How to file a claim for a privately owned vehicle

There are a lot of incidents involving members of the Wiesbaden military community that involve the use of their privately owned vehicle. Enough trips down B455 or through the Exchange or Commissary parking lot and you will inevitably see an auto accident. You may also know someone who has had their vehicle vandalized off post.

As we transition to “Wiesbaden, Your Home in Germany,” it would be wise to consider some of the claims implications for the POV parked outside your home, on or off post. The following paragraphs highlight some of the more popular claims filed with the Claims Office regarding POVs not damaged in connection with a permanent change of station.

Hit-and-run and other damages 

Claims for damages arising from hit-and-run accidents and collisions with animals or shopping carts may only be paid when the POV was used under orders for the convenience of the government. This is also true of accidental damage such as damage caused by children playing or bicyclists falling into a POV and similar incidents. Travel to and from work, and travel to other buildings on the claimant’s installation is not considered to be under orders even if POV use is encouraged. Travel off the installation without written orders can only be considered if the claimant’s superior specifically directed the use of a POV to accomplish the mission for the convenience of the government.  In addition to orders or specific direction, for travel to be considered “for the convenience of the government,” the travel must be of a nature that would allow for government reimbursement.  If any one of these conditions is not met it would be unlikely that the government would be able to pay your claim. For this reason, if you are not completely sure your POV would be covered for your duty related travel, obtaining a license to drive Government Owned Vehicles and driving a GOV for your task is recommended.

Vandalism

Vehicle vandalism (including motorcycles and bicycles) is only payable if the claimant provides clear and convincing extrinsic evidence that the vandalism occurred while the vehicle was located at the claimant’s installation or at his/her assigned or authorized quarters. A claimant’s uncorroborated statement cannot be considered clear and convincing evidence. Examples of clear and convincing evidence include broken glass found around the POV by military police or a number of other vehicles broken into or vandalized at the same time and location.  However, these are not the only means of providing clear and convincing evidence and all evidence that can be provided should be brought to the claims office when filing your claim.  Each claim is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis and you want to ensure that you have the strongest case possible.

A different pitfall that may also prevent payment of a claim is proper registration of the vehicle.  Local law and USAREUR Regulation 190-1, require that vehicles be registered and insured. If the vandalism occurs to an unregistered or an uninsured vehicle the claim is not compensable. For this reason, the next time you get in your POV it may be worthwhile to double check your registration to insure that your vehicle is in compliance and therefore compensable if anything happens.

Finally, although covered in a previous Herald Union article, it should also be noted that if a Soldier is responsible for the claimed vandalism, this is a different type of claim falling under Article 139, UCMJ.  Although the requirements for this type of claim may be different, the issues covered above would likely be covered by the investigating officer and could impact their decision on your claim. In either case, you should immediately inform the claims office of your claim while information is fresh and available.

The preceding paragraphs provide a brief overview of some of the legal issues arising from these types of cases. Should you want to gather more information or address concerns regarding the ability to claim damages to a POV, an appointment should be set up to speak with a member of the claims staff at the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. The Legal Assistance / Claims Office is located at the Clay Kaserne Legal Center, Building 1023N. Hours of operation are Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Hours of operation for Thursday are 1-4 p.m.

(Courtesy of the Wiesbaden Legal Assistance Office)

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