Your Vehicle Was Stolen? You Could Still Be Held Liable For Accident Damages

Most of the time, the only thing people have to worry about when their vehicles are stolen is making sure their insurance companies compensate them for the loss. Under certain circumstances, though, a person can be held liable for the damage caused by the thief if he or she gets into an accident. Here's more information about this issue.

Liability Due to Contributory Negligence

All states have laws that hold vehicle owners liable for accident damages if they give permission to others to use their cars and those drivers cause collisions. Therefore, it may seem odd an auto owner could be made to pay for damages caused by a thief whom the individual most assuredly did not give authorization to take the car.

However, an accident victim could convince a judge you are partly liable for the accident if your negligence contributed to the vehicle being stolen. The idea is that if you had been more careful about securing your vehicle, the thief wouldn't have had access to your car to cause the accident.

What the court may consider to be contributory negligence can vary, depending on where you live. In Tennessee, leaving your keys in the vehicle could put you on the hook for damages if someone steals your car as a result of that oversight, for instance.

This is what happened in a 2007 case. The car owner's grandson left the keys to the vehicle on the seat inside it. The defendant argued he wasn't liable for the actions of the thief because the keys weren't left in the ignition. However, the appeals court decided in favor of the plaintiff anyway, noting there really was no difference between leaving the keys in the ignition or in plain view on the seat.

Defending Against This Claim

The success of this type of accident liability claim depends on a concept called proximate cause. If the plaintiff's injuries were the direct or approximate result of the defendant's actions, the defendant can be held responsible for some or all the damages the plaintiff suffered. Therefore, if the plaintiff can adequately tie your negligence to the accident, you could be made to pay.

The person can do this by showing the car theft was a foreseeable outcome of your actions. For instance, if you leave your car unlocked in a bad neighborhood known for property thefts, it could be argued that having your vehicle stolen was a foreseeable outcome.

To defend yourself in this case, you would have to show that you had no reason to think your vehicle would be stolen or that you did everything within reason to prevent the theft from happening. For instance, if you lock the vehicle's doors and turn on the auto alarm but someone steals the vehicle using a hidden key, then you may not be held liable since you couldn't have foreseen someone would make the effort to find the extra key.

For more information about this issue or help defending against an auto accident lawsuit, contact a car accident lawyer.

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If you're in an auto accident and sustain serious injuries, who do you call for help? How do you pay for your medical bills and personal expenses while you recover? If you can't find the answers to these questions, then you need a personal injury attorney. A personal injury attorney works hard to get you the money you need after a life-changing accident. He or she investigates your accident from start to finish. Getting your life back on track after a devastating car accident isn't easy. But with an attorney representing your case, it's possible. If you need additional guidance on how to find a personal injury lawyer or if you have questions about your compensation, read my blog. It gives you the answers and solutions you need now.

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