Who May Be Liable in a Crash Caused by a Stolen Vehicle?

stolen car involved in a crashIn a crash involving a stolen vehicle, confusion can arise over who is liable for any resulting injuries and damages, particularly if it is a hit and run and the thief cannot be identified or located. Oftentimes, the vehicle owner is an innocent party and typically cannot be found responsible. This means injured victims will likely need to to make a claim against their own insurance policies to obtain compensation.

A licensed car accident lawyer in Oshkosh is ready to review your situation and help you understand your rights in a free legal consultation. You are under no obligation after this meeting to move forward, but if you do, we charge nothing up front for our services. We only get paid if you obtain compensation.

Liability for Damage Caused by Stolen Vehicles

After an accident, the at-fault party is responsible for paying for any damages caused, assuming he or she has auto insurance and sufficient coverage. But what if the at-fault party was driving a stolen vehicle? Generally, the at-fault party will not be insured in these situations since he or she was doing something illegal when the damages occurred.

This means recovering funds from the driver who stole the vehicle could be difficult or impossible, as he or she is likely not covered or might be impossible to identify or locate. You may need to use your uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage. In Wisconsin, UM coverage is required and could help cover injuries and damages, up to the policy limits. UIM coverage, on the other hand, is optional.

For the owner of a stolen vehicle, damage to his or her vehicle may be covered under a comprehensive insurance policy. Although Wisconsin does not require that you purchase comprehensive coverage, it could help cover physical damage to a vehicle due to theft.

Some victims injured in a stolen car accident may want to take legal action against the vehicle owner, saying that the owner was negligent somehow, such as by leaving keys in the vehicle. However, they are usually unable to successfully sue the vehicle owner. This is where legal representation may be of help.

How a Claim Could Be Pursued

You may be able pursue a claim for compensation if you and your lawyer can prove that the at-fault driver was given permission from the owner to drive the vehicle. During a detailed investigation, your lawyer may uncover information if the vehicle was reported stolen before the crash. 

The vehicle owner may have made a false report saying the vehicle was stolen when it was loaned to a family member or friend. If this person causes a crash, the vehicle owner is liable for damages. He or she can only be responsible if the vehicle was borrowed with actual or implied permission.

Handling a Stolen Vehicle

Under state law, the theft of a motor vehicle is considered a felony. The class of offense is based on the value of the stolen vehicle.

For instance, stealing a vehicle worth over $5,000 but no more than $10,000 is a Class H Felony, which incurs a fine up to $10,000 and/or up to six years in prison. Stealing a vehicle worth over $10,000 but no more than $100,000 is a Class G felony, which incurs a fine up to $25,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison. Stealing a vehicle worth $2,500 or less is considered a Class A misdemeanor.

If your vehicle has been stolen, there are several steps that can be taken to preserve your claim for compensation. The last thing you want is the insurance company to believe that you had anything to do with your vehicle being stolen. These steps include:

Confirm Your Vehicle Was Stolen

Before jumping to the worst possible conclusions, take a minute to think things through. Ask yourself: “Am I absolutely sure this is where I parked?” If your vehicle is not parked where you think you left it, maybe you parked it in another area. Be sure to check impound lots to see if your vehicle was towed.

Contact the Police to Report Theft

If you are certain that there are no other explanations left, it is important to report your vehicle stolen to the police sooner rather than later. You will need to provide a full description of your vehicle (make, model, year), license plate number, driver’s license, and vehicle identification number (VIN). If your vehicle is equipped with a tracking device, let the police know and retain a copy of the report.

Inform Your Insurer of the Theft

Your insurer will also need to be informed that your vehicle was stolen, and you are no longer in possession of the vehicle. Be sure to provide details, including any personal items left inside the vehicle.

Even though your policy may cover theft (not in the event of a crash), a payout will not be issued right away. Most insurers do not close a claim until fraud is ruled out and/or recovery of the vehicle. For vehicles not recovered, it may be considered a total loss for which reimbursement could be possible.

Reach Out to Our Firm Anytime, 24/7

Accident claims involving stolen vehicles are complex, which is why you need an experienced lawyer on your side representing your best interests. To date, our firm has obtained millions of dollars in compensation for our clients, including car accident victims.

An initial consultation is 100 percent free and confidential. There is no obligation to move forward and no upfront fees for our services. We only receive payment if we help you obtain compensation.

Sigman Janssen. Free Case Reviews. (877) 888-5201.