
- the vehicle was visible from a main road
- the engine was running
- the boot or doors were left open
If the vehicle wasn’t visible to other people, we might not agree with your insurer that it was unattended.
We’ll look at each individual case to decide what’s fair. If we think you had a good reason to leave your vehicle or were near enough to deter a thief, we’re likely to tell the insurer to pay the claim. We’ll also check whether your insurer clearly highlighted that leaving the vehicle could lead to a claim being rejected.
When a potential buyer drives off with a vehicle
Sometimes we see cases where the owner was trying to sell the vehicle and a potential buyer drove off and stole it. This might be referred to as a “theft by deception” exclusion in your insurance policy, and your insurer might rely on this when they reject a claim.
Most insurance policies exclude claims involving theft by deception. However, we sometimes decide the insurer has applied this too strictly. For example, if the person stealing the vehicle used violence, we might say that doesn’t count as deception as it’s more like car-jacking.
We might agree it’s fair for an insurer to turn down a claim if we can see that the keys and control of the vehicle were voluntarily handed over to someone else.
If we think you knew there was a risk your vehicle could be stolen, we’ll check what you did to minimise the risk. For example, if you were letting someone test-drive your car, did you stay in the car or check their ID and insurance documents?
If we don’t think you did enough to reduce the risk, we might agree it’s fair for your insurer to reject your claim.
We’ll also check whether, and how quickly, you reported the theft to the police, as well as telling your insurer. We’ll compare these different accounts and consider what’s most likely to have happened.
When a customer hasn’t taken reasonable care
Some people tell us their insurer says they didn’t do enough to prevent their vehicle being stolen. Insurers sometimes call this not taking “reasonable care” or acting “recklessly”.
Most motor insurance policies have an exclusion that says people should take reasonable care to protect their vehicle from loss or damage. This won’t usually be relevant in situations where an insurer has applied the exclusion relating to leaving keys in a vehicle or leaving a vehicle unattended.
If you recognised there was a risk that your vehicle could be stolen, and didn’t do enough to minimise the risk, we need to decide whether we think this was “reckless”. So we’ll ask the insurer for evidence that you recognised the risk. And we’ll look into where, why and how you left your vehicle.
If there’s no evidence that you recognised the risk in what you were doing, we might say you haven’t been reckless, and that it’s unfair for the insurer to apply the exclusion.
If you weren’t aware of exclusion clauses in your policy
Your insurance policy may contain exclusion clauses which mean you’re not covered if you leave the keys in or around the vehicle. If you weren’t aware of the exclusion, you may think it’s unfair for the insurer not to pay out for your claim.
When we investigate these cases, we want to be sure that the exclusion was clearly highlighted to you when you bought the policy. We might:
- check if the exclusion was mentioned in a key facts or summary document
- ask for evidence to show they discussed it with you, where possible, such as on a recorded sales call
If we don’t think this was sufficiently highlighted we’d want to know what you would have done if you’d known about it.
We’ll also check your insurer is being fair in applying the exclusion. For example, you may have known about the exclusion, but left your keys in your car due to an emergency. We might say it’s unfair for your insurer to not pay out, because you had a good reason for leaving the keys in the car.
If a family member stole your vehicle, or took it without consent
Insurance policies normally exclude claims for theft or attempted theft if they’ve been carried out by a relative or other household member. This is a common exclusion that we don’t think is significant.
However, the policy may contain an exception that says the claim can be considered if you agree to cooperate with the police in investigating or prosecuting the relative or household member.
If you cooperated with the police but they decided not to take any action, we’d normally expect your insurer to pay out on the claim.
Some policies don’t contain this exception and may have a blanket exclusion regardless of whether you cooperate with the police. We’d consider this unusual and would expect the insurer to highlight it very clearly in a summary or key facts document within the policy. This is because you might have chosen a different policy if you knew they weren’t going to cover you for this. If your insurer didn’t make this clear and we think you would have bought a different policy, we may well uphold your complaint.
In some cases, your insurer may reject a claim because a relative took a vehicle without consent, rather than stealing it. However, the law says that taking a vehicle without consent is still theft, so we’d expect them to pay out on a valid claim.
However, if the relative who stole the vehicle has a known history of doing this, we might agree that you should have kept your keys more securely and reject your complaint.
How to complain
Talk to the business first. They need to have the chance to put things right. They have to give you their final response within 8 weeks for most types of complaint. If you’re unhappy with their response, or if they don’t respond, let us know.
Find out more about how to complain.
Putting things right
If we uphold your complaint, we’ll usually tell the insurer to pay out on the claim. This means you’ll be paid what the vehicle was worth on the day it was stolen.
We may also tell the insurer to pay interest on top of this compensation. We calculate the interest from the date of the theft to the date you actually get the compensation.
We might award additional compensation if we think the case has been handled poorly, or if we think you’ve suffered any unnecessary distress or inconvenience.
Read more about how we award compensation.
An insurer is wrong about keys being left in a car
A customer leaves his car running and unattended
A customer doesn’t do enough to prevent his car being stolen
A customer’s car is stolen by deception