U.S. auto theft statistics fluctuate from year to year. But in 2020, they hit their highest rate in over ten years, with vehicles being stolen at a rate of 246 per 100,000 people. Due to the pandemic, the economic downturn, and more limited resources, auto theft is rebounding as a major problem for Americans.
If your car has been stolen, it’s more than an inconvenience: It may limit your ability to work and provide for your family. For many people, a vehicle is a lifeline — which may lead you to wonder, “Can I sue for a stolen car?”
As with most legal questions, the answer to this one is a bit complicated. Keep reading to learn more about what you should do if your vehicle is stolen and when to consider taking legal action.
As always, you should reach out to our team if you have specific questions. Fill out the contact form on the Morgan & Morgan website to schedule a free case evaluation today.
What to Do if Your Car Is Stolen
For anyone whose vehicle has been stolen, the event feels like much more than a minor crime. It could leave you feeling vulnerable, exposed, and even in danger.
Naturally, you’ll want to handle the situation promptly and with care. The next steps you take will impact your ability to recover the stolen vehicle with minimal damage. For that reason, we recommend that you take the following four steps when you discover that your car has been stolen:
1. File a Police Report
Take a moment to gather your wits about you and ensure that your car was indeed stolen. Did you lend your key to someone, or is there a chance the vehicle was towed?
If it does appear to be a theft, your first call should be to the police to file a report. Filling out the report will require you to provide a number of details about the event and your vehicle. Be prepared to provide the officer with the following information:
- The make, model, and year of the vehicle
- Any distinct features that make your car stand out
- When and where you last saw the vehicle
- The license plate and VIN
- Whether or not the vehicle has GPS tracking
Remember, the sooner you reach out to the police, the sooner they can start looking for your car.
2. Get in Touch With Insurance
After you have spoken with the police, the next call you make should be to your insurance provider. At the very least, you will want to file an insurance claim within 24 hours of the vehicle being stolen. Again, be prepared to provide a variety of details to ensure your claim is successful.
Specifically, the provider may ask you to inform them of these kinds of details:
- Descriptions or photographs of any valuable items left in the vehicle
- All of the information provided in the police report
- A copy of the police report
With this information, your insurance provider will be able to start processing your claim. Depending on your plan and coverage, you may be able to negotiate compensation for a rental vehicle until your car is found.
3. Consider What You’ll Do if the Car Is Not Returned
According to some estimates, less than half of all stolen vehicles are ever recovered. And even if the police do find your car, it could be severely damaged or taken into evidence.
In any case, it’s wise to consider your options should the vehicle not return to your possession. After all, you cannot continue to rent a vehicle indefinitely.
If you believe that your insurance coverage should pay for the purchase of a new vehicle, reach out to an attorney. That way, you can ensure that you receive the full amount you deserve.
4. Thoroughly Inspect the Car if and When It’s Returned
If your vehicle is returned safely, you may be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief and put the unfortunate experience behind you. Before you do that, make sure to have the car thoroughly inspected by a mechanic.
If there is an underlying issue, it would be better to find out now than to wait until it is unclear whether the damage is related to the theft. If you or your mechanic finds damage, inform both the police and your insurance provider.
Once you have taken these four steps, you’ll be better prepared for whatever may come. And if you are unsatisfied with the amount of insurance coverage you are entitled to, it may be time to ask more pressing questions, like, “Can I sue for a stolen car?”