What is my liability for keying someone’s car?

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What is my liability for keying someone’s car?

I keyed someone’s car. I was caught and have to go to court in 2 weeks. I was videotaped at a police station confessing, plus I wrote a statement. I am facing several hours of community service. With my written statement, can the victim take the statement to their insurance company and file the damages with my insurance company?

Asked on January 15, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

If you key someone's car, you may be charged with criminal mischief or something else depending on your state and the police report. Even though this charge may seem minor, you should still have a criminal defense attorney represent you.

Financially, you are liable for the cost to repair deliberate damage done to another's property. For keying a car, you'd have to pay the repainting and other related costs. With a confession, there is essentially no doubt but that you would be found liable. That means that the car's owner could sue you directly for the cost and possibly also recover additional compensation (e.g. Did he have to rent a car while his is being repaired? Did he lose wages by having to take the car into the shop? Did he pay court costs or legal fees for your deliberate bad act?). If his insurance pays for his loss, then the insurer could sue you to seek reimbursement for their costs.

Can the Other Party Contact Your Insurance Company to Cover Intentional Damage?

Even with the legal minimums, many auto insurance companies do not cover intentional damage. If it's reported to them, they may investigate and seek legal advice on their responsibilities. It's typically written into the policy either way.

Even if the claim is denied, your insurance company may increase your auto insurance premiums to cover their costs and the increased risk. If your auto insurance doesn't cover this type of cosmetic damage, you would be held financially responsible. 

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Attorney If I Confessed to Keying a Car?

If you've already confessed, it may seem pointless to call in a criminal defense counsel. Keep in mind, you're entitled to counsel in the United States even in minor criminal cases. The judge may order you to pay a certain amount to repair the auto damage from vandalism. If you get sued, they will most likely go to small claims court. It's relatively common for both sides to go in without lawyers. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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