What Are Your Legal Rights If You Get Injured in an Accident Involving a Stolen Car in Ohio?
According to several recent news reports, car theft in Ohio is on the rise. For example, WSYX in Columbus reports that the local police have been dealing with an uptick in thefts involving Kia and Hyundai models since the start of the year. This is largely due to the fact that these manufacturers have opted not to install anti-theft features that are now standard on most other vehicles.
In many cases, the thieves are teens as young as 14 years old, and unsurprisingly, many of these car thefts lead to accidents. This raises an important question: If you get injured in an accident involving a stolen car (and a thief who doesn’t have auto insurance), what are your legal rights?
3 Options for Recovering Financial Compensation After an Accident Involving a Stolen Car
Unfortunately, most individuals who get injured in car accidents involving stolen vehicles won’t be able to pursue the normal route of filing a claim under the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. The coverage simply won’t be available. But, depending on the circumstances, injured drivers and passengers may have options including:
1. Filing a Claim Under Your Auto Insurance Policy
If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage under your auto insurance policy, you can use this coverage in the event of an accident involving a stolen vehicle. This type of scenario is precisely what a UIM policy is for, and if you have UIM coverage, now is the time to use it.
When filing a UIM claim, you must be able to prove that the other driver was at fault in the accident. Essentially, your insurance company “stands in the shoes” of the other driver’s insurer. If you would have had a claim under the thief’s insurance policy if the thief had coverage, then you can file a UIM claim with your insurer.
Given that filing a UIM claim requires proof of liability, you should handle your situation just like you would handle any other accident. This means documenting the effects of the accident, getting treatment for your injuries, and hiring a lawyer to gather evidence and deal with your insurance company for you.
2. Filing a Claim Against Another Party That Shares Responsibility for the Accident
In some cases, it may be possible to file a claim against another party that shares responsibility for the accident. For example, let’s say you were injured in a multi-vehicle collision. If your lawyer can show that another driver (in addition to the thief) made mistakes that contributed to the collision, then this other driver’s insurance company could be liable for some or all of your losses.
Another example would be if road conditions factored into the crash. If the road surface was unsafe, if your (or the thief’s) visibility was obstructed, if a traffic light was poorly timed, or if any other road-related issue played a role in your accident, then you could have a claim against the Ohio Department of Transportation or another government agency that is responsible for the road where the accident occurred.
3. Filing a Claim Under the Ohio Crime Victims Compensation Program
A third option that may be available to you is to file a claim under the Ohio Victims Compensation Program. As the Ohio Court of Claims explains, “[t]he Ohio Crime Victims Compensation Program is a state government program that provides innocent victims of violent crime and their families with up to $50,000 in financial assistance for certain out-of-pocket expenses resulting from a crime.” While the Victims Compensation Program does not cover all accident-related losses (i.e., it does not provide compensation for pain and suffering), filing a claim can still be vital for maximizing victims’ recoveries.
Will I Receive Compensation if the Driver Who Hit Me in a Stolen Car Gets Convicted?
Let’s say the person who stole the car and caused your accident gets convicted in criminal court. If this happens, will you automatically receive compensation?
Unfortunately not. The criminal and civil justice systems are separate, and filing a claim for financial compensation is a civil matter. So, while the thief’s conviction may lead to fines and jail time, it will not provide you with the financial compensation you deserve.
While proof of a criminal conviction can help with establishing civil liability in some cases, remember that you most likely won’t be filing a claim against the thief. Additionally, the Ohio Supreme Court has made clear that victims have the right to pursue civil claims “based on injuries caused by a criminal act without having to show the crime resulted in a conviction.” With this in mind, you should not wait for the outcome of the thief’s criminal case to assert your legal rights.
What Should I Do After an Accident Involving a Stolen Car?
To protect your legal rights after a car accident involving a stolen vehicle, there are some steps you should try to take promptly. We recommend that you:
- Call 911 – Any time you are involved in a car accident, you should call 911 at the scene. This is especially true if the accident involves a stolen vehicle. If you are at home or in the hospital and haven’t yet reported the accident, you should do so using the police department’s non-emergency number.
- Take Detailed Notes – You should write down everything you can remember about the accident. This includes details about the other vehicle, the location of the accident, and what transpired after the crash.
- Talk to a Lawyer – To give yourself the best chance of recovering financial compensation, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced car accident lawyer will be able to explain your options, give you advice, and pursue all available claims on your behalf.
Contact Us for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation with a Lawyer in Columbus, OH
If you were injured in a car accident involving a stolen vehicle in Ohio, we encourage you to contact us for more information. To speak with a lawyer in confidence as soon as possible, call 888-444-7440 or request a free consultation online now.