Law Offices of Paul K. Schrier, PLLC

What Happens When a Stolen Car Is Involved in an Accident?

In Miami, nearly all motor vehicle accidents are handled under the state of Florida's 'no-fault' rules. This implies that persons injured due to the accident must pursue their own insurer for compensation irrespective of who was responsible for the crash.

There are exceptions though. For instance, if a person suffers a permanent injury due to the accident, they may go beyond the no-fault rule and seek compensation from the person who caused it. To know when your injuries require you to pursue the other driver or car owner, get in touch with an experienced Miami car accident lawyer.

So what happens when a stolen car gets an accident?

The Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine

Before we answer that, some context is important. When an accident occurs due to driver negligence, it's not just the driver who will be considered at fault. The owner of the car may also be jointly liable under the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine.

This rule is the result of a century-old verdict by the Florida Supreme Court that imposed responsibility on any individual who permits or authorizes another person to use an 'instrumentality considered dangerous' on a public highway. The car owner is therefore responsible for the injuries incurred by third parties due to the negligence of the drive.

This seems like a reasonable expectation and fairly straightforward. That is until you start to think about the assignment of liability if a car is stolen and causes an accident.

Does the law still place a duty on you the car owner in this case?

No Permission No Liability

The short answer is no. Once an individual takes possession of your car without your authorization, you will not be held liable for accidents they cause. Though rare, there are some exceptions especially when the person who took the car was already known to you. For example, if your child took your car without your permission and was involved in an accident, there will be circumstances in which you could be liable.

If there is a record of you regularly allowing the child to drive the car without asking you for permission, this is considered implied consent. The child took the car because they assumed you were okay with it just as you've always been. You may be liable. However, if you have expressly prohibited them from driving the car whenever you discovered they had taken it without permission, you will not be liable.

A Note on Rental Cars

A scenario worth mentioning is on accidents involving rental cars. This is particularly relevant in Florida given the considerable number of rental cars on the road each day. Tourists who prefer them to cabs love the driving independence they give. That said, anyone hiring a car in Florida must understand the liabilities involved. If you allow someone else to operate the car and they end up causing a collision, you as the person who rented the car will be held liable. Injured parties are likely to file a claim against the rental company as well.

However, liability in the case of an accident involving a stolen rental is similar to that of your own car. The key is the existence of permission to the driver who had an accident. As long as you did not give express permission to someone else to drive the car, you are less likely to be liable.

Read: Hit and Run Car Accidents: Who Gonna Pay for it?

Contact to a professional Miami Car Accident lawyer at Florida Accident Law Help

If your car is stolen and subsequently involved in an accident or if you are hit by a stolen car, you should get in touch with a Miami car accident Attorney as soon as possible. Florida laws can be complex whenever the driver of the car is not the owner (or renter). At Florida Accident Law Help, we are well versed in Florida's car accident laws and will advise you on your options.

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