Coming out of a restaurant or a store to a dented or scuffed car can be a terrible feeling. You expect a certain amount of safety for your car when you park in public spaces. Did you park incorrectly, did the person not see the damage to your car? Or did they just drive away without a care? In any case, someone has to pay for the damages. Here’s how to tell if it will be you or an auto insurance company that pays up if someone hits your car in a parking lot.
What to do if the other driver is there when you get back
Sometimes, people do the responsible thing and wait for you to come back out to your car. If you’re in one of these situations, try to take a deep breath. The other driver is probably embarrassed and panicking as much as you are. Chances are, they had no idea they were that close to hitting your car. So, give them some credit – they stayed to fess up!
This can be one of the best scenarios you could ask for. If they haven’t already, ask them to write down their:
- First and last Name
- Best contact number
- License plate number
- Insurance company’s name and number
- Auto insurance policy number
Take pictures of the damages immediately. In some states, it may be required for the police to come if the damages look to be over a certain amount to repair. Be careful about accepting cash or early settlements from the driver instead of going through insurance. You don’t want to be stuck with a fixed amount of money if a repair shop says the damages are more severe than you first thought.
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What to do if the other driver isn’t there when you get back
Other times, the other driver ditches so they don’t have to deal with the fallout of the incident. (In fact, a Denver Post article explained one study showing that 69% of hit-and-run accidents are from parked car incidents.) If you don’t see the person that hit you, look for a note with the above information.
If there isn’t a note, you may have to call the police about a hit-and-run case. While the police are on their way, take pictures of the damages. Write down the most accurate account you can of when you left your car in the parking lot and when you came back out to find the damages. Take note of the placement of your car and the conditions in the parking lot.
It can be helpful to have security footage of the lot to identify the person who hit you. However, the business might only allow police access to the footage. In any case, make sure you have a copy of the police report to give to your insurance company. If your carrier does need the footage to get the license plate number, name, and contact number of the driver, they can use your report to retrieve the information from the police.
Who pays for the damages to my car if I’m hit in a parking lot?
Now we come to a vital question – your poor car is damaged. So, who’s paying for it?
You could file a claim through the other driver’s insurance
If you have the other driver’s insurance information, you may be able to file a claim through their carrier if they hit your car in a parking lot. Even if they only have the state-required minimum for auto insurance, the required limits of their property damage coverage should be able to cover any minor to semi-major damage.
You could file a claim through your insurance
However, going through the other driver’s insurance may take longer than expected. So, you could file a claim through your car insurance to help the process go more quickly. Beware, though, if you’ve had a fair number of claims in the past and depending on your carrier, your premium may rise.
Additionally, your insurance could only cover the damages to your car if you have collision insurance. Collision coverage is a vital coverage that can help you repair your car in an accident, if you collide with someone, or if someone collides with you. So, if you’re also just sliding by on the minimum requirement for coverage and don’t have collision coverage, you may end up paying out-of-pocket.
In a hit-and-run or if the other driver isn’t insured, you could use UM/UIM coverage
If the person is driving without insurance or you can’t get a hold of their insurance information (such as in a hit-and-run), you could use uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage to take care of your vehicle. UM/UIM coverage can help you cover damages to your car in case you’re in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver, or if an underinsured/uninsured driver hits your car. UM/UIM considers hit-and-run drivers uninsured motorists. So, you may be able to go this route to get the damages repaired. Keep in mind, though, that UM/UIM coverage is also not required.
Overall, it’s actually quite common for cars to be hit in parking lots. So, when you go into a building, make sure you’re parked properly and not too closely to any parking lines. Be vigilant for any reckless drivers that may be parking or driving around a parking lot, and make sure you have the right car insurance coverage to handle any mayhem that life may throw your way.
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