Picture this: you’re stopped at a red light waiting for the light to turn green when the driver behind you isn’t paying attention, rear-ends you and then flees the scene. Later, that vehicle is found abandoned by the police. The police investigation reveals that the registered owner reported the vehicle stolen either before or after the accident occurred. They have no leads on who stole the vehicle. What are your rights? Who will pay for your property damage and injuries?
In claims involving personal injury or property damage caused by the negligent operation of a stolen vehicle, one of the issues we must address is whether the owner of the stolen vehicle is responsible for the damages caused by the thief.
Typically, the owner of a stolen vehicle will not be held liable for damages when the vehicle is stolen and then involved in an accident that causes injury or property damage. This is because the thief did not have the owner’s consent to use the vehicle. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court expanded an owner’s potential liability for injury to third parties in situations where: 1) a vehicle is stolen because of the owner’s negligence, and 2)special circumstances exist that make the probability of a thief’s negligent driving foreseeable. The liability of the owner will usually depend on the particular facts of the case.
If there is no coverage available through the other vehicle’s insurance company due to it being stolen, and absent the special circumstances above, you can bring an uninsured motorist claim through your own insurance company. If you have collision coverage, your own insurance company will take care of the property damage.
There is also the possibility that the vehicle that was reported stolen was, in fact. not stolen. Perhaps, for example, the owner of the vehicle loaned it to a friend who caused the accident and is trying to protect the friend, or the owner himself caused the accident and fled to avoid criminal charges.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a similar situation, contact our firm at 651-493-0429 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys who will investigate the facts of the case and explain what your rights are.