this is copied over from another forum and i've asked the guy on there if i can copy it here as it may be of use and is pretty interesting none the less.
I'm currently dealing with the aftermath of having one of my cars stolen for scrap and I thought now would be an opportune time to write a brief guide for those of you who have had a car stolen and who may in a position to recover your financial losses throught he court system.
This first thread lays out the legal avenue you can use to get damages from various parties involved in the demise of your vehicle. I'll add additional posts about the mechanics of bringing a claim as I progress through the process.
WHEN IS THIS GUIDE OF USE TO YOU?
If your car has been stolen and has disappeared off the face of the earth never-to-be-seen again, then this guide is not much use to you.
If your car has been stolen and your insurance company has paid out on it then this guide is not much use to you. However in circumstances where the fate of the car is known but you haven't been able to come to an agreement with your insurance company as to its value, then it may be worth reading through to the end.
This guide is going to be of the most use if you're in a situation like me - you've had your car stolen - quite possibly while SORNED and uninsured, and its fate has subsequently come to light as well as the details of someone who has had it in their possession subsequent to the theft.
Three possible scenarios are:
1. Your Mk1 Escort 4dr is stolen and sold on to someone who subsequently breaks it for spares for the restoration of their own Escort. They list some uneeded parts on a well-known internet auction site and you are able to discover where the remains of the car are at.
2. Your Jaguar XJ6 is stolen for scrap. The thieves take the car to a scrapyard which notifies the DVLA that it has been scrapped. You write to the DVLA and are given the details of the scrapyard.
3. Your Plymouth Satellite Station Wagon is stolen and sold onto a banger racer. It goes out in a blaze of glory.
There may be other scenarios. What is important of course is that the fate of the car is known as well as the identity of someone who had possession of the car subsequent to the theft.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL BASIS FOR YOUR LAWSUIT?
If you go down this route, there may be a couple of different causes of action ("a cause of action" is the legal description for the wrong that has been done to you).
In this case you will be suing in Tort Law. Torts are for all intents and purposes "civil wrongs". Some torts may be unintentional such as negligence others intentional such as assault or defamation.
The important thing to remember about civil law is that the burden of proof upon the plaintiff/complainent (you!) to prove his case is much lower than in criminal law. In a criminal trial, the Prosecution has to prove its case "beyond a reasonable doubt." In a civil trial however the plaintiff must only prove his case "on a balance of probabilities."
In other words in a criminal trial, the evidence must be sufficient that no reasonable person could believe that the accused was not guilty of the acts he is accused of, but in a civil trial, to find for the plaintiff the judge need only determine that it was more likely than not that the defendant is guilty of the actions ascribed to him.
Now in many civil actions, for example where Negligence is plead, a case may be difficult to prove based on the facts available. However this is not likely to be the case for our present purposes as we will be making use of the tort of Conversion.
WHAT IS CONVERSION?
Conversion is for all intents and purposes, the civil law equivalent to criminal theft although. However, while in a criminal law trial for theft the prosecution must prove that the accused had requisite "mens rea" (a guilty mind - ie he intended to steal), in a civil action for Conversion the intentions of the defendant are irrelevant. In law this is called "strict liability". It doesn't matter whether or not the defendant knew that the goods were stolen, whether or not he "suspected" that something was not right, or whether or not he was negligent in failing to ensure
the plaintiff has clear legal ownership or right to possession of the property at the time of the conversion;
the defendant's conversion by a wrongful act or disposition of plaintiff's property rights;
there are damages resulting from the conversion.
In other words you need to prove that you own the car, that the person who has it or has done something bad with it has done so without your permission and has deprived you of your property and that as a result of his actions you have suffered financial loss.
WHO DO YOU SUE?
The beauty of Conversion is that determining the identity of the person or persons who stole your car is unimportant. You don't have to sue the thief. In some cases such as mine where the thieves belong to an impoverished, misunderstood ethnic community who often reside in caravans and have a wholly undeserving reputation for theft and violence this may be a blessing in disguise - not only because you may wish to avoid possible blowback in the form of threats or violence , but also because actually getting compensation out of these people may be next to impossible. However, if you do have the identity of the thieves you may find it lucrative to include them in the lawsuit for reasons set out below.
As stated above, you can sue persons involved in the conversion of your property whether they have done so innocently or not. In my case this means I will be suing the Scrapyard who bought my car from the two thieves and then cubed it. You may also have a cause of action against anyone who has facilitated the conversion of your property. For example. If your car has been stolen, is subsequently sold to a banger racer, who sells it onto someone else in the banger racing community, who then races it at a racetrack, you will be able to sue both banger racers, as well as the owners of the race track at which the car was raced.
It is in your interest to sue as many people as possible. Your goal is to get compensationi for the damages you have suffered. The more people found liable for your damages, the more likely it is that you will get money out of one of them or that they will come to an agreement between themselves to split the damages thereby costing each of them less.
DAMAGES. WHAT CAN YOU CLAIM FOR?
Normally in a lawsuit for Conversion, you are able to claim for the fair market value of the property that has been converted plus any special damages that you may have incurred. You may also be able to claim for exemplary damages. In addition to the various types of damages, you may claim your legal costs, and interest on the damages from the date the conversion occurred.
Fair Market Value is in short what a knowledgeable, buyer pay to a knowledgeable seller on the open market. Basically, you will need to prove to the court what you could have sold the car for at the time it was converted. You will be able to do this by finding out what similar vehicles in similar condition have sold for.
Special damages are financial losses you have incurred because of the Conversion of your property. In the scenarios outlined above you are unlikely to have much in the way of special damages for a variety of reasons. For example, if you buy a replacement vehicle - the purchase price of the replacement may be evidence of the market value of the stolen vehicle for the purpose of calculating damages, but expenses related to travelling to view the vehicle and transporting it home would be special damages.
Exemplary damages are also known as punitive damages. Courts will award these when they want to make an "example" of a defendant or punish a defendant for what is considered particularly egregious behaviour. Exemplary damages go against the general principle of damages in that damages are only supposed to compensate the plaintiff for the losses he has suffered, not to enrich him. Consequently, Judges are not inclined to award exemplary damages. However, it is always worth including a claim for exemplary damages, particularly if you have established the identity of the thieves and have included them amongst the defendants.
As far as we are concerned, a judge may order exemplary damages "Where the defendant's conduct was 'calculated' to make a profit for himself." If you have included the thieves as defendants, then there are very good odds that you will get exemplary damages awarded to you as the judge will be keen to make an example of them and deter them from stealing again.
You may also succeed in a claim for punitive damages against another party such as a scrapyard or the owners of a banger track if you can show that as a consequence of putting their interests first they failed to minimise the risk of converting or aiding in the conversion of your property. I'm thinking here of the old banger-boys' refrain "But you can't expect us to have to provide a V5 or even a VIN for the cars we're racing, it'd ruin our sport". I'm getting exactly that argument with the scrapyard that cubed my car - "We get lots of cars through with no V5 or keys. It'd be unreasonable to expect people to spend £25 in order to get a replacement V5 so that they can scrap a car." Both arguments are complete curse word of course and if you can persuade a judge that the defendants are only saying this because they believe it is in their commercial interests to make racing or scrapping cars as cheap and easy as possible, you may succeed in your claim for exemplary damages.
Court costs will include any fees payable to the court, as well as other costs incurred by yourself such as travel to the court, postage, and possibly your time if you take unpaid leave from work or self-employment.
You can also claim for interest from the Conversion of your property occurred. The percentage interst you may charge will be likely set out in the Court Procedure Rules but judges may vary it - often downwards.
If you can establish what happened to your stolen vehicle and identify someone involved with its demise whether he stole it or not, your chances of recovering damages from that person are pretty good if you bring a case for Conversion before the court. The case you have to prove is pretty simple, and the defences available to the other party are very few. To the defendant it might not seem fair that they, an innocent party should be sued for the value of your car (that's the view the scrapyard is taking in my case), but that's the law so use it to your advantage.