Reasonable care of car

Leilani’s vehicle was stolen outside a convenience store. Leilani left her vehicle unlocked, with the windows down, and the keys in the ignition, while she went inside the store to buy a few items. The thief arrived at the convenience store, got into Leilani’s unattended vehicle, and drove away. Leilani made a claim to her insurer, but her claim was declined due to a general policy condition requiring Leilani to take all reasonable steps to protect the vehicle from loss.

Leilani disagreed with the insurer’s decision to decline the claim and complained to FCSL.

Dispute

Leilani said the insurer was wrong to find that she did not protect the vehicle from loss. Leilani said she did not act recklessly, as she did not deliberately leave the vehicle unattended with the hope or knowledge that it would be stolen. Leilani also did not think the vehicle was at risk of being stolen from outside the convenience store.

The insurer said Leilani did not ensure that the vehicle was reasonably protected. The insurer believed that Leilani took an unjustified risk by leaving the vehicle unattended, with the windows down, and the keys in the ignition.

Review

Leilani had a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to protect her vehicle from loss, as required in the general policy condition.

We needed to decide whether Leilani had breached this condition. To decide this, we looked at whether Leilani acted recklessly, and whether she failed to do what a reasonable person would have done in the same circumstances. There were multiple factors that were relevant for us to consider, such as the amount of time the vehicle was left unattended for, and the location where the vehicle was left.

Leilani only left her vehicle unattended for a few minutes while she went into the store. While the risk would have been greater if the vehicle had been left unattended for longer, there was still a risk of theft during the few minutes that it was left unattended. A reasonable person would have understood that there is a risk of theft if the vehicle is left unlocked and unattended, even if it is only for a short period of time.

The location itself was also a relevant factor. A reasonable person would accept that leaving their vehicle unlocked and unattended at a busy convenience store carries with it some risk. Leilani said that she was able to see her vehicle from inside the store. However, even if Leilani had a view of her vehicle from inside the store, there was not much she could have done to stop the theft, as it was likely the vehicle would have been driven away before Leilani could take any action.

Leilani said people leave their vehicles unlocked outside a convenience stores all the time, as it is an area where security cameras are operating, and many other customers are present. We acknowledged this, however, even if it might be reasonable to leave a vehicle unlocked at a convenience store, it is expected that the person would at least take their keys inside with them, rather than leave them in the ignition.

We concluded that the risk that Leilani took, leaving her vehicle unattended at the convenience store, unlocked, with the windows down, and keys in the ignition, was not reasonable. It was reasonable for Leilani to understand that by doing this, she was at risk of having her vehicle stolen.

Resolution

We suggested that Leilani discontinue her complaint, as we were unlikely to find that the insurer had unreasonably declined the claim.

Leilani did not accept our view, so we issued a final decision recommending that the complaint was not upheld.

Insights for consumers

Consumers should ensure that they take all reasonable steps to protect their insured items. If the consumer fails to do this, their insurer may have grounds to decline their claim, and the consumer will be left without cover.