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Car Accident Baltimore

Stolen Car Accidents

In a typical Baltimore car accident case, blame often falls upon one of the vehicle owners involved in the crash. However, stolen car accidents introduce new elements that can complicate your ordeal. Because the person driving the car that hit you was not its owner, you may have a more challenging time securing compensation for your injuries, damaged property, and other losses.

You cannot dismiss the possibility of being involved in this type of accident. Per Maryland State Police, 11,143 cases of vehicle theft were recorded in 2021. Also, 1,061 carjacking cases were tallied that same year.

It is essential to know your legal options after a stolen car accident in Baltimore County, Maryland to prepare yourself better for that potential scenario.

How Is Liability Established in a Stolen Car Accident in Baltimore, Maryland?

Stolen car accident cases in Baltimore, Maryland, often become more complex than typical car crashes because of liability. When only you and another driver are involved in an auto accident, figuring out who is to blame for what happened is rather simple. You know what you did in the moments before the crash, so you can tell if the accident was partially your fault or if the blame should fall squarely on the shoulders of the other driver.

The situation changes significantly in a stolen car accident case. There is a good chance you are not at fault for that accident, and neither is the other driver. Instead, the blame for the accident should be on the person who stole the vehicle.

So, how do you prove that the person who stole the vehicle is the party responsible for the accident? There are steps you and the other vehicle owner can take to ensure that justice is served fairly in your case.

Reach Out to a Car Accident Lawyer in Baltimore, Maryland

The first step in ensuring that blame is properly assessed in your stolen car accident case involves getting in touch with a car accident lawyer. From here on out, you should avoid acting without advice from your Baltimore car accident lawyer because any wrong moves could jeopardize your claim. You may specifically need the services of a lawyer who has experience handling hit-and-run accidents due to the nature of your case.

Ask Your Lawyer to Investigate the Accident

Now that you have secured the services of a car accident lawyer, the next step should involve launching an investigation into your case. The police officers handling your case have likely started an investigation already, but it is good to have another set of eyes examining what happened.

Your lawyer can visit the accident site for physical evidence of the crash. They can also speak to witnesses and gather video footage from nearby establishments that captured the incident.

Why should you have your lawyer investigate the stolen car accident? The investigation aims to find solid evidence that you were not responsible for the crash. Once there is definitive proof that the thief is to blame, you and the other vehicle owner can work together to resolve the situation instead of going after one another.

Speak to the Baltimore Police

Since the Baltimore police are also looking into your car accident, they may reach the same conclusion after reviewing the available evidence. They may determine that the thief is responsible for the accident and focus on finding that person. However, you cannot assume that the police will come to that conclusion.

The police may determine that you share partial blame for the crash. They may also not name any party responsible due to the lack of evidence they gathered while drafting their report.

Speaking to the police is critical because you need an updated report to strengthen your claims. You will have an easier time recouping compensation thanks to that police report.

Who Covers Damages if the At-Fault Driver Was in a Stolen Car?

Following a lengthy investigation into your accident, authorities decide that the party at fault for what happened is the individual who stole another person’s vehicle. Making that determination is a huge step in the right direction, but what does that mean for your compensation? How can you recoup compensation for your losses if the person responsible sped away in a stolen vehicle?

Let’s look at a few scenarios.

Recovering Damages When the At-Fault Driver Has No Insurance

Your stolen car accident will likely be treated similarly to a hit-and-run case because the identity of the offending driver is unknown. Offending drivers involved in stolen car accidents tend to speed away from the scene for obvious reasons. Because of that, you may have no opportunity to see their face or notice any distinguishing qualities. Even remembering important details about the car would not do you any good because the driver stole it. 

Since we treat your stolen car accident like a hit-and-run case, you should seek compensation from your insurer. More specifically, you should file an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance provider. Uninsured motorist insurance allows you to submit a claim if your accident was caused by a “vehicle that does not have insurance.” Your uninsured motorist insurance will cover a  vehicle driven by an unknown assailant in a hit-and-run accident.

The good news is you likely have uninsured motorist insurance if you are a Maryland resident. The state of Maryland designates uninsured motorist coverage as a mandatory purchase, so it is probably already baked into your plan. You should be able to claim damages for both bodily injury and property damage through your uninsured motorist coverage.

Recovering Damages When the At-Fault Driver Has Their Own Insurance

Let’s say you are involved in a T-bone accident with the driver of a stolen vehicle. Due to the damage the vehicle they were driving sustained from the crash, your assailant was unable to flee the scene. Later, when the police interrogate them, the offending driver reveals they have auto insurance.

So, how should you seek compensation if the driver of the stolen vehicle that hit you has insurance? At that point, you can approach the incident like a typical car accident.

Work with your lawyer and seek compensation from the offending driver’s insurer. Provide evidence to bolster your claims and make it abundantly clear to the other driver’s insurer that their client is to blame for what happened. Feel free to negotiate a settlement with the other party’s insurer if they are interested, but have your lawyer handle those conversations.

While speaking to the offending driver or their insurer, you may notice instances where they seemingly cast partial blame on you for the accident. Those comments could have an impact on your case. If you acknowledge those comments and accept any blame for the accident, the other side could point to contributory negligence as the reason they do not owe you a payout.

Avoid ever putting yourself in that position by coordinating with a lawyer throughout the negotiations.

Damages You Can Recover

The damages you can recover from a stolen car accident case are similar to what you may receive from a typical auto accident lawsuit. That means victims of stolen car accidents can recoup economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages account for the quantifiable losses a person suffered due to an accident. Those economic damages include medical expenses, repair bills, and lost wages. Provide a full accounting of the quantifiable losses you incurred from the accident so the offending party and their insurer can present an accurate payout.

Meanwhile, non-economic damages in stolen car accidents offer compensation for unquantifiable losses. The non-economic damages are supposed to compensate victims for the trauma they have suffered due to the accident. For example, you may receive non-economic damages for the pain and suffering caused by the crash. Your lawyer can help determine the non-economic damages in your car accident case.

There is also a chance that you may receive punitive damages if you are involved in a stolen car accident. Punitive damages differ from economic and non-economic damages because they are not necessarily imposed for the benefit of the accident victim. Instead, courts may order someone to pay punitive damages for grossly negligent or reckless behavior. Whether or not stealing a car and crashing into a nearby vehicle qualifies as grossly negligent or reckless behavior is something for the court to decide.

Am I Liable if a Thief Steals and Crashes My Car? 

Thus far, we have focused on potential scenarios that could unfold if the driver of a stolen vehicle hits your car, but that is not the only time the involvement of a thief could prove troublesome. You may also own the stolen car that crashed into another vehicle. What can you expect if you are involved in that type of situation?

First, you do not need to worry about compensating the other vehicle’s owner even if your car technically hit them. From a legal standpoint, you cannot be liable for the accident because you did not give the thief permission to drive away with your vehicle. You owe nothing to the other vehicle owner.

Still, the frustrated vehicle owner may sue you in an attempt to recover whatever compensation they can following the accident. If that happens, you should focus on proving that someone stole your vehicle. Provide video evidence showing the car was taken from your parking spot without your knowledge.

Factors That May Impose Liability on the Vehicle Owner

Generally speaking, you should be able to avoid liability in a stolen car accident case as long as you can prove that your vehicle went missing without your knowledge or permission. However, factors could still lead the court to find you liable in part for the accident.

One factor could be a prior history of theft involving your vehicle. If your vehicle has been stolen multiple times due in part to your failure to secure it properly, the court may deem you at least partially responsible for the theft that eventually led to the accident.

Another factor to keep in mind is the current condition of your vehicle. If you knew your vehicle could be a hazard on the road due to existing brake issues and you were still using it, you may be partially liable if someone steals and crashes it.

You cannot sit idly by while the other party weaves a tale hinting that your negligence played a role in their accident. Dispute their false claims by hiring a lawyer who can effectively present the facts of your case. Demonstrate to the court that you bear no responsibility for what happened, and you are also a victim.

How Can You Pay for the Repairs of Your Stolen Vehicle?

If the person who stole your vehicle has no auto insurance, you may have to cover your repair or replacement expenses. This does not necessarily mean you will pay your expenses out of pocket. You can avoid those bothersome expenses if you have the necessary insurance coverage.

The specific coverage you need is comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage offers protection in situations where your vehicle is stolen, vandalized, or damaged in some other way apart from a collision. File a comprehensive coverage claim with your insurer to address your loss as soon as possible.

Auto Accident Lawyer in Baltimore, Maryland

Attorney John Leppler of Leppler Injury Law is fully committed to helping all victims involved in Baltimore car accidents. Give John a call for assistance if you were involved in a hit-and-run crash, a stolen vehicle accident, or any type of collision. Contact us today, and let’s start working on your car accident case!