Can I Sue for a Stolen Car?

Can I Sue for a Stolen Car?

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Can I Sue for a Stolen Car?

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?”

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  • Understand the Motivation for Vehicle Theft 

    Having your vehicle stolen from underneath you puts you in a difficult situation. And it may cause you to wonder why a thief would need your vehicle in the first place. A range of reasons might explain why your car was stolen. Some of the most common reasons include: 

    Taking Your Car on a Joy Ride

    For young perpetrators, the motive for stealing a car might be as simple as a joy ride. If you have an especially chic or valuable vehicle, this is a particularly common scenario. Fortunately, if your vehicle was stolen for a joy ride, it’s possible it will turn up somewhere, perfectly safe and sound. 

    Taking Your Car as a Getaway Vehicle

    If someone is in the act of committing another crime, they may steal your vehicle as a means of getting away. Since your car can’t be traced back to the perpetrator of the crime, it can be easily taken and later abandoned. 

    Taking Your Car and Selling It for Spare Parts

    Unfortunately, this is a fairly likely scenario and doesn’t leave much room for a happy ending. If a thief has taken your vehicle with the intent to break it down and sell it for parts, your odds of finding the vehicle in one piece decrease with each passing minute. 

    Understanding why a thief might target your vehicle will help you better protect it against theft in the first place. Keep reading, and we’ll cover some more tips for preventing auto theft.

  • How to Protect Your Car Against Theft

    When it comes to protecting yourself against vehicle theft, there is a range of things you can do to better prevent the worst from happening. For starters, there are a number of common-sense decisions you can make, including:

    • Lock all of your doors and windows whenever you park the car
    • Keep your keys on your person — not in the vehicle
    • Park in well-lit areas whenever possible
    • Never leave valuables, such as wallets, laptops, or cash, inside the car

    There are also a number of technical upgrades you can make to prevent the theft of your car. We recommend you consider installing the following:

    • An audible anti-theft device, like a horn alarm
    • A visible anti-theft device, like a steering-wheel lock or window etching
    • Immobilizing devices that shut off the vehicle in the event of theft or hotwiring
    • Vehicle-recover or GPS systems, so the vehicle is easier to find after a theft

    You can’t avoid every bad situation, and some determined thieves will not be deterred. But with these safety tips in your arsenal, you are less likely to become a victim. 

  • Can I Sue for a Stolen Car?

    The answer to “Can I sue for a stolen car?” is yes, depending on the situation. The truth is that you can file a lawsuit for just about any theft. But it’s important for you to understand the difference between a civil lawsuit and criminal proceedings.

    If you win a civil lawsuit, the other party doesn’t receive a jail sentence or probationary time. Instead, they will have to pay you for the damages you received due to their actions.

    In a civil lawsuit, you will have the burden of providing a preponderance of evidence that the crime took place and left you with damages. But remember that if the defendant doesn’t have many assets, you may not actually be able to recover any of the damages you are ultimately awarded. 

    As you might imagine, these cases can be quite intricate and complicated. Your best bet is to speak with an attorney to determine whether suing over a stolen car will be worth the effort.

  • How Likely Is It That I’ll See My Car Again?

    Unfortunately, only about one in five stolen vehicles are returned to their original owner. And because selling a vehicle for scrap parts is a leading cause of car theft, your vehicle may already be in pieces by the time you notice it is missing.

  • What Kinds of Damages Can I Sue For When My Car Is Stolen?

    If you have to buy a new vehicle or make repairs to your stolen vehicle upon its return, you can sue for compensation for those damages. You might also sue for damages if you had to take time away from work or pay for a rental vehicle while your car was missing.

  • Can I Sue for a Stolen Car if I Can’t Afford an Attorney?

    Any good attorney will withhold the fee until the case is won or successfully settled. At Morgan & Morgan, that’s why we say the fee is always free! You won’t owe us a dime until you’ve received the compensation we help you fight for.

  • Discuss Your Case Further With the Experienced Attorneys at Morgan & Morgan

    Are you ready to learn more about automotive theft and find answers to questions like “Can I sue for a stolen car?” If so, then it’s time to reach out to the team at Morgan & Morgan. We offer free case evaluations to help you get started on the right foot. Simply fill out the contact form on our site to get started.

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