Suppose someone wants to "sell" a car but nobody will buy it. The owner has an insurance policy that covers theft. Is it legal for the owner to intentionally leave it unlocked in a high-crime area with the keys in the car, then file an insurance claim when someone steals it? This is similar to another question, but without the overt invitation to steal the car.

I'm not going to do this; I'm just curious if it's possible.


1 Answer 1


Yes it is

You have a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect your property. This is almost always explicit but it’s also implicit given your duty of utmost good faith in insurance contracts.

Failing to do so can be negligent, such as occasionally leaving the keys in the car - this is not fraud and is usually covered by the policy. Acting deliberately, by intentionally leaving the keys in the car and the car unlocked is fraud - it’s not covered and it is a crime if you do it with the intent of causing the insurer loss. Being reckless, like always leaving your car unlocked, would invalidate the policy but is not fraud.

  • 1
    This answer would be improved with citations to actual law. It doesn't seem quite clear that leaving your keys in the car is reckless, rather than negligent -- even if the owner knows the car is in a high-crime neighborhood. I think the bottom-line answer may be right, but the rationale seems problematic: does this mean insurancability is contingent on locking your car for residents of high-crime neighborhoods but not low-crime neighborhoods? Does the same rationale apply to the home? Is car theft really so predictable that the existence of that possibility brings this to recklessness?
    – bdb484
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 0:22
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    @bdb484 whether it’s negligent or reckless or deliberate is a question for the trier of fact
    – Dale M
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 1:49
  • But the trier of fact doesn't get to flip a coin. It must apply a set of established rules, whose inclusion in your answer would make it a more useful one.
    – bdb484
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 2:34
  • I remember the case of a German businessman who couldn’t afford his expensive monthly payments for the car. Arranged with some criminals to go on a holiday in Prague, and they would pay him a few thousand for leaving the keys in his car. Car was stolen, he flew back. Two problems: The crime never paid him. And the car insurance figured out he bought his flight ticket home before the car was stolen. So car gone, he still had to make monthly payments, and jail for insurance fraud.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 8:26
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    @bdb484 read your insurance contract. It contains a duty to care and lock the car usually. It might even demand a garage for home. Not fulfilling those obligations can result in the contract not covering your loss.
    – Trish
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 8:33

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