If a family member steals my car and gets in an accident and dies, am I liable for property damages?

UPDATED: Feb 15, 2012

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If a family member steals my car and gets in an accident and dies, am I liable for property damages?

It was a single car accident only damages other then the driver fatality was to a fence.

Asked on February 15, 2012 under Accident Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you can show that the car was stolen--that is, that the family member's use of the car was not permissioned or authorized--you should not be responsible for any damage he/she caused. A car owner is not responsible, except in exceptional circumstances, when injuries are caused by the criminal use of his or her vehicle; that is because legal liability depends on fault, and fault depends on wrongdoing--either intentional wrongdoing, or excessive carelessness (negligence). Some else's criminal act is not your wrongdoing. (The main exception: you live in an area with a high rate of car theft, and/or live with a family member who has stolen cars before--in a case like that, if you fail to take reasonable steps to secure your car, such as locking it, possibly putting a "club" or alarm on it, keeping the keys out of the car when not in use, etc., you may find yourself liable due to your negligence, or unreasonable carelessness, in how you kept your car.)

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