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Customer's car stolen while awaiting repairs at local car dealership; Who is responsible for the loss?

Phil Long Ford offers to reimburse customer for insurance deductible and any possible increase in premiums
Car theft
Posted at 5:03 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 08:58:27-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — If you drop off your car at a dealership for repair work and it, unfortunately, gets stolen, who is ultimately responsible?

That's the question one military family asked News 5 Investigates to look into after their truck was nowhere to be found when they went to pick it up.

Stolen Ford F250
Stolen Ford F250

Anne Connolly says her husband took their Ford F250 Pickup Truck to Phil Long Ford Motor City for warranty repair work, but when it came time to pick up the truck a month after dropping it off---the service team couldn't find it.

"This was my husband's dream truck," Anne said. "It was a F250 Platinum Edition in pristine condition."

Service records obtained by News 5 Investigates show the car was dropped off on June 3.

Anne says every week, her husband would call the dealership to check on its repair status.

On June 29th, Anne says her husband was told the truck was ready for pick up when he called.

Anne Connolly
Anne Connolly talking with Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross

"He paid $100 for the deductible warranty," Anne said. "They (the dealership) had the key. They went to find the vehicle and told him they couldn't find it."

Anne says the dealership did spend quite some time trying to locate it before ultimately filing a stolen vehicle case report with Colorado Springs police.

"They (the dealership) had no idea where the vehicle was," she said. "That's not reasonable care in my opinion. We trusted them with our vehicle."

To make matters worse, no one seemed to know the exact date the truck disappeared.

Phil Long Ford Motor City
Phil Long Ford Motor City

"Their only resolution was for us to file a claim with our insurance and it's no big deal because it's just a comp (comprehensive) claim is what we were told," Anne said. "However, I think it is a big deal because it goes on our record for something we didn't do."

Phil Long Ford declined an on-camera interview but did offer a resolution when we reached out to them to discuss this case.

The dealership ultimately offered to pay Anne's insurance deductible, any potential increases in premiums for a year, and refund the $100 warranty repair work payment.

They also offered to sell Anne and her husband a similar F-250 Pickup for the same price as their insurance payout (when that arrives).

Dealership Resolution
Resolution offered by Phil Long Ford

The only "catch" is that Anne and her husband would have to make the first claim by contacting their own insurance.

Anne tells News 5 that since the dealership had sole custody of their vehicle when it was stolen, she believes the dealership should have filed a claim first.

News 5 Investigates spoke with Carole Walker, the executive director for the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, also known as RMIIA. We asked various questions about what happens in similar unfortunate situations.

"With the spike we're seeing in auto thefts, catalytic converter thefts and then just more expensive repairs and lengthier time for repairs, it's more important than ever to ask the right questions," Walker said. "I would not just immediately contact my own insurance company. I'd talk to that repair shop first and ask them what coverage they have and what steps they took to make sure they weren't being negligent. One of the biggest things (to consider) is was that auto body repair shop making sure while they had your car in their care, what were they doing to protect it?"

Walker says if the dealership or repair shop is refusing to contact their own insurance company first, go ahead and call your insurance company to let them know what's happening.

She says in situations similar to this, it's important car owners carry comprehensive insurance---something that is not required under Colorado law.

Without a comprehensive insurance policy, you may not be covered in the event your vehicle is stolen.

"We don't think when we are dropping our car off at the auto body shop or dealer---what type of insurance coverage do you have? What type of insurance company do I have?"

Fortunately in Anne's case, her family does have comprehensive coverage and they were able to open a claim.

How stolen vehicle claims work:

When you contact your insurance company, an investigation is typically launched.

In cases where a vehicle is stolen, the car owner may have to wait a period of time after a claim is opened just in case the car is recovered.

If the car cannot be found, the claim would proceed forward.

If an insurance company believes the other party is at-fault, they'll subrogate the claim.

This means that your insurance and the other party's insurance will battle it out to determine who ends up paying for damages (or the overall vehicle loss).

"Depending on what the circumstances are of how that car was stolen or damaged, that's also going to depend on who covers it," Walker said.

News 5 also asked Walker about signage a business may post that claims to limit their responsibility or liability if a car is stolen or damaged on their property.

Liability Sign
Sign posted inside Phil Long Ford's Motor City location

Walker says if the dealership or repair shop hasn't done its due diligence or taken steps to protect a customer's car while in their care, they may still be liable if something happens.

Gina Sacripanti, the Corporate Communications Director for Phil Long Ford said the dealership will continue to work "off-camera" with Anne and her husband to ensure they are taken care of appropriately.

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Previous stories on rising car thefts:

New study finds car thefts are up

Car break-ins rising in Colorado Springs

8 people, 1 juvenile involved in multiple area car thefts