Most people think of car accidents as happening out on the road in terrible weather conditions or when drivers are distracted, but they often happen close to home. Calling your insurance agent to report hitting a car in a driveway might make you feel sheepish, but it happens.
Here's how the claims typically work.
- If you hit a car in your own driveway, the way your insurance company handles it will depend on the specific situation.
- If you hit a friend's or family member's car, you and your car insurance will be responsible for the damages.
- If you hit another car that you own, there will be two claims and two deductibles paid, but only one car is considered "at fault."
- You don't always have to file a claim for vehicle damage—you also have the option of paying the claim yourself.
Hitting a Friend or Family Member's Car in Your Driveway
As the at-fault driver, you and your car insurance will be responsible for the damages. The claim works the same way, regardless of whether you hit a parked car on the road, in a parking lot, or in your driveway. The property damage coverage provided by the liability portion of your car insurance will cover the damage to the other vehicle.
If your vehicle has significant damage, it will only be covered if you have collision coverage. Your deductible will apply, so you'll need to pay that before the insurance starts coverage. That is an at-fault accident, which means that you're considered responsible for it, so a surcharge may be applied when your policy renews. A surcharge is an increase in your insurance premiums. During the repairs, you typically won't be provided with a rental car unless you have added rental car coverage to your insurance.
Even if only one vehicle is damaged, you could be surcharged at renewal due to the at-fault claim. It doesn't matter which vehicle is involved in the claim. If you're concerned about a surcharge, talk with your insurance agent or claims adjuster to find out whether your car insurance carrier offers a threshold before surcharging your policy for an at-fault claim. If the damage is minor, it might make more sense to pay for the repairs yourself rather than filing a claim.
If your insurance is surcharged due to an accident, the increase will remain in place for three years.
Hitting a Car You Own in Your Driveway
Ownership can make a difference when hitting a car in your driveway. Crashing into a car you own will most likely leave you paying two collision deductibles, assuming that you have collision coverage on both vehicles.
Even though two claims are being filed, a single surcharge should be applied. One car was parked and not at fault. The way claims are handled varies, depending on the state where the accident occurred and your insurance carrier, though.
Hitting a Car Illegally Blocking Your Driveway
Even if a car is parked illegally, as a driver, you're responsible for navigating around the vehicle, and you'll typically be considered at fault. It's going to be tough getting the person who parked illegally (or their insurance) to pay for damages. Drivers are responsible for being aware of their surroundings and driving safely. Even if it's dark, and you couldn't see, hitting a parked car is typically considered an at-fault accident.
Hiring a lawyer and trying to go after the owner of the illegally parked car is probably not worth the cost or your time. Let your car insurance adjuster handle it. If there is a way to hold the other vehicle's owner responsible, your car insurance adjuster will find it.
Should I Pay for the Claim Myself?
You don't always have to file a claim for vehicle damage. You have the option of paying the claim yourself. If you go with that option, keep in mind that if the owner of the car you hit decides to sue, the insurer may have trouble defending you if you didn't file a claim. Keep these questions in mind when determining whether you should file a claim.
- Is the damage more than the deductible? If the damage is less than your deductible, you'll be paying for it out-of-pocket anyway, so you may not want to file a claim.
- Do the repair costs exceed the deductible by more than a few hundred dollars? A small claim may not be worth filing. Surcharges for at-fault claims can be expensive, and you might end up paying more due to the surcharge than paying for the repair upfront.
- Have you filed any other at-fault claims in the last three years? Multiple at-fault claims can come with severe penalties. The penalties can include cancellation from a preferred insurance carrier and a significant rate increase with a non-standard insurance carrier.
Nobody wants to pay for repairs out-of-pocket. Take the time to determine whether it may be cheaper to pay out-of-pocket rather than filing a claim. Get an estimate on the damage to your car, the other car, and a ballpark figure of what the surcharge might be. Compare those numbers to determine the best strategy for minimizing your costs.