Many young adults think of joyriding as a victimless crime that provides a cheap thrill at little or no cost, barring the few dollars of gas burned while cruising the streets of their town or city. With a large portion of joyriding vehicles pilfered from parents’ parking spots, the perception that joyriding is no big deal is magnified. In reality, joyrides are rarely fun-filled Ferris Bueller-esque escapades. They frequently end in significant property damage, injuries and even death.
Sadly, a recent fatality involved an 8-year-old driver whose joyriding caused the death of his 6-year-old sister, a front-seat passenger in the car. The children’s mother had reportedly put them to bed, only to be awoken within the hour by police who delivered the grim news that all parents dread. According to reports, the children made it about 3 miles from their home. Before they were able to return, the boy crashed into a pole, causing the death of his sister, who apparently was not strapped in with a safety belt.
Who pays the tab?
In less tragic circumstances, vehicle owners and innocent victims may still be left with significant damage to their vehicles and with serious injuries. Those who have been hit by joyriders may find that recovering for their damages is challenging. In many cases, insurance companies claim that the driver was not covered by the policyholder’s plan because they classify the joyride as a theft, even when the thief is the owner’s child.
An insurance company may also categorize the joyride as an unauthorized use of the car, which is also generally not covered by the policy. Without insurance, victims may have to pursue recovery from vehicle owners individually. This may prove challenging, depending on the financial means of the owner.
The safest bet for joyride victims is to seek legal counsel immediately to determine who might be liable for their damages.