Is The Owner Of A Stolen Vehicle Responsible For An Accident Caused By The Thief?
According to a recent report from Coral Springs Talk, a local rabbi was awakened just after 2:30 a.m. on July 25 by the police, who were knocking at as a door. No, the rabbi was not in trouble. The police were there to let him know that someone had stolen his minivan.
As the rabbi later recounted on social media, the thief and an accomplice “had been driving another stolen car” and were “looking for another opportunity.” But a security guard noticed the thieves’ “suspicious vehicle” and decided to call the police. As the police arrived, the two men “fled on foot,” according to the rabbi, and one of them “jumped the fence into our development, eventually ending up inside my unlocked van.”
The police quickly spotted the stolen minivan and ordered the thief to stop. Instead, the thief “drove straight into the back of another police car.” Fortunately nobody was hurt but the rabbi said, “The front of our van was smashed pretty bad.”
This story raises an interesting question: Had the thief caused a more serious accident, say one that seriously injured or even killed an innocent bystander, could the rabbi have been held liable in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit? In other words, can you hold the owner of a vehicle responsible for an accident even if their car was stolen?
Generally speaking, the answer to both questions is “no.” Although Florida law holds a car owner vicariously liable for accidents caused by people who use their vehicle with permission, the same usually does not hold when there is no express or implied consent.
For example, say a father loans his daughter the keys to his car. If she runs a red light and hits another vehicle, the injured parties can sue the father, as it was his vehicle and the daughter was using it with his permission. From a legal standpoint, the father is “vicariously liable” for his daughter’s action. This principle also applies to business owners who permit employees to drive their vehicles. If the employee causes a crash, the employee and business owner are both on the hook.
But let’s say the father had previously told his daughter in no uncertain terms she was not use his car. If the daughter ignores those instructions, waits for her father to fall asleep, and then steals his keys, any subsequent accident may not be the father’s fault, since the daughter did not have express or implied permission to take the car in the first place.
Of course, there are scenarios where issues of consent are murkier. Let’s say someone leaves their vehicle parked out on the street with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. If someone comes and steals the car and causes an accident, there might be a viable personal injury claim against the owner for their negligence in leaving the car in such condition.
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If you are injured in any type of car accident, it is important to seek out timely legal advice from an experienced Coral Springs car accident attorney. Contact Lyons & Snyder today to schedule a free consultation.