What Happens If Someone's Car Is Struck While They're Away From It?

What happens if someone's car is struck while they're away from it? Repairs for the damage will be provided by the 'collision' insurance portion of your policy. "This is what's called a non-fault accident...

"This is what's called a non-fault accident and it's a fairly common scenario," says Clark Jackson, President and CEO of Jackson and Jackson Insurance Agents and Brokers in Glendora, California. "While common courtesy would seem to dictate that individuals leave an apologetic note on the windshield of the car they bump, scrape or accidentally crash into and provide their contact information, few people in this day and age take the time to do this." Why? Because (1) they're usually in a hurry to get to their next destination, (2) they're fearful of a confrontation with a potentially hostile owner of the damaged car, and (3) the absence of any witnesses simply makes it too easy to pull a vanishing act and disavow responsibility.

"If you come out of a grocery store," he explains, "and discover some curious dents that weren't there when you last left your car, don't panic. Repairs for the damage will be provided by the 'collision' insurance portion of your policy. You did buy collision insurance, didn't you? Although you would be 'out' the amount of your deductible, you would not be subject to any premium surcharges."

"Unlike the situation where there is another party involved in a collision with you," he offers in comparison, "this is a case where you may want to think twice about filing an insurance claim. If you estimate, for example, that the damage done to your vehicle is within the amount of the deductible you have on your policy, you would likely be just as well off to have the repairs made yourself at your local repair shop and go on about your life."

If there has been serious damage done to your car while you were away from it, then it is very important to have that damage assessed by a trained professional. "Structural damage that could occur from a falling tree or flying debris, for instance, may render your car a total loss even if you think the cosmetic damage can be repaired and touched up with a little paint," says Jackson. "As is the case when repairs are made under any accident scenario, you need to learn what your rights are as an insured to have necessary repairs made with the original manufacturer's equipment and/or that the repairs are made by certified professionals." These requirements vary from state to state, so ask your insurer or your insurance agent for more information.

"The bottom line," he says, "is that you do not have to drive an unsafe vehicle following an accident or damage that has been caused to it. Whether from a fallen tree or a renegade shopping cart breaking a tail light, these types of unforeseen circumstances underscore the need to buy collision coverage. Insurance is designed to protect you first and foremost from the costs of liability to third parties from damages you have caused. Insurance is also there to compensate you when you have loss to your own property." Collision coverage is not required coverage for your state's mandatory insurance laws, but it is a sound investment to protect your assets in the event that your automobile is damaged and no one else is at fault.

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