Car stolen and still charged for time until it was recovered (towed / impounded) in different city. (SFO to San Jose)

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Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
The whole "Friend authorization" thing is a complete red herring that I don't see has any legal basis for an argument because the friend NEVER TOUCHED THE CAR. It would be the same as one of you telling me I could drive your car, that it is in the street in front of your house, then telling me I'm responsible for damages to it from a hit and run, even if I never actually used the car.

Was it stupid to leave the car unlocked and with the keys? Yes. Does that change the fact it was stolen? Nope.

If one doesn't have funds for a lawyer I would be contacting the insurance company and also making contact with the people listed as company contacts. Someone can step in and o the right thing here, and it shouldn't take a lawyer to make it happen.
What if the friend was lying about never seeing the car? What if the friend borrowed it?
 
Apr 3, 2016
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The insurance policy details need to be checked. The OP may have voided the stolen car coverage by leaving the keys in the car and the car unlocked (knowingly it seems). The policies from car rental companies are very specific. It would not surprise me if it is voided due to negligence (making the car easy to steal by leaving it with the keys in it unlocked).
 
Jun 12, 2019
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The whole "Friend authorization" thing is a complete red herring that I don't see has any legal basis for an argument because the friend NEVER TOUCHED THE CAR. It would be the same as one of you telling me I could drive your car, that it is in the street in front of your house, then telling me I'm responsible for damages to it from a hit and run, even if I never actually used the car.

Was it stupid to leave the car unlocked and with the keys? Yes. Does that change the fact it was stolen? Nope.

If one doesn't have funds for a lawyer I would be contacting the insurance company and also making contact with the people listed as company contacts. Someone can step in and o the right thing here, and it shouldn't take a lawyer to make it happen.
The reason on why a lawyer is being suggested is that the rental car company is going to do its best to get money from you. They will void your insurance based off of what you have already posted. In their eyes, they heard every excuse in the book and have written the rental agreement and optional insurance to benefit them. They also have lawyers that will be assisting them to collect from you. If you think the forum members here are overly critical, the folks at the rental company and possibly the judge at the small claims will be much worse. The questions raised here will be asked, such as why a police report was never done or why did your friend not report it stolen once he realized it was not there. When you mention that you gave authorization to your friend to return the rental, that statement could void your insurance. It would benefit the rental company to do this since they already collected the premium from you and can collect more. All of this is stacked heavily against you and you need someone on your side.

Maybe if you have personal auto onsurance, with comprehensive coverage, you can report a claim. At least have an insurance company on your side. The forum members here genuinely want to help you but they know their limitations. Take the advice and get a lawyer. Check for free legal help or ask your friends and family for a referral.
 
Aug 19, 2019
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I think the problem here is that Enterprise simply isn't treating the car as "stolen", because it doesn't sound like anyone ever reported it to police as such. I understand why OP couldn't, but the "friend" really needed to step up when he couldn't find the car. Just telling Enterprise "if you don't have it it must be stolen" really doesn't mean anything. A police report would be filed in the last location the car was parked.

OP says the car was "recovered" weeks later -- who was looking for it, who recovered it where and how, if the police didn't even know it was stolen? If Enterprise found it (perhaps after someone reported it abandoned and the owner was contacted?), I can see why they'd just treat it as any late return (or worse, if they costs in recovering it).

Unfortunately, if not finding a sympathetic ear with Enterprise, hiring a lawyer or paying and letting it go may be the only options.
 

Mike Z

Jan 8, 2015
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What if the friend was lying about never seeing the car? What if the friend borrowed it?
There is no evidence of that though. I would also assume that if there was, the OP could pursue his friend through legal channels for theft or use of the car.
 

Mel65

Mar 23, 2015
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If I understand correctly this is the sceneario

OP can't tell the rental place it was stolen because OP is incarcerated.
But OP's FRIEND can. I don't understand why the OP trusted his friend to return the car, but his friend couldn't call up and say "I'm calling on behalf of John Smith in regards to rental agreement XYZ, vehicle 123 to let you know that the vehicle has been stolen and Mr. Smith is incapacitated at this time." At least then there'd have been a RECORD that there was an ATTEMPT to let the rental agency know. But ... no communication attempt was made so in their minds, he just kept a vehicle beyond the contract time and owes the money and how is he going to prove otherwise?
 

kenish

Sep 1, 2015
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There is no evidence of that though.
It does NOT matter what the friend did or did not do!

Any theft coverage (your personal car, your personal property, a rental car) requires filing a police report. This was not done and most insurers will not start processing a claim until a police report is provided. The police report records the facts and circumstances of the theft, it shows you made an effort to recover the property (another requirement of most theft insurance), and it puts your assertion of theft under Penalty of Perjury / filing a false police report.

Also, leaving keys in an unlocked car can be considered as lack of "reasonable care" and probably part of the fine print in the rental contract.

Sorry about the cascade of unfortunate events but the rental car company (and I am no fan of them) has a legit right to get their money as agreed in the Rental Contract. There are great suggestions in this thread; I'd either bite the bullet and pay, or get a lawyer if that's somehow cheaper.
 

GAT

Apr 23, 2018
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Too much conflicting "evidence" here results in too many conflicting opinions. I'm not sure any of us except the OP knows 00% of the truth. He needs to talk to a lawyer who can ascertain 100% of the truth under protection of legal privilege. Only then can the proper steps be taken to minimize OP's liability.