Someone smashed into our parked car and drove away. What recourse do we have?
January 3, 2011 4:57 PM   Subscribe

Someone smashed into our van, which was parked outside our house, and did not leave a note with insurance info. What recourse do we have?

Our older-model van, which was parked on the street in front of our house, was smashed into by someone who drove off without leaving a note. The road was mostly clear, with just a few patches of ice. The driver-side door of our van was badly damaged, in a manner that looks as if the other driver backed into it.
Since it is an older vehicle, we carry only collision insurance on it. What are our options? What recourse do we have? Has anyone else had a similar situation?
Thanks in advance!
posted by ragtimepiano to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Get a hit-and-run police report. Document everything, with plenty of photographs and all the conversations you have with people ("On date X, I talked to person Y and he said..."). You may just be screwed, though.

However, it's possible to match the paint and damage to the car that hit you, should you recognize it. But that's a longshot. Talk to your neighbors -- perhaps they know this passer-by, or saw something.

Want to be evil? Collision insurance covers damages to a car that are your fault, such as if you hit a tree. Can you find a tree and pretend you hit it? ;-)

I don't actually recommend that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:05 PM on January 3, 2011

Insurance fraud is a crime, so finding a tree and pretending you hit it probably isn't a great idea.

I would call your insurance company. Are you sure collision insurance doesn't cover someone driving into your van just because you were parked? That sounds like a collision to me.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:24 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I had someone swipe my parked car a couple months ago. The police took a report, but wouldn't do anything with the scant evidence I could provide (a new bright red streak on my neighbor's car...).

I have comprehensive on my car, but the deductible was high enough that it didn't cover the damage.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:25 PM on January 3, 2011

We have just collision on our car, and it includes "uninsured motorist" coverage too. Check your policy.
posted by CathyG at 5:32 PM on January 3, 2011

Are you sure collision insurance doesn't cover someone driving into your van just because you were parked? That sounds like a collision to me.

It likely won't be. Liability pays for someone you hit. Collision pays for your own car when you hit someone else. Comprehensive is for non-human actors, such as when the tree falls down and hits you.

Uninsured motorist is for when you get by a person and they can't pay. That's the policy that would pay in this instance, provided you had a hit-and-run police report.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:40 PM on January 3, 2011

When I had this happen the insurance company paid out of my uninsured motorist coverage. You should call and ask them. I couldn't get the police to even come out and take a report but the insurance company still paid.
posted by interplanetjanet at 6:11 PM on January 3, 2011

Check with your insurance company. Our "uninsured motorist" coverage maddeningly only covered bodily harm, not property damage. Even if you find out who hit the car, there may not be any recourse barring small claims court. Good luck.
posted by deadcrow at 8:08 PM on January 3, 2011

Sorry this happened! I had the same thing happen a couple of years ago and, of course, my uninsured motorist coverage did not include property damage (apparently this can vary by state). I filed a police report, but nothing ever came of it.
posted by lbo at 8:38 PM on January 3, 2011

Also check with your homeowners insurance (if you have it), they might cover something like this.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:42 PM on January 3, 2011

It probably varies by state but when my wife's car was recently damaged while parked in a lot, the adjuster had to look at the damage and decide whether it was caused by impact with another car, or something else. Our car was shot with a BB gun, which is a comprehensive claim, but had it been hit by another car our collision coverage would've applied; we'd pay the deductible and our insurer would cover the rest. IOW, the collision doesn't necessarily have to be your fault for your collision insurance to apply. Nthing call your insurer.
posted by jon1270 at 2:43 AM on January 4, 2011

Ms. Vegetable prices coverage and is responsible for coverage questions for a major auto insurance company. Most of the above answers are wrong.

1. File a police report. This needs to be a hit-and-run report, complete with photos, complete with dates and times. DO keep documentation of all the phone calls, people you talked to, etc., as advised by Cool Papa Bell. Pictures showing scratches with different color paint and pictures showing where you were parked, with the background, are key. Hopefully you have not moved the car yet. You need this; it will make working with your insurance company easier. It is unlikely the police will come out, but they should file a claim over the phone. You will not get UM/UIM-PD coverage (explained later) without a police report to protect the insurance company from fraud.

2. Find your auto insurance contract. I know you say you only have Collision coverage, but I question that - most insurers will not sell you Collision coverage without Comprehensive, but they will sell you Comprehensive without Collision (which, in fact, we have). It is actually more likely that you have Comprehensive coverage on an older vehicle than both.

3. See if you have any sort of Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists coverage - this is required in some states. See if this covers Bodily Injury or Property Damage or both. Ideally, it covers at least Property Damage.

4. If you have either Comprehensive coverage or UM/UIM-Property Damage, call your insurance company and explain the issue. Have a copy of the police report. Send them copies of EVERYTHING. This would be covered first under UM/UIM-PD, as it is a hit-and-run. Second, it MAY be covered under Comprehensive, but that will depend on your contract and the insurance company. If it turns out to be covered under Comprehensive, you will probably have to pay a deductible (which you selected when you bought your auto insurance).

5. This is not a Collision claim, or a Homeowners claim, or a Renters claim, or an Umbrella claim, or anything else. This could ONLY be a UM/UIM-PD claim or a Comprehensive claim (with the latter only in some circumstances, like your insurance company is really really nice).

Good luck.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:05 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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