How Are Damages Covered if My Car Was Stolen and Damaged in an Accident?

criminal-breaking-into-carIf your vehicle was stolen and suffered damage in an accident, you may have to file a claim under your own insurance policy to recover compensation. To make matters worse, in some situations, you can be held financially liable for the damages that the thief caused. It is important to understand your rights and responsibilities in this situation.

If your vehicle was stolen and subsequently damaged, an experienced Savannah car accident lawyer at Roden Law can help you. We can review your legal options during a free case review.

Property Damage Coverage in Georgia

The coverage that may help pay for the damages to your vehicle in this type of a scenario is called “physical damage insurance.” This insurance pays for loss or damage to your own vehicle. This insurance is also referred to as “comprehensive” coverage. If your vehicle is damaged because of theft, vandalism or fire, this type of insurance may cover your losses, up to your policy limits.

You are not legally obligated to carry physical damage insurance in Georgia. However, if your vehicle is paid for through a loan, the bank or finance company usually requires this type of insurance. Likewise, if your vehicle is leased, the leasing company will probably require you to obtain this type of insurance.

What is the Permissive Use Doctrine?

The permissive use doctrine means that the registered owner of a vehicle is liable for accidents caused by another person who was driving his or her vehicle with permission. For example, a friend might have asked for permission to borrow your vehicle and you agreed.

Alternatively, the owner may have given implied permission based on habit. For example, you may leave your keys in a jar when you enter your home and that signals that any other household member can drive your vehicle.

Some insurance companies cover accidents caused because of permissive use even if the driver is not listed as a household member. However, other insurance companies do not, so be sure you carefully review your insurance before lending your vehicle to someone else.

Roach v. Dozier

Roach v. Dozier is a Georgia Court of Appeals case that determined that an owner of a vehicle can be held responsible for damages caused by the vehicle if it is stolen and if it was reasonably foreseeable that the vehicle could be stolen.

In that case, the court stated that while leaving the keys in the ignition of a vehicle was not enough to impose liability on the owner of the vehicle, the owner could be held liable if it could be proven that he had actual knowledge that a family member had taken his or her vehicle out for “joy rides” without his or her permission. This case establishes a foundation for a vehicle owner to be held liable for damages if the owner knew that a specific person had used the vehicle without permission and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent this person from using the vehicle again.

How to Report a Stolen Vehicle in Georgia  

If your vehicle is stolen in Georgia, report the theft immediately to the police. Gather the following information by looking at the documents you received when you purchased your vehicle, your old registration forms or your insurance card:

  • The make, model and year of the car
  • The name the vehicle is registered under
  • The vehicle identification number
  • The vehicle license number

Provide this information to law enforcement, along with the last location where you had your vehicle. Look around for any security or traffic cameras that may have recorded the theft. Also, make a report with your insurance company about the theft. Follow up with police, get a copy of your incident report and provide a copy to your insurance company.

Contact Roden Law for Immediate Assistance

It is bad enough to learn that your vehicle was stolen without having to worry about damage done to or caused by your vehicle. The experienced lawyers at Roden Law are ready to carefully review your insurance policy and damages and help you determine your legal options. We can explain what coverage you have and the steps you may be able to take to recover compensation for the damages you sustained.