What Is a Property Damage Claim?

Definition & Examples of a Property Damage Claim

Property damage claim

The Balance / Theresa Chiechi 

A property damage claim is a report or evidence that you submit to an insurance company in the event your property has been damaged.

Property damage claims related to auto accidents come in many shapes and sizes, and different states have different laws governing claims. If your vehicle is hit by another vehicle while parked, or if a vehicle slides off the road and damages your mailbox, lawn, home, or other property, you can file a property damage claim.

What Is a Property Damage Claim?

Auto insurance policies have different coverages that apply to different situations. All policies are required to have a form of liability insurance that includes property damage liability. If your property is damaged by another driver, that driver's property damage liability will cover your damages.

Policies also have comprehensive and collision coverages. Comprehensive coverage applies to damage caused by events you cannot control, such as fire, vandalism, acts of nature, or hitting an animal. Collision coverage applies when you are in an accident with another vehicle.

Once you've been in an accident or realize your property has been damaged, contact the police to file a report and create an official record. In most cases, a police report also will determine which party was at fault.

Never say anything to the police that might be construed as admitting fault for an accident. Even acknowledging, for example, that you shouldn’t have parked close to a busy road is too much.

Take as many photos as possible so you have your own documentation in addition to what the police will be gathering it as well. The more information you have, the higher the likelihood that filing your claim will have the desired outcome.

How a Property Damage Claim Works

The at-fault vehicle owner’s insurance policy should pay to repair property damage. Even in no-fault states, the at-fault vehicle’s policy pays up. In this situation, the coverage is provided by the insurance company covering the vehicle, not by the driver of the car.

If you damage somebody’s property with your own vehicle, your standard deductible usually will not apply to repair their damages. However, if your vehicle was damaged at the same time, you must pay your collision deductible to get your own vehicle repaired. If another driver damages your property, you will be able to file a property damage claim with their insurance company and will not be required to pay a deductible.

Once a police report has been filed and fault has been determined, your insurance company will have a claims adjuster review the case and the damage. For example, if you are at fault for driving off the road and damaging someone else's fence or mailbox, the claims adjuster will review the facts and evidence of the case before payment on the claim is made.

It gets trickier—and potentially much more expensive—if your property was damaged and you don’t know who was at fault. This changes the claim from a property damage claim into a collision claim and you will have the amount of your collision deductible out of pocket. If you do not have collision coverage, your insurance company will not pay out for the claim.

If someone hit your property, filing a claim on someone else's car insurance policy will not affect your rates. If you do not know who damaged your vehicle and you file a collision claim under your own policy, it will most likely increase your rate at renewal time. Expect a surcharge when your policy renews for filing an at-fault accident.

The time it takes for claims to process can vary. Fault needs to be determined and both parties need to be contacted by the claims department. You can speed up the claims process by ensuring you are available to speak with the claims representative.

Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage?

The Insurance Research Council (IRC) estimates that one in every eight drivers in the U.S. is uninsured. However, only 22 states require uninsured motorist property damage coverage. Drivers in the other 28 states have the option to purchase an uninsured motorist property damage policy. This provides coverage if someone hits your car but has no auto insurance coverage. Such a policy also can provide coverage for hit-and-run accidents.

In states where the coverage is not required, the majority leave it to the insurance companies to decide whether or not to offer such a policy. Deductibles can apply to the coverage depending on how you set your policy up.

If you live in a state where it is not required, it still is a good idea to review your insurance carrier offerings and rates to determine if adding this coverage is right for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Expenses related to property damage caused by the driver of a vehicle should paid by the at-fault driver's insurance company.
  • If the at-fault party is unknown, a claim can be filed by the victim with their own policy, but the collision coverage deductible will be applicable.
  • It's important to take your own pictures and document your own evidence.
  • Expect your rates to go up if you are the party at fault.