What Happens When Your Car Is Stolen Then Found? Facts & FAQs
Whether you wake up with your car missing or it’s gone from your parking space at the grocery store, having your car stolen is no joke. Sadly, car theft is also very common. In 2020 alone, there were over 800,000 reported stolen cars¹ in the US. Weirdly enough, though, most people don’t know what happens when your car is actually found after it’s reported stolen.
The answer is that it depends. If police find your car, for instance, they’ll store your car in their impound lot while they try to contact you (or the registered owner). In other circumstances, things are more complex. Let’s check out what happens when you find your car after it has been stolen, what happens if it’s damaged or in an accident, and more.
What Happens When You Find Your Car?
If you find your car after it’s been reported stolen, you’ll need to contact your insurance company, police, and your lender (if applicable). It’s especially crucial to contact your insurance company if you’ve made a claim on the vehicle and they’ve paid for it or provided a new vehicle. If you don’t, they will become the new owner of your vehicle.
What Should You Do if Your Car Is Damaged?
Car thieves aren’t known for their gentle touch, and many stolen cars pop back up with damaged windows, windshields, doors, or missing parts in the engine or interior. We highly recommend you have comprehensive, up-to-date photos of your car to prove to your insurance company that you didn’t cause any damage to the car.
In such cases, they’ll typically cover the repairs. If you don’t have proof your car wasn’t damaged before it was stolen, they’re more likely to balk and throw bureaucratic red tape (AKA paperwork!) at you.
Do You Have to Claim a Stolen Car When It’s Found?
Legally, you don’t have to claim your car after it’s been found, though we don’t see why you wouldn’t. If you didn’t claim your stolen car after it’s been found, your insurance company or lender will typically take possession of it. If they don’t, the tow company can take possession of it and sell it to cover your storage fees. If they don’t sell it for enough to cover your fees, you’ll be obligated to pay the remainder off.
What Happens if Your Insurance Paid for Your Stolen Car and Then It’s Found?
This is where things get tricky. Depending on how long your car’s been stolen, it’s possible you’ve already made a claim with your insurance company. If they’ve fulfilled the claim and either paid for the car or replaced it with a comparable model, they can take possession of your car.
Companies often don’t bother to go through the trouble of changing the title over, though. You’ll have to talk to your company about your unique situation and what steps need to happen next.
Are You Liable if Your Car Is Involved in an Accident?
If you can prove your car was stolen and you were elsewhere at the time, no, you won’t be held liable if your stolen car is involved in an accident. Police can and will ask for proof, so keep that in mind.
Once your alibi has been verified, your insurance company will handle other parties asking for recompense. If you can’t supply proof, your insurance may be required to cover damages as a result of the accident.
Nobody wants to find out their car’s been stolen, but it’s an everyday occurrence. When your car eventually shows up, claiming it is often as simple as making some phone calls to the cops, your insurance, and your lender, if applicable. Some rare circumstances like your car being involved in an accident can also throw a monkey wrench into things.
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Featured Image Credit: Daniel Jedzura, Shutterstock