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Must I file charges for my stolen car to be covered by insurance?


Question: My 13-year-old stole my car and crashed it into a garbage can. I filed a claim through my insurance policy, but now my insurance company won’t fix my car unless I file charges against my child. Is it possible for an insurance company to demand that you file charges against a child?

Answer: Yes, your car insurance company can require you to file charges against your child for a claim to be accepted if you are saying your car was stolen.  A police report is always required for a stolen car and, of course, if you know who stole it the police will want to know and pursue that person.

While we feel for your precarious situation, you did tell your auto insurance provider that the car was stolen, so if you fail to file charges for the theft, then the car insurance company sees it as complicity on your part that your unlicensed child was able to take your car.

The criminal act of stealing a car isn’t covered by car insurance, so you need to show that you didn’t consent to your underage child driving the car. The insurance company will have many questions about how and why the accident happened and how the child had the ability to take the car. 

Car insurance companies may define this act of your child as a theft or unauthorized use, depending upon their internal guidelines and state laws.

The definitions vary, but usually theft is thought of when someone outside of the household or an unknown person takes your vehicle, while it may be called unauthorized use if your vehicle is taken without your consent by someone you know or by someone in your household.

Unauthorized use isn’t normally covered because car insurance policies only cover permissive users --those that have permission to use the vehicle. You should clarify with your insurance company what they are classifying this incident as and if they will cover your car, even if you do file charges against your child.  It’s possible they won’t.

Some states will allow a parent to file property damages charges against a child; many do not as they see the parent as the responsible party for a minor child’s actions.  

If your car only hit trash cans and nothing else, you may find it better to pay for your car’s repairs on your own. This would relieve you of the requirement by your car insurance company to file charges against your minor child.

Unfortunately, if your child did hit other objects, such as other people’s property, then depending upon state laws you may still be held accountable by authorities for the actions of your child (even if you press charges), since he is a minor and was able to get access to your car keys and drive off in your vehicle.

Whether or not your car insurance company accepts any claims resulting from this situation, if the police are involved, we’d advise that you seek legal advice for you and your child.

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