What Is a Property Damage Claim?

Property Damage Claims Explained

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 insured property has been damaged.

Filing a property damage claim can be tricky, so before you do, learn about how these claims work with different types of coverages.

Definition and Examples of Property Damage Claims

If you have valuable property that is covered by an insurance policy, such as a car or home, and it is damaged, you can start the process to request reimbursement by filing a property damage claim with your insurance company.

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

Claims related to auto accidents come in many shapes and sizes. Each state has its own laws governing claims. If your car is hit by someone else's car while parked, for instance, then you can file a property damage claim. You can also file a claim in other cases, such as when a car slides off the road and damages your mailbox, lawn, or home. Generally, collision coverage pays for car repairs when you crashed into another car and you were at-fault, or when you damaged the vehicle in a crash not involving another car but an object such as a telephone pole or fence.

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

How a Property Damage Claim Works

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

Never say anything to the police that might seem like you are admitting fault. Even saying, for instance, that you shouldn’t have parked close to a busy road is too much to admit to right away.

Take as many photos as you can. This will give you a record to go with what the police will gather. The more data you have, the greater chance that you will get a fair outcome.

The at-fault car owner’s policy should pay to repair property damage. Even in no-fault states, the at-fault car’s policy may pay for some of the damage, but you may need collision coverage to pay for the rest of the damage -- if you live in a no-fault state, you should check with your Department of Insurance to determine if you'll need collision coverage in order to repair a car that someone else damages. In this case, the coverage is provided by the insurer covering the car, not by the driver of the car.

If you damage someone’s property with your own car, your standard deductible will not apply to repair their damages. But, if your car was damaged at the same time, you must pay your collision deductible to get your own car repaired. If another driver damages your property, you will be able to file a claim with their insurer and you will not have to pay a deductible.

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

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

Do I Need to File a Property Damage Claim?

The process of filing a report with your insurance company is trickier 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. You will have to pay the amount of your collision deductible out of pocket. If you do not have collision coverage, your insurer will not pay out for the claim.

Since some types of property damage claims can affect your rates, you may want to read your policy closely, and weigh your options before deciding to file a claim.

If someone hits your property, filing a claim on their policy may not affect your rates, but you may still be charged a surcharge by your insurer even for a not-at-fault accident. If you do not know who damaged your car and you file a collision claim under your own policy, it will often increase your rate at renewal time. Expect a surcharge when your policy renews for filing an at-fault accident.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

The Insurance Research Council (IRC) estimates that one in every eight drivers in the U.S. is uninsured. But, only 22 states mandate uninsured motorist coverage. Drivers in the other 28 states have the option to purchase this type of policy. This provides coverage if someone hits your car but has no auto insurance coverage. Such a policy also may also provide coverage for hit-and-run accidents, although some states require you to have collision coverage for such an accident.

In states where the coverage is not required, most leave it to the insurance companies to decide whether or not to offer it. 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. This will help you decide if adding this coverage is right for you.

Key Takeaways

  • The at-fault car owner’s policy should pay to repair property damage, even in no-fault states.
  • If you do not know who is at fault, you can file a claim under your own policy, but expect to pay a deductible.
  • It's important to take your own pictures and document your own evidence when preparing to file a property damage claim.
  • Expect your rates to go up if you are the party at fault.