NYPD Vehicle Stolen When Officer Leaves Keys in Ignition - the Implications of Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 388

Normally, when a vehicle is stolen, the owner is not liable for any injuries or damage caused by the stolen vehicle. However, when the owner can be shown to be negligent, the owner can be held liable for any injuries or damage caused by the driver of the stolen vehicle. This scenario played out in almost comical fashion as an NYPD officer in the Bronx left the key to an NYPD cruiser in the ignition Sunday morning according to a report by the New York Post. This allowed a car thief swipe it from right outside the 50th Precinct station house in Kingsbridge. The thief then went on a 25 minute joyride through the streets of the Bronx before crashing into four parked vehicles in University Heights. Thankfully, nobody was injured, but the NYPD will likely be held responsible for the damage caused due to the officer’s negligence in leaving the keys in the ignition. Understandably, the NYPD was embarrassed by this incident and the offending officer will face disciplinary action.

Although no injuries were reported, this incident serves as a perfect illustration of a situation where an owner can be held liable for injuries caused when a vehicle is stolen. In New York, Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 388 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

  1. Every owner of a vehicle used or operated in this state shall be liable and responsible for death or injuries to person or property resulting from negligence in the use or operation of such vehicle, in the business of such owner or otherwise, by any person using or operating the same with the permission, express or implied, of such owner.  

Normally, this law applies when someone uses or borrows another car with the permission of the owner, not in the case of a stolen vehicle. However, where it can be shown that the owner was negligent in allowing his vehicle to be stolen, the owner may be held liable under New York law. This case further serves to illustrate the importance of retaining a New York lawyer who understands the complex nature and nuances of New York motor vehicle accident laws.

Due to the complex process involved in recovering compensation for a car accident related injury, it is within the best interest of victims to hire a skilled attorney. A reliable car accident lawyer will handle the filing of the No-Fault claim and negotiations with the insurance company. Furthermore an attorney will handle all aspects of the legal proceedings including, taking pictures of the scene of the accident, interviewing witnesses, review the police report and medical records, hire medical experts to testify on behalf of the victim, and pursue maximum compensation for the victim’s losses. At Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool our attorneys have been defending the rights of car accident victims for the last five decades. Our attorneys have excelled at proving liability. We have secured many multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in auto accident cases.

If you have suffered serious injuries in a car accident, the attorneys at Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool will give you a free consultation to determine your legal options. To see if you have grounds for a claim, call 212-406-1700 or contact us on-line. Our attorneys are selective about the cases we take, which allows us to concentrate on representing clients who have been seriously injured or killed in New York car accidents.