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Who May Be Liable for a Stolen Vehicle Accident in New Jersey?

Posted on behalf of Lynch Law Firm on Aug 05, 2021  in Car Accidents News

Person breaking into a carIf you were injured in an accident caused by the driver of a stolen vehicle, you may be able to hold the owner liable along with filing a claim against the no-fault coverage in your own insurance. New Jersey state law specifies when a vehicle owner may still be liable for an accident if his or her vehicle had been stolen.

However, it may be difficult to build a case against the vehicle owner. Speak to our licensed car crash lawyers in New Jersey to discuss the facts of your claim and learn about what legal options may be available to you. We have helped numerous crash victims secure compensation for their damages.

Vehicle Owner Liability

Under New Jersey law, a person who is responsible for the handling of a vehicle shall not allow it to stand on a highway unattended unless the vehicle’s brakes are set, the wheels are turned toward a curb or side of the highway and the engine is turned off.

If the owner of a vehicle fails to adhere to this law and his or her vehicle is stolen, later resulting in an accident that causes injuries, that vehicle owner may be held liable for damages.

However, the state statute does not make any mention of whether the keys must be removed from the ignition and out of the vehicle. Therefore, if the owner turns off his or her vehicle, but does not remove the keys from the car and the vehicle is stolen, there is a question about whether the vehicle owner would still be liable for damages if a third party is injured as a result.

Foreseeability of the Theft

Two New Jersey cases have set legal precedent for the question of liability of vehicle owners who have their vehicles stolen after leaving the keys in the vehicle or simply being negligent in taking the necessary measures to prevent theft.

In both cases, the courts ruled that a vehicle owner shall be held liable for damages resulting from an accident caused by a person driving his or her stolen vehicle if the theft was foreseeable and could have been guarded against.

For example, if a vehicle owner leaves an unlocked vehicle, with the keys in the vehicle, parked in a neighborhood with high crime and theft rates, it is reasonable to foresee that the vehicle could be stolen. Therefore, the vehicle owner could be held liable for damages caused by an accident.

Proving Liability

While there may be legal precedent for vehicle owner liability in stolen vehicle accidents, it is important to remember that the burden of proof lies with the injury victim. This means that you must prove that the owner of the stolen vehicle could have prevented the theft of the vehicle before the accident occurred.

Vehicle owners have a responsibility to report stolen vehicles to the authorities, so if the theft was not properly reported, you may have a stronger legal standing to pursue compensation from the vehicle owner.

There are several other factors that may need to be considered when trying to prove liability for stolen vehicle accident cases, so it is important that you speak to a knowledgeable attorney who may be able to help you through the process of building a strong case.

Options for Recovering Compensation for Damages

Since New Jersey is a no-fault state, every driver is required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance to help pay for medical costs and lost wages after an accident, no matter who is at fault for the crash. Because of this, if you were injured in an accident caused by a person driving a stolen vehicle, you may still be able to have some of your economic damages paid for.

If another party was involved in the accident and bears fault you may also be able to recover compensation from that driver’s liability insurance.

It is best to discuss all your legal options with a knowledgeable attorney.

Need Legal Help? Call Us Today

Stolen vehicle crash victims often face an uphill battle in trying to recover compensation for their damages, since there are ways negligent vehicle owners may try to dodge liability.

Fortunately, our attorneys are prepared to help you fight for your right to compensation if you were injured due to someone else’s negligent actions.

We offer a free consultation to discuss your claim and do not charge you anything while we work on your case. We only get paid if you do, so there is no risk to you.

Call us today at (800) 518-0508 to schedule your free consultation. 

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