Despite being a huge inconvenience, being the victim of a stolen vehicle can also lead to important legal related aspects. The first thing to do is contact your insurance company and an attorney to protect yourself.
In all cases, the owner of a stolen vehicle is not responsible for the negligence of the driver using the vehicle without permission. However, the stolen car defense can be a difficult one when the driver flees the scene and leaves the car behind. Police reports are very important, as they verify when the car was reported stolen. Evidence of whether the car was hot-wired, jump-started or driven with a key also is significant. The owner of a stolen car can be held responsible for damages caused by the driver if the owner left the keys in a vehicle parked in a publicly accessible area.
Negligence is determined by foreseeability. Leaving the key in the ignition of an automobile in violation of statute renders the owner liable for subsequent injuries and property damage to a third party caused by a thief if it was foreseeable that a thief would steal the vehicle and cause such damage. Statutes intend, in part, to provide third parties with a basis of liability against an owner whose negligence creates the opportunity for a thief to steal a vehicle.
It is also important to understand that an insurer has a duty to defend the owner and driver of the vehicle in personal injury actions even though the insurer reasonably concludes that the driver did not have proper permission, as long as the complaint alleges that the driver had owner’s permission, and the issue is not resolved prior to trial.
These issues can be complex and each case is heavily reliant on the evidence surrounding the incident. Contact our experienced attorneys if you are the victim of a stolen vehicle and need assistance in the next steps.