Being the victim of auto theft is a major hassle, and can be both inconvenient and costly. What is even more concerning, however, is when your stolen vehicle is involved in an auto accident which causes bodily injury or property damage. The following considers liability in the event that your car is stolen and involved in an accident – for answers to questions specific to your case, contact our experienced South Carolina car accident attorneys at the offices of the Joye Law Firm today.

Permissive vs. Non-Permissive Use in South Carolina

When it comes to accidents involving stolen vehicles and determining liability, it is important to understand that there is a distinction between permissive and non-permissive use of a car in South Carolina. The terms are fairly self-explanatory: permissive use of a vehicle refers to a situation in which the owner of the vehicle gives their permission to another party; non-permissive use is a situation in which a party uses a vehicle that does not belong to them without the permission of the owner of the vehicle.

If your vehicle is stolen, the thief is driving without permission, and therefore the concept of non-permissive use applies.

Why Does Defining Non-Permissive Use Matter?

It is important to distinguish between permissive and non-permissive use because in the majority of cases, the owner of a vehicle will not be held liable for injuries or damages that occur in a car accident resulting from non-permissive use. This means that if your car was stolen and therefore driven without your permission, and is then involved in a car accident, you will likely not be liable for any damages that result. Instead, the liable party would be the at-fault driver in the accident (either the person who stole your car, or the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident). Keep in mind that in the event that your car was used by a friend of your who was uninsured with your permission, and your friend was in an accident, then you would be liable for any damages.

It can be very difficult to prove that your vehicle was stolen if you do not file a police report immediately upon noticing that your vehicle is gone. This is especially true if it turns out that the person driving your vehicle at the time of the accident was someone you know. In this case, the insurance company may have a hard time accepting your story that this person “stole” your car, instead assuming that you gave the driver permission to use your car, and therefore holding you liable for damages. This could not only mean that your insurance company has to pay for damages, but that your premiums increase as well.

Will My Insurance Cover Anything?

Whether or not your insurance will cover anything, including physical damage to your own vehicle and any injuries to others, varies on a case by case basis and the details of your own policy. It is unlikely that your insurance policy will pay to damage to others since you are not liable for the crash; however, your insurance may pay for damage to your own vehicle if you carry collision coverage.

The Importance of Contacting a Car Accident Attorney

As soon as you discover that your vehicle has been stolen, you should report the incident to the police so that they can begin searching for your car, and to absolve yourself of liability in the event that your vehicle is involved in an accident.

If your vehicle is involved in a crash, it is important to call an experienced car accident attorney immediately. Not only will your attorney help you prove that you should not be held liable for the crash based on the fact that your call was stolen and the driver did not have your permission to operate the vehicle, but can also help you to get a settlement from your insurance company to pay for damage to your car.

Contact the Joye Law Firm Today

At the Joye Law Firm, our talented SC car accident lawyers have more than 40 years’ worth of experience representing people involved in insurance claims in Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Charleston, Clinton, and surrounding areas. To learn more and get answers to your toughest legal questions, contact us today to request your free consultation. You can reach our personal injury lawyers online or by phone now!

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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