It would be bad enough if your personal belongings were stolen from your car, but you'd feel even worse knowing that you left your car unlocked. You may wonder if your error will cost you the right to recover from your insurance company. Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as whether or not your car was locked.
Whether you left your car unlocked is largely a moot point when it comes to claiming your personal belongings under your auto insurance. Standard auto insurance contains no coverage for loose items in your vehicle. While some policies do cover items that are permanently mounted to your vehicle, such as a built-in GPS device, you cannot claim things like your stolen gym bag, CD collection or portable GPS. Your auto adjuster will probably deny this claim without even asking about the car being unlocked.
Standard homeowners insurance does contain coverage for your personal belongings outside your home. While the specific definitions for this coverage vary by insurer, generally you are protected against theft of items in your vehicle, storage facility or other off-premise location. Read your policy or check with your agent to see how this coverage might apply to you. Because homeowners insurance carries this protection, you may be able to claim your stolen items under this policy.
Just because you have a valid claim under your homeowners insurance policy does not automatically mean you will be reimbursed for your stolen items. Your adjuster will investigate the circumstances of the theft, and this is when it may become relevant that your vehicle was unlocked. Adjusters must look for signs of insurance fraud, and allowing a thief easy access to your valuables can be a fraud indicator. The investigation may still conclude in your favor, but you will have to cooperate with the insurer. If there are other fraud indicators, such as no receipt or record of purchase for the stolen items, the insurer may deny you coverage.
Even if you can overcome a fraud investigation, it still may not be worth it for you to file a homeowners insurance claim for your stolen items. Often, homeowners insurance policies carry high deductibles to help offset the premiums, so if the value of your stolen items falls below your deductible you will not receive any settlement from the insurer. If the value exceeds the deductible, weigh how much you expect to receive as a settlement against the increased premium as a result of filing a claim. If you will ultimately end up paying more in premiums than you receive as settlement, consider replacing your items yourself.
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