Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Break-ins can be painful even with insurance

(Editor's note: This is part-two of a two-part series on the crime of car prowling and the subsequent break-ins that follow.)


September 7, 2017

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Valuables left in plain sight in an automobile are begging to be stolen. That can be through a locked or unlocked vehicle and either way it can be expensive - even with insurance.

When someone discovers that they have become the victim of an automobile break-in, it is likely too late to find out, or simply understand what their insurance policy does - and does not - cover.

The same goes for you homeowners coverage, kind of like discovering some serious ailment after one puts off, and puts off, that yearly doctor check-up.

There are assumptions that policy holders make that fully illustrate the old axiom that to "assume" really does make an "ass out of u and me."

A large section of the public never seems to grasp some of the basics of insurance, Cheney All-State agent Kevin Ottosen said.

"Number one, personal property taken from your car is not covered by your car insurance on any policy in the state," Ottosen said.

There's no place on a car insurance policy that has coverage for your personal property. Those items fall under a homeowners policy. But that still does not preclude them asking of the question Ottosen said. "At least twice a week."

The break ins that seem to be the most baffling are those where items are left in plain sight - potentially in an unlocked car to boot - like credit cards, cash and electronic devices.

While the items lost may or may not be worth filing a claim, the fact that they may have been the reason some thief chose the vehicle in the first place can still be costly.

A broken window is covered under car insurance through the comprehensive portion of the policy. But when all is said and done, being too lazy, disinterested or just naive can be costly.

Preventing crimes like this in the first place is the best way to start. "Try to avoid providing an attractive nuisance," Ottosen suggests. In other words remove things from an automobile that might be visible to the smash-and-dash-thief.

In a typical break-in, gone might be a container of change, some kind of electronic device and a maybe a gym bag with old tennis shoes in it. "Nobody knew what was in it so they just took the bag (and it) usually it ends up in the dumpster down the street," Ottosen said.

With deductibles as high as they sometimes can be, there is still often an out-of-pocket cost to being complacent, plus a likely surprise come policy renewal time.

"The majority of people carry policies with $1,000 to $1,500 deductible on house insurance," Ottosen said, adding the value of lost items never adds up to the deductible.

And, the next time their homeowners policy is renewed there is a 20 percent rate increase. "What's that all about," Ottosen said the customer wonders. "You had a claim," he reminds them.

Local State Farm agent Jackie Scholz deferred to a corporate spokesperson for comment and Sevag Sarkissian echoed what Ottosen said when it came to break-ins and coverage.

"When it comes to auto insurance coverage, vehicle theft is typically covered under comprehensive coverage of a personal auto policy, however, all claims are handled on a case-by-case basis," Sarkissian wrote in an email. "Any personal property that is stolen out of a car is usually not covered on a personal auto policy; the owner should look to their homeowner's policy for coverage."

And there are those who, fortunately, have not had to deal much with the matter.

"I must say I can't remember when we last had a break in claim reported to us," Buck and Affiliates West owner Tom Benzel in Airway Heights said. "We are just lucky I guess."

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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