Insurance company blames victim for car theft, refuses to pay


by Maggie Crane / News 4

Posted on November 5, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 6 at 9:33 PM

ST. LOUIS ( -- A woman’s car was stolen from right outside her home in the Central West End and later recovered by police four miles away. Now, the victim’s insurance company is trying to blame her for the theft.

Crystal Burns was out of town when someone stole her car.  If that is not bad enough, she says her insurance company doubts her claim because agents cannot figure out how the thief broke in.  Crystal is now doing her own detective work to clear her good name.

“I just felt completely violated,” Crystal Burns said.  “It was 50 feet from our home.”

Four days after Crystal’s car was stolen, police found it. Anti-crime cameras caught the car being towed from Lee and North Newstead.  It was out of gas and left abandoned in the middle of the street. The anti-crime camera did not catch a glimpse of the thieft since the vehicle was left just out of the camera's range.

Burns has Progressive Auto Insurance. She says they do not want to pay for the damage the thief did until they can determine how the thief got into the car.

“They’re stating since there was no damage to the ignition or the locking mechanism that someone had to have access to a key,” Burns said.  “We’re not even capable of doing something like that. It’s just really disgusting.”

Crystal says her insurance company is making up a wild tale to avoid paying the claim, even though she says it’s clear a stranger was in her car.

“We actually found quite a few things that did not belong to me. There were a pair of shoes, a makeup bag and a CD case,” Burns said.  “They had even used my GPS.  There were different addresses in the GPS where the car had possibly gone—some even as far as 160 miles into Illinois.”

In addition, Crystal said she is nearly six feet tall, but her car seat was pushed up so far she could not even get inside.

“There was plenty of evidence had police just investigated a little bit further, but everything was just dismissed because there was no ignition damage,” Burns said.

Now, Progressive is asking for the couple’s cell phone records and proof of where they were the day Crystal’s car was stolen.  She says she’s turned over everything.

“We have nothing to hide. I feel like my character is insulted by accusing us of that,” Burns said.  “I just hope they don’t leave me high and dry when it really matters.”

Burns says she’s been a Progressive customer for nearly 15 years.  

Repeated calls to Progressive went unanswered, but News 4 will follow up.



On Tuesday, Progressive spokesman Jeff Sibel called to say that Crystal Burns's claim has not been denied but that the company is trying to determine how to classify the theft and resulting accident before paying the claim.

Sibel says that "either way, it will be fixed on taken care of" but that the inquistion is "just part of a normal search for facts."

News 4 will continue to follow the case.