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I hit a car in a parking lot. Now what?
March 1, 2010 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I scratched another car in a parking lot and left a note. Now I’m just waiting for the angry car owner to call. What should I expect? What is protocol for this sort of thing? Will my insurance or theirs cover it?

So I was pulling into a space in my parking garage yesterday. The brand new Escalade next to me was parked over the line, and instead of looking for a different space that wasn’t so tight, I stupidly decided to pull in anyway. I grazed the bumper and scraped some of the paint off and so I left a note with my e-mail and phone number.

What should I do when the car owner calls? I’m guessing that the type of person who would drive a brand new Escalade will be none too pleased to find it scratched. Is there anything I should avoid saying or doing for liability purposes?

I’m really nervous I’ll have to pay something out of pocket, which would be difficult since I’m a starving college student. Is it normal for some expenses to be out-of-pocket? Will my insurance pay for it, or will theirs?
posted by DeusExMegana to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
The other car owner will be so shocked someone had the decency to leave a note that the conversation will be perfectly civil. Nicely played, you.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:55 AM on March 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


* hit "post" too early.

When this has happened to me in the past, the other car owner preferred not to get insurance involved. She took it to a body shop and got a quote, and I wrote her a check. End of story.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:58 AM on March 1, 2010


Is it normal for some expenses to be out-of-pocket? You want to look up the deductible (probably the one for collision) in your insurance policy. Probably in the range of $250-$1000. You pay all costs up to that amount, usually per incident, and then your insurance kicks in to cover the rest -- if you report to insurance.
posted by ecsh at 11:02 AM on March 1, 2010


Ask them to get an estimate for the damage, and see if it's something you can pay out of pocket (especially if it's below your insurance deductible) -- if you get your insurance company involved (and if you're at fault, it's your insurance), your premiums will go up, possibly for 5 years. This is something to be avoided, if possible. Don't tell the other driver how much coverage you have (if they're pressing it, which they shouldn't be, say "oh yes, I'm insured," and repeat that you would like them to get an estimate.
posted by brainmouse at 11:02 AM on March 1, 2010


Whose insurance company would pay for it immediately depends on whether or not you're in a no-fault state. Even if you are and the other driver's company pays for it, their company (IIRC) will still go after your company for the money.

There is some chance that they won't care, or that they'll view getting it fixed as not worth the hassle. If they want payment at all, you might consider paying for it out of pocket. An accident claim on your policy might well increase your insurance rates by more than this claim would cost to pay yourself; this is part of why drivers involved in minor fender-benders often want to work it out without involving any insurance companies.

While roger ackroyd is probably right, there are dipshits in this big wide world of ours and the driver might be irrationally irate. While it's hard to keep that level of red-haze fury going for a few days, I would not want to meet the driver anywhere that wasn't nicely public.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:03 AM on March 1, 2010


I’m guessing that the type of person who would drive a brand new Escalade will be none too pleased to find it scratched.

Wow, that's so judgemental I...wow. NO ONE driving a new car is going to be pleased to have it stratched, but guess what - people who drive Escalades are not bad people. You've done the decent thing and I would expect they will too - by being polite and reasonable. Liability purposes? You've already admitted liability - now the only issue is whether you go through insurance or not. If you do, their insurance will pay them and then claim against your insurance company. Not sure what both your deductibles are, but for a scratch it's probably less than your deductible, and even if it isn't it doesn't make sense to go through insurance if you can pay out of pocket. You'll pay more over the long run through higher rates.
posted by Dasein at 11:09 AM on March 1, 2010


If someone has to pay, it should be you. If you can't, their insurance might (probably does) cover it, but they would still probably have to pay for it because it's probably less than their deductible. Likewise, even if your insurance would cover it (assuming you have that kind of coverage), you would probably, as others have said, be better off paying it yourself, to keep it off your insurance records.

On the other hand, they may be so bowled over that someone actually took responsibility for it that they let it slide. A long time ago, when I was delivering papers in the wee hours in my old Rambler, I sideswiped, not an Escalade, but a motor home. A fairly new one, at that. Left a pretty big gash down one side. In spite of the fact that I compounded the injury by calling the owners to their door at 4 in the morning to apologize and leave my contact info, I never heard from them. So, good luck to you.
posted by bricoleur at 11:16 AM on March 1, 2010


If you're like my dad, who left a note when his shopping cart tapped a car and made a scratch that was literally indistinguishable from paint swirls, you'll wind up paying for a new paint job...apparently the other car owner was like, "wow, that was so nice of you, now repaint my car!"

At any rate, it'll be out of your pocket, if you're so inclined. I usually think, well, he's the dumbfuck that parked over the line, shame on his dumb ass.
posted by notsnot at 11:21 AM on March 1, 2010


Whose insurance company would pay for it immediately depends on whether or not you're in a no-fault state.

not in this case. when the damaged vehicle is parked-unoccupied, the other vehicle driver is always at fault.

the other owner's insurance (if they have physical damage coverage) can pay and then subrogate your carrier. or the other vehicle owner can simply claim against your liability insurance. or you can pursue the attempt to get them to get an estimate and you pay it out of pocket without notifying anybody's carrier.

IMO the last option is usually the best if the damage is minor, especially since reporting can lead to rates being raised (or cancellation) on either/both sides, regardless of fault (underwriters may regard you as unlucky, high risk or prone to exposure).

however, a glance at your insurance contract will show you that it is your contractual duty to report any and all damages or accidents, and failure to do so constitutes a material omission.

so if you decide to not report it now, better stick to that decision, because if your carrier finds out you settled independently, they could cancel you for breach of contract.

I am a former commercial auto insurance adjuster.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:22 AM on March 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Don't tell the other driver how much coverage you have (if they're pressing it, which they shouldn't be, say "oh yes, I'm insured," and repeat that you would like them to get an estimate.

You may be required to give the other driver the name of your insurer. If I thought the other driver was acting squirrelly about his insurance information I would definitely press for it and would be a lot less inclined to deal with them further. I just know too many people who have been screwed over by trying to work things out without going through the offender's insurance company.
posted by grouse at 11:24 AM on March 1, 2010


You want to look up the deductible (probably the one for collision) in your insurance policy.

Nope, the collision coverage on your own auto policy is for damages to your own car in a collision where it was your fault. The part of your policy that would cover damages to the OTHER guy's car is your liability. People typically don't have a deductible on their liability coverage.

I agree with what others have said, though. If you can possibly swing it, you're probably going to be better off financially in the long run if you pay the person directly and don't get your insurance company involved. I also agree with others that you did a good thing by leaving the note. (What a world... when simply doing the right thing get such special praise.)
posted by rhartong at 11:24 AM on March 1, 2010


I did just about the same thing two months ago... inadvertently scratched and damaged someone's front quarter panel when backing out of a spot. I left them a note with my phone number, they called me, and I gave them my insurer's information. About an hour later my insurance company called to get my side of the story, I relayed what happened, my insurance company said 'ok', and told me they were sending an adjuster to see the damage to the guy's car. About two weeks later I got a notice in the mail that my insurance premium on that car had been adjusted upwards by a small amount due to a recent accident. That was it. My car had no visible damage.

This is what insurance is for.
posted by 2xplor at 11:37 AM on March 1, 2010


Me: Don't tell the other driver how much coverage you have (if they're pressing it, which they shouldn't be, say "oh yes, I'm insured," and repeat that you would like them to get an estimate.

grouse: You may be required to give the other driver the name of your insurer. If I thought the other driver was acting squirrelly about his insurance information I would definitely press for it and would be a lot less inclined to deal with them further. I just know too many people who have been screwed over by trying to work things out without going through the offender's insurance company.


Sorry that I didn't elaborate on that -- you should reveal the name of your insurer and that you're fully insured for liability -- however, my insurance at least has repeatedly told me never to reveal HOW MUCH coverage I have, as if the other person is less than honorable, it is in their best interest to claim damages right up to that amount of coverage.
posted by brainmouse at 11:40 AM on March 1, 2010


however, my insurance at least has repeatedly told me never to reveal HOW MUCH coverage I have, as if the other person is less than honorable, it is in their best interest to claim damages right up to that amount of coverage.

I agree, the amount is really none of their business, just the identity of the insurer.
posted by grouse at 11:53 AM on March 1, 2010


If the owner does call you, don't be bullied. A few years ago this happened to my wife and the car owner called me and tried to bully me into paying out his deductible - which was $500, and then we'd call it even. I politely mentioned that I was unable to find any evidence of the contact on my car, so the odds of his car having any more than a surface cosmetic scratch on it were slim to none. He then tried to involve the police, but since it happened in a private parking lot, and there was a note left, they declined any more involvement after I explained the facts to them. He then tried to involve my insurance company, who told him they don't insure his car and to call his own insurer to start the claim process.

After that, I never heard about it again.

Scratched bumpers are a fact of life in city driving, and can often be fixed with an $8 bottle of touch up paint. Don't get taken advantage of if the owner claims he needs a new $2000 bumper. If he does try something like that, tell him to file a claim with his insurance company, which will then get your insurance company involved. The likely $500 - $1000 collision deductible on his Escalade will probably be a nice deterrent to him pursuing it further. If he wants a couple of hundred bucks for a body shop to repaint the bumper, that could be reasonable and worth paying out of pocket. Just make sure you get something in writing that says that one payment is the extent of your liability for his car.
posted by COD at 11:56 AM on March 1, 2010


This just happened to me. I backed into a car in a very tight parking garage. The car bumper was not dented, but there was paint missing. Well, it wasn't missing, it was now on my car. I left a note. The owner called my number the following day to discuss how to work it out. We decided he would take the car to a body shop to assess the damage. The body shop told him they would have to remove the bumper, sand and repaint and that it would take a couple of days so he would need to rent a car. At that point, I told him I'd have to get my insurance involved. I didn't feel he was being shady, but thought maybe the body shop was charging too much so I thought it better to let my insurance professionals take over.

I called my insurance provider with the information I had from the car owner and set up a claim with an adjuster. The adjuster gave me a claim # to give to the owner, which I did. After that, I was done. This all took about four days total.

The car owner seemed a bit annoyed at first to have to deal with all of this (as was his right), but very appreciative that I did the right thing in the end.

Also, my wife no longer sends me out on bagel runs in the morning until I've had a shower and caffeine.
posted by studentbaker at 12:04 PM on March 1, 2010


Wow, that's so judgemental I...wow. NO ONE driving a new car is going to be pleased to have it stratched.

Dasein, I'm sorry to have offended you. I wasn't trying to say that all Escalade drivers are bad people. Perhaps I should explain that everyone parking in that garage is a student with on-campus housing and is somewhere between the age of 18 and 21. When I first scraped the car, I figured that it's likely that someone so young driving such an expensive car (it's a brand new Escalade) might have parents who would be more angry about the accident than would a fellow student who was driving a car that showed they had probably bought it themselves.
posted by DeusExMegana at 12:51 PM on March 1, 2010


He then tried to involve my insurance company, who told him they don't insure his car and to call his own insurer to start the claim process.

This sounds a bit fishy to me. I got backed into in a parking lot (other guys fault) and my own insurance told me to file a claim against the other fellows insurance. I called them - they called their client and called me back in 2 hours saying it was their fault and they'd take care of it. My insurance isn't responsible for dealing with this unless I file a claim against my collision insurance which wasn't necessary in this case.

The likely $500 - $1000 collision deductible on his Escalade will probably be a nice deterrent to him pursuing it further.

Again fishy. The person in this story has basically admitted fault by leaving the note. The other person should not have to pay a deductible in this case.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:12 PM on March 1, 2010


fwiw, you can quick estimate (or could, half a dozen years ago) that every hands'-breadth of damage on a single panel equaled about $1,000 in body work, MOL. that's for an accident, not a scratch. however, adjacent-panel blending, diminution of value claim, etc, YMMV.
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:36 PM on March 1, 2010


Again fishy. The person in this story has basically admitted fault by leaving the note. The other person should not have to pay a deductible in this case.

you pay your collision deductible and then your carrier recovers it for you in subrogation. you get a check, and then your rates go up because you're "more risk prone."
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:38 PM on March 1, 2010


I was in this situation a few months ago. I was late and carelessly running to catch the parking lot shuttle, and I knocked someone's mirror off. I left a note, and when they called me, I told them I'd pay for the repair if they took their car in for an estimate and it was reasonable given the damage. They gave me a copy of the estimate, I double checked it with a mechanic, and I paid them out of pocket. It took about a week to resolve all this. I didn't think to get insurance involved, because it was a pedestrian-auto accident.

Both the other party and myself were pretty accommodating to each other, so I didn't encounter any hostility or friction.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:51 PM on March 1, 2010


This happened to me a few years ago. I rubbed some paint off the bumper of another car in my company's parking lot. I left a note, she called a few weeks later, she went and got an estimate and I gave her a check.

Differences: We worked at the same small company, though not together and we'd never met before or since, so it was in both of our best interests to be civil about it. Also, it was a Mercedes, so I got the ol' "they had to remove the bumper to repaint" thing, too. She didn't have to rent though. I think it ended up being a couple hundred bucks.

Anyway, if it's any consolation, I could have just walked off and not left a note and gotten away with it, but I didn't. A little while later I got my dream job and launched my career. I'm a little convinced it was because of my good deed. Good karma has been earned, now reap the benefits!
posted by buzzkillington at 8:52 PM on March 1, 2010


//you pay your collision deductible and then your carrier recovers it for you in subrogation//

Here in VA, you only get your entire deductible back if the insurance companies agree that one party was 100% at fault. I just went through this last year with a totaled vehicle. In this case, it's possible the OP's insurance company would argue the Escalade was partially at fault for parking over the line. (This assumes to OP thought to snap a cell phone pic of the accident, the parking position of the Escalade, etc. Probably unlikely as none of us would think of that in our first accident.) My wife's personal injury attorney told us that clear cut 100% at fault accidents are not that common. The insurance company on the hook for the most money can usually find some migrating circumstance to reduce their liability. We are not talking legal fault here - this is all a negotiation between the insurance companies.

I have no idea if VA is typical or atypical in how insurance works though.
posted by COD at 7:29 AM on March 2, 2010


Here in VA, you only get your entire deductible back if the insurance companies agree that one party was 100% at fault. I just went through this last year with a totaled vehicle. In this case, it's possible the OP's insurance company would argue the Escalade was partially at fault for parking over the line. (This assumes to OP thought to snap a cell phone pic of the accident, the parking position of the Escalade, etc. Probably unlikely as none of us would think of that in our first accident.)

yes, they'll argue that. that's their job. In fact, that's what I love about my current auto carrier, and what I hated about them back when I had to arm-wrestle them every day. those SOBs would argue that my insured's toddler was negligently at fault for the damage done to their insured's bumper for having wandered into the street when their insured felt like speeding down it.

I would gleefully eat the lunch of any adverse adjuster who had the stones to suggest the owner of a parked unoccupied vehicle was partially at fault in a parking lot accident for failing to park properly. no way, no day. if you are driving, it is your job to never, ever, ever hit a stationary object.

I have won arbitrations like this, always by unanimous decision. IMO only a lazy adjuster lets the adverse carrier get away with bullshit like that.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:25 PM on March 2, 2010


DeusExMegana, you didn't offend me; I don't even own a car and would never drive an Escalade. It just struck me as the sort of unfair judgment that usually gets let off the hook because it's being made about people with a lot of money. Thanks for the explanation.
posted by Dasein at 1:27 PM on March 3, 2010


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