How do I make a claim on items stolen while my car was in a tow yard after an accident?

UPDATED: Jan 2, 2012

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How do I make a claim on items stolen while my car was in a tow yard after an accident?

My car was towed after an accident. When I went to retrieve my personal belongings I noticed that everything had been taken from inside the vehicle. When I reported this to the supervisor she stated that she would look into it. She called me the next day and told me that all of my items had been “thrown away” and that they had found some of the items. When I went to pick up the items I had to dig through the trash to pull them out and of course all of the valuable items were not there. Sadly I do not remember every single item that was in the vehicle. There were many items in my car seeing as it was the holiday season and try as I might I cannot recall all of the items. Do I have legal recourse?

Asked on January 2, 2012 under Accident Law, Georgia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If the towing company, impound yard, etc. either lost or stole your items, or negligently allowed someone else to take them (e.g. the car was not secured), they probably are liable. To recover the value of the items, you'd have to sue them and prove in court by a "preponderance of the evidence" (i.e. "more likely than not") that 1) the items were in the car when towed; and 2) what the items were; they'd have an opportunity to try to attack/weaken your case or present what they believe are credible defenses. You could use your own testimony as evidence; much will depend on how believeable you are (though it would be *very* helpful to have more than that--receipts, invoices, testimony of other people, etc.). You could try suing in small claims court, where you could represent yourself (no need to pay an attorney)--unless the items were very valuable, in which case you should retain a lawyer.

Have you considered whether your renters or homeowners insurance may cover the loss. Some plans will.

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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