Legal Tips
Legal Tip: What to Do if Your Car Gets Broken Into Deborah Nelson+ August 16, 2016

Nelson Boyd

Car prowls are on the rise in the Seattle area. My car got broken into last year and I was mad! I was also at a loss about what to do, so here are my tips about what you need to do if your car gets broken into:

1. Call the police. You need to make a record of the break in for insurance purposes, if nothing else. Call the police. Tell them what happened. Ask them to make a report of it. Get the police report number, and get a copy.

2. Deactivate your cell phone. Contact your cell carrier and deactivate your phone immediately if it was stolen to help prevent against cyber theft, identity theft, or even just creepy phone calls.

3. Take photos. Before you leave the scene, get photos of the damage to your car.

4. Make a list of everything that was stolen. Do this as soon as you possibly can. People will start asking you what was stolen and you may have a hard time remembering, so make this list before you even leave the scene (if it is safe to do so).

5. Call your insurance company. Damage to your car should be covered under your auto insurance policy. Replacement of your lost goods could be covered under your homeowner’s coverage, renter’s insurance, and/or auto insurance. Ask your adjuster for the claim number and instructions on how to file a claim.

6. Get your car repaired. Your auto insurance company can help you with this. If glass was broken, they often have recommendations for places that will quickly replace broken windows.

7. Locate proof of ownership of your goods. Your insurance claim will go much smoother and your reimbursement will be much more accurate if you are able to prove that you owned the items that were stolen, and how much they cost. Look for sales receipts, credit card bills, and photos of the items that were stolen.

8. Start replacing your stolen items. If you have “Replacement Cost coverage” you will get reimbursed for the actual cost to replace the item “with like kind and quality” as soon as you actually replace it. I found it easiest to just replace everything first and then submit the receipts for the replacement costs. Other people choose to receive the “actual cash value” (i.e. garage sale price) first and then use that money to replace the items, submit the receipts to the insurance company, and then get paid the difference.

9. Create a spreadsheet of the items that were stolen. Start listing everything that was stolen, and that you replace, in an organized fashion. List the item, its original purchase price, the date you purchased it, the date you replaced it, and the amount you paid to replace it. Keep all of the receipts for the new items you purchased. It will be much easier for your insurance company to pay your claim if you submit the information in an organized fashion.

10. Fill out the Police Report and return it. The police will mail you a report to complete and return. Although the vast majority of car prowls are never prosecuted, occasionally stolen property is recovered and traced to its owner via serial numbers. List any items for which you have the serial number.

Preventing car thefts isn’t always possible and may be a fact of life in the big city, but these tips should help you quickly recover and move on.