How to File a Property Damage Claim

Woman inspecting damage on her car's rear fender and calling her insurance company

Property damage claims are never fun for anyone. The at-fault driver is often embarrassed. Meanwhile, the owner of the damaged property has to deal with the hassle of getting their property repaired. Knowing the process of filing a property damage claim with the insurance company will make the situation easier for both parties involved. The procedure for filing a property damage claim, however, will vary depending on who is at fault.

Key Takeaways

  • The process of making a property damage claim to an auto insurance policy can depend on who is to blame for the accident.
  • Always take photos of the damage if you’re at fault and notify your insurance company that a claim will likely be made.
  • Your insurance agent should guide you through the process of making a claim to the at-fault insurance policy if someone else damaged your vehicle.
  • Your policy’s collision coverage should honor the claim if you have this coverage and you don’t know who’s responsible for the damage.

When You Did the Damage

Accidents happen. Owning up to your mistakes is not always easy, but it is essential and will make the filing of a claim easier for everyone. If you damaged someone's property, then it is up to you to take the necessary steps to notify the property owner.

If no one is around, leaving a note on a windshield for the owner to find could turn a frustrating situation into a bearable one. Imagine how you would feel if the tables were turned and you found damage to your property with no one admitting responsibility.

In most states, leaving the scene of an accident is classified as a misdemeanor, if not a felony. Although you may pay more in future insurance premiums if you stay on the scene and take responsibility, it is worth a clear conscience and avoiding jail time or hefty fines.

Steps to Take When You're at Fault

If you’ve damaged someone else’s property, here’s what you need to do: 

  • Leave your policy information for the owner of the damaged property. This is essential. Leave your name, insurance company, policy number, insurance agency, and contact phone numbers. It's helpful to note the best time to reach you, but you should be on the lookout for incoming calls from unknown numbers.
  • Collect the information of the owner of the damaged property. If at all possible, you need to collect their name, phone number, and description of the damaged property. If they are not around, complete step number one and tell them to reach out.
  • If possible, take a photo or photos of the damage. This will help settle a dispute if one arises.
  • Notify your insurance agent of the claim. They should be able to begin dealing with any damage to your vehicle immediately, but will need to make contact with the property owner before addressing any damage to their property.
  • Be prepared to pay a deductible (possibly). The repair of your vehicle is determined by the coverage you have selected on your car insurance policy, and will be subject to your deductible. However, a deductible is typically not required for repairs to another person's damaged property.
  • Expect to see a premium increase. Filing an at-fault accident most often negatively affects your insurance rates. Unless you have purchased (or your policy comes with) accident forgiveness prior to the date of the accident, you should plan on your rates increasing at your next renewal.

When Your Property Was Damaged

Finding your property damaged by a vehicle is always frustrating. Dealing with insurance companies and being without your vehicle while it is in the shop for repairs is a hassle, but the sooner you can get the claims process moving, the sooner you'll have everything resolved.

A property damage claim could go one of two ways when it is your property that was damaged.

If You Know Who Damaged Your Property

  • Get the insurance information of the driver who caused the damage to your property. Be sure to collect the name of the driver, insurance carrier, policy number, insurance policy number, date, time, location, and description of what happened.
  • Call your insurance agent for help. Most insurance agents are happy to help you file a property damage claim through the at-fault vehicle's insurance policy. If you do not have an agent or are not having luck getting help, look up the at-fault driver's insurance carrier and get the toll-free claim number. A customer service representative will walk you through the process.
  • So long as the at-fault driver admits to causing the damage, you will not have any out-of-pocket expenses. No deductible will apply, and you'll usually be able to get a rental car while your vehicle is in for repair.

If You DO NOT Know Who Damaged Your Property

  • If the perpetrator fled the scene, you could be looking at some out-of-pocket expenses or even the possibility that you have no coverage at all.
  • You will need collision coverage on your auto insurance policy in order to repair your damaged vehicle, even if it was caused by another driver. Your deductible will apply in most cases, depending on state laws.
  • You may also want to ask your agent about adding uninsured motorist coverage to your policy. This will often cover the costs of a hit-and-run accident.
  • If your home was damaged by a vehicle, your homeowner's policy would most likely cover the damage minus your deductible.

The Bottom Line

Property damage claims can have many variables depending on the details of the incident. Unfortunately, hit-and-run accidents are not uncommon. Be sure you know the laws in your state and purchase sufficient insurance to cover your needs if your property is damaged. If you are unsure what coverage you need or have trouble filing a claim, ask for help from your insurance agent or customer service representative.