My car was stolen. I didn’t know didn’t report it before it was found. It destroyed public property. Do I have to pay?

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My car was stolen. I didn’t know didn’t report it before it was found. It destroyed public property. Do I have to pay?

My car was found vandalized and with a wheel stuck in a ditch under a public fence, up on the sidewalk. I didn’t know it was stolen b/c I hadn’t driven for over a week. It was found 3 days before I reported it and was in an impound lot. I got the car back, but when making the police report several days later b/c I had to drive out of town, I am being told I’m responsible for the price of the car being towed and the public destruction b/c they don’t know who or if I vandalized and got my own car stuck there. Am I at fault?

Asked on September 28, 2017 under Accident Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Legally, IF you could show that it had been stolen prior to the accident, you would not be liable: a vehicle owner is not liable (or responsible) for the actions of car thieves and what they do with his car. 
Practically, if you did not report it until after the accident, it will be very hard to convince anyone (e.g. a court) that it had been stolen first: it is rare that people do not notice their car being stolen, but it is fairly common that they look for a way to avoid liability for their actions. Without proof it was stolen, you might be held liable.


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