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Can You Help Me Prove My 2007 Honda Accord Was Stolen?

I am living in a nightmare of a puzzler. I parked my leased 2007 Honda in a reasonably safe neighborhood in San Francisco at around midnight. Less than an hour later, the car was gone. About 6 hours later the car was found parked on the same block with so much body damage that it was totaled. The insurance company says I must be lying, that the car could not have been stolen because I had possession of all three keys (2 regular; 1 valet) and their locksmith said there was no sign of damage to the ignition system or that anything but a “computer chipped” key had started the car. In other words, they claim that it was impossible for the car to be stolen because I did not lose possession of the only keys that could have started the car. I spoke with the SF Police and they told me that thieves are able to create their own computer chipped keys.

Can anyone in the Car Talk community give me some arguments I can give the insurance company? This has been a financial disaster for me because I still have to make the lease payments and when the lease is up I am going to have to pay for the car, unless I can persuade the insurance company that the car really was stolen.

Thanks for your help!

The only thing I can think of is to have the SF Police provide you with some form of certified statement that this has been witnessed or confirmed due to investigation, and point you to an expert that will confirm the statement. At least this way, the main argument of the insurance company will be negated. I would think that there would be some way to determine if a ‘cloned’ or counterfeit chip key was used, but I’m no expert.

This reminds me of an old saying, that security is an illusion. Any new anti-theft device that the car companies come up with will eventually be exploited by car thieves. It is inevitable.

Talk to the State Insurance Commissioner. It seems that even if the insurance company were right, the insurance company would still have to pay to repair the car.

Tell your insurance that they will be hearing from your lawyer. This is worth too much to just let go. If you really are in the right here (which is to say, you didn’t accidentally leave your keys in the car, and you’re not lying to us), get an attorney and nail the insurance people to the wall. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with stuff like that and the more that people stand up for themselves, the better a chance there is for it to stop.

What company is this, by the way?

Not that I’m an insurance expert or anything, but I don’t totally understand here-- if they’re not going to let you claim it as a theft, do they want you to make a claim under the collision policy? How are you going to make a claim for a total loss on this thing with no accident report? And if they do want you make a collision claim, is there that much of a material difference between claiming a total loss on the collision policy and the theft policy? Could claiming it as a hit and run be another possibility?

I am in a Catch-22. I reported the car stolen to the police. When the car was found, I reported that the car had been damaged while stolen. If I had not reported the car stolen and instead made a claim that there had been a hit and run while the car was parked or that I had damaged the car while driving, the damage would have been insured. But I told the truth, the insurance company does not believe me and now they are accusing me of making a false claim, which allows them to pay me nothing. That’s why I am hoping for some help in showing that it really is possible for a 2007 Honda Accord to be stolen, even if the keys are accounted for and there is no damage to the ignition system. When I called the police, I told them that I remembered old commercials that showed car thieves getting into and driving cars away within a few seconds. I asked if that was no longer possible with modern (computer chipped) keys and the police said it still happens. So I don’t know if the insurance company is just jerking me around or if what happened to me is really unusual.

Well, there are theft rings on the west coast who specialize in stealing Hondas and become very skilled at stealing them very quickly, and I’d not be surprised if these days they know all the tricks of the security systems and computerized chip keys. This situation doesn’t really fit, though, because for one these groups are usually professional thieves who are stealing your car to chop for parts, whereas it sounds like your car was more of a joyride situation. Also, because they are selling the cars for parts, they usually target older cars where there’s more of a used parts market-- with as reliable as those things are, nobody really needs blackmarket parts for their '07 yet!

What I would think might be a possibility is someone who maybe works at the dealership or somewhere that you’ve had it serviced at might have made a copy of the key. I’m not sure I’d expect it on an Accord, but many dealerships have some variation of the story of the boss’s druggie nephew who they hired to wash cars for the summer stealing or copying a key for that customer’s shiny new 'vette and taking it for a booze-soaked joyride before being shipped off to military school. Keep in mind that one new development is that it’s MUCH easier to make a copy of a computer key than it was a few years ago-- these days any hardware store can do it in a matter of minutes. So have you had any recent service done on it?

I’d definitely stick to your guns on this one. Again, I’m no insurance expert, but if you’ve filed a police report and everything, I think the onus is on them to prove that you’re committing some sort of fraud, not on you to prove your car was stolen and it’s hardly the impossibility their claiming. I’d maybe try loudly complaining the next person up from who you have been talking to and if that doesn’t yield results definitely do not hesitate to do the attorney route-- often a letter on law firm stationary is all it takes.

I can’t offer proper advice and I suggest no one else has been able to address your problem, although some have provided some good advice.

Since laws and insurance policies vary, you need to contact a local attorney.

Easiest way to steal a car is with a tow truck. No key or fob needed.

Agreed . . . but how did the damage get there? This seems like you should be able to arbitrate the deductible while the car is in the body shop. Call the insurance commissioner for your state and report them, then get counsel involved and sue for damages PLUS attorney fees. Rocketman