How to Tell if a Parking Garage is Liable for a Stolen or Damaged Car

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Determining the responsible party when your car is stolen or damaged in a parking garage depends on whether or not you gave your keys to an attendant when leaving your car.
Auto theft and vandalism represent just two examples of what can happen to your car when you’re parked in a parking garage, and you need to know who foots the bill if something does happen.
There are two types of public and private car lots–valet and self-parking–and both play a part in determining who pays if something goes wrong with your vehicle while it’s at the location.

Valet parking and liability factors

Valet parking occurs when you give your keys to an attendant and they park your car in a specified slot within the lot. After parking your car, an attendant then gives you a claim ticket, allowing you to reclaim your vehicle at a later time. Also known as a “bailment,” a valet parking situation is common in more urban areas or bigger cities.
In effect, you are turning over your property to the attendant of the car lot or garage, who is then taking on the responsibility of your car and property. This usually makes the valet or attendant responsible for any theft or vandalism.
Check with the statutes in your specific state if you are unsure about laws on the definition of a bailment in your area.
To determine if the situation in which you plan to leave your car qualifies as a bailment, certain factors must come into play. The most common indicators of a bailment situation include the following.
  • A lot or garage attendant parks your car for you.
  • The lot resides within an enclosed space, including fencing or walls.
  • You receive a claim ticket from the attendant upon leaving your car with them.
  • You transfer your property, via your car keys, into the hands of a lot attendant.
In addition, when leaving your car in a bailment situation, the lot attendants become responsible for any personal belongings located in your car. The stipulation to this is that the items within your car should have a reasonable reason for being there in the first place.
So, the lot would pay for any ordinary equipment and items in plain view, but it would not pay for obscure items located out of view.
Key Takeaway: If the parking you’re using qualifies as bailment under your state’s laws, then the attendant should be responsible for any theft or vandalism to your car. This also applies to items inside your car, though only within certain bounds.

Self-parking and liability factors

The courts consider a self-parking situation different when compared to valet parking. The driver bears the brunt of responsibility for theft and damage if you park the vehicle yourself and take your keys with you.
The only time when the lot owner bears some or all of the responsibility for damage or theft of your property is in cases of negligence. Negligence includes any breach of duty in which the car lot or garage owner did, or didn’t do, something that resulted in the damage or theft.
Keep in mind that most states have a statute of limitations on how much time can pass between an incident happening and you filing a claim.
Key Takeaway: If you do the parking and take your keys with you, you’ll be solely responsible for any theft or vandalism unless the lot owner committed some kind of negligence. Don’t forget that there’s a time limit for filing claims should something happen.

Does car insurance cover my stolen or damaged car?

Thankfully, comprehensive coverage coverage should cover both theft and vandalism of your car. Likewise, homeowners or renters insurance should cover any personal belongings stolen from your car in a leasing situation.
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