Whose car insurance pays if my car door hits another car? Questions like this are the bane of many a driver whose car has suffered minor damage. Most drivers simply want to get the car fixed and the issue put behind them.
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However, putting the event in the past is often easier said than done, as red tape and reluctant car insurance companies can seem to keep the process going forever. Frustrated car owners often just give up and pay for the repairs themselves.
The reason cases of minor damage can take so long to resolve lies in the fact that there are many things insurance companies must take into account. There’s the issue of fault, the evidence supplied as proof, whether or not the damage might possibly have occurred in some other way, and many other things.
The absence of a police report in cases of minor damage also makes the problem even more difficult.
What if I live in a no-fault state?
Many states provide for car insurance on the basis of assigning fault. This means that the two parties in the dispute go to court and present evidence of guilt or innocence.
A court determines who is at fault and that person’s insurance policy is then responsible for covering the damage.
The at-fault model was at one time the standard way of writing car insurance policies. But in the last 50 years or so, quite a few states have adopted a no-fault model.
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No-fault coverage eliminates most litigation simply by requiring each insurance company to cover losses of the individuals they insure, regardless of fault. In no-fault states, if your car door were to hit and damage another car, the insurance company of the other driver will usually end up paying for the damage.
It is possible your insurance company would be willing to cover it, but don’t count on it. Most are not so generous. In a no-fault state, fault is determined by the police officer investigating the accident.
And since the police are not normally called in for such minor accidents, insurance companies are left to fend for themselves.
If I’m the victim, should I file a claim with my insurance company?
If your car is the one that suffers the damage, whether or not you make a car insurance claim is really a matter of dollars and cents. Small door dings can oftentimes be fixed by the car owner with a small amount of body fill and some paint.
Yet even more serious damage that must be dealt with by a body shop can be fixed for a couple of hundred dollars. You must weigh the cost of paying out of pocket versus the potential cost of higher insurance rates.
How you determine which choice will cost more can be a delicate operation. You need to solicit that information from your insurance company without necessarily letting them know you have a potential claim.
If you want to be proactive, you can contact your insurance provider today and simply ask the question on a hypothetical basis.
Then you’ll have the information if you should ever be unfortunate enough to suffer such damage to your car.
What do I do if I can’t identify who damaged my car?
Unfortunately, most of these kinds of accidents are left in the lap of the victim because they occur in parking lots. For example, you park your car at the mall and go inside for several hours of shopping. Some time during the day, another driver pulls up next to your car and his passenger hits your vehicle with his door.
Because you’re not there, you’ll never know. If the other driver isn’t courteous enough to leave a note on your windshield, he will forever remain anonymous.
The truth of the matter is most of the time we are left on our own to deal with damage inflicted by someone else’s door. Unless having a pristine vehicle is important to you, it’s probably not even worth your effort to try and pursue an insurance claim.
You’re probably better off financially and emotionally if you simply let it go or you do the best home repair you can. At the end of the day, is it really worth pulling your hair out over a minor door ding?
On the other hand, if you’re the one who’s damaged someone else’s car, you should do the right thing. Leave a note on the windshield with your name, phone number, and a brief explanation of what happened. If the car owner wants his vehicle repaired, the right thing is to cover it out of pocket or a file an insurance claim.
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