If a rental car company office was broken in and car keys were stolen by someone and they then had an accident with the car, who is responsible for the damages?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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If a rental car company office was broken in and car keys were stolen by someone and they then had an accident with the car, who is responsible for the damages?

One of the cars taken off the rental car lot was driven reckless in a residential neighborhood causing property damage in excess of $1,500. The 17 year old driving the stolen rental car was apprehended by the policemen and a police report of the incident cited hit and run. The 17 year was not arrested. The policeman stated charges would be made by the rental car company. The insurance company for the rental car company told the property owner that the rental car company did not have liability for the property damaged because it was a theft. What recourse if any can the property owner take to get the rental car company or insurance to pay for the damages?

Asked on November 2, 2015 under Accident Law, Louisiana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

The rental car company (and therefore its insurer) is NOT liable when a car is stolen: persons and businesses are not liable for the criminal actions of third parties not under their control. (Similarly, if someone stole your car and crashed it into another car, you would not be liable.) If you have insurance of your own covering the damage, submit a claim: that's what you have insurance for. You could also sue the 17-year-old and his/her parents or legal guardians, but they might not have the money to pay, which would make the judgment you'd get in the lawsuit essentially valueless.

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