By Gaynor Haliday

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Can you claim compensation if injured in a stolen car?

Stolen cars are more likely to be involved in a road traffic accident than your average vehicle. For a passenger riding in a stolen car, it is possible to claim for personal injury after an accident. However, the process is not a straightforward one.

The first issue relates to criminal liability. Did the passenger know that the car they were riding in was stolen? And were they in any way at fault in causing the accident?

The second issue is insurance. As the driver of the stolen car would not have any insurance taken out on that car, who is liable, if anyone, to pay? Getting professional advice is essential.

Is crime an obstacle to compensation?

Drivers of a stolen car have committed a criminal offence: theft or joyriding, depending on their intention to return the vehicle. An individual who knowingly allows themselves to be carried in such a vehicle is also guilty of an offence and will unlikely be entitled to compensation.

There may however be instances where a person riding in a stolen car is unaware of the status of the vehicle and that the driver was not insured. If proven, that person has not committed a crime.

If this is the case, and the vehicle is involved in a road traffic accident resulting in the passenger suffering a personal injury, compensation is achievable if it can be proved that the driver was solely responsible.

How can driver responsibility be established?

Many road traffic accidents involving stolen cars are due to reckless driving. If the driver failed to obey speed limits or traffic signals, or neglected their duty of care to ensure the safety of passengers or other road users, they can be held accountable.

If the driver was not driving recklessly, and it is proved that the fault was with another driver, a claim for compensation from the third party insurers can be made.

Who is liable if the vehicle is stolen?

Even if the driver of the stolen car is shown to be responsible, the difficulty over liability arises because stolen car drivers are uninsured. Therefore any compensation claim for personal injury to a passenger must be referred elsewhere.

Under section 151 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the insurers of the legal owners of the stolen vehicle are liable to cover any loss or personal injuries sustained as a result of an accident.

The insurers of the vehicle are then entitled to recover the amount they pay out for the personal injury claim from the driver at fault in the accident.

If the insurers are not willing to pay out or if the vehicle stolen was not insured, personal injury claims can be made through the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB).

How do I proceed with a claim?

If you have been injured when riding in a stolen car, speak to a legal professional who will be able to navigate the complexities of the claim with you.