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?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 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.

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 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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