Keep your car parts to yourself!
October 2, 2011 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to make a claim against someone's auto insurance for lawn repair and removal of the debris their car left in my yard?

Today I went into the side yard of my house and discovered car tracks across my lawn, leading up to one of my larger, older trees.

While the tree looks fine, I noticed that the lawn has been torn up and large chunks of fender, glass, plastic, and even a headlight assembly strewn around the yard. The local police department has confirmed there was a reported accident on my property, and I'm going to try to get the accident report when the station opens re-opens tomorrow.

Has anyone ever heard of, or had luck with, trying to get an insurance company to compensate a property owner for leaving car parts and ripped-up lawn?

(asking mostly because the last time someone drove into our yard they hit the house, and that was covered by *my* insurance).
posted by salsamander to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It depends on what state you are in and what the driver's policy covers. Many policies offer property damage as a claim which is covered without proof of fault. For others, the claim would be asserted as a liability claim. Your own insurance agent would have helpful information, as a starting point.
posted by megatherium at 9:57 AM on October 2, 2011

If you can find out from the police report who hit the tree, you can go after them directly for the damage. Then, it's up to them to figure out whether their insurance company will pay or whether they pay out of pocket. This sounds like the sort of thing small claims court was made for.
posted by decathecting at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think decathecting has the right idea: go after the driver and let them try to get their insurance to pay.

You could also make a report on your own homeowner's insurance and have your insurance company go after the driver and/or his insurance.
posted by gauche at 10:18 AM on October 2, 2011

I doubt you'd have any luck on your own, except if you resort to small claims. Just file a claim with your homeowner's insurance and let them sort it out: you're paying insurance premiums in part for the privilege of having your insurer, who has far more clout than you ever will, sort these things out on your behalf.
posted by matlock expressway at 10:25 AM on October 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not sure the extent of the damage to the lawn, but sounds like the cost of a trash bag and an afternoon spent picking up parts, bagging said parts, and perhaps, depending on the extent of the tracks, some time moving dirt back into the correct places and putting some grass in place to start growing again. Probably less time spent doing this than tracking down police reports, going to court, etc. I don't mind filing claims when I have real damages, but otherwise the less I interact with my insurance company, the better.

If you've got damage too extensive to practically repair yourself, carry on, but from what you've described I'd just fix it and move on.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:13 PM on October 2, 2011

Every state in the nation (except for NH) requires you to have liability insurance and the property liability would cover this type of damage.

A few years ago, a teenager drove into my mailbox and did some minor landscaping damage to the berm and plants in my front yard. The police took my information and a few days later the driver's insurance company contacted me, asking for a damage estimate. I fixed the damage myself (new mailbox, post and plants) and picked up the assorted car parts littering my front yard. I sent in the receipts and received a check a few weeks later.

If the driver's insurance company hadn't contacted me, I wouldn't have made a claim on my insurance - the cost and time required to fix the damage wasn't very much. Each winter the snow plow does as much damage as the drunk teenager did, so I guess I'm experienced in replacing my mailbox and repairing the landscaping.
posted by bCat at 1:16 PM on October 2, 2011

You can make a claim with anyone, for anything. There are no restrictions. Whether the policy obligates them to pay is another matter. You will have to show evidence of damage to property, and receipts of costs incurred during cleanup and repair. Impairment of use is often included under "property damage".
posted by blargerz at 1:19 PM on October 2, 2011

Well, it worked for me. This was in New Jersey. Rather than file a claim under our own homeowner's insurance, I contacted the insurance company of the driver at fault. This was listed on the police accident report. They sent an adjuster around to look at the damage, which sounds very similar to what you describe - long, deep ruts, grass torn up, debris. After a couple of phone calls negotiating with the adjuster, they sent us a check for $600. Not much, but it wasn't much trouble and it felt a lot better than just cleaning it up ourselves.

One consideration - think about the future of that tree. Was it hit? Was a lot of the ground around it compressed by tow trucks or anything? Any big roots broken? If the tree were to die next year because of damage from this incident (not likely, but not impossible either), that would probably be your biggest loss. When (if) you collect any $ from any insurance company, they will first require you to sign a Release, meaning that you would be barred from going back and making any claim for damages that were not covered in the initial claim. So don't rush to settle for a small amount before you know what the full damage is.
posted by Corvid at 2:40 PM on October 3, 2011

« Older Skip first flight, second flight on different...   |   Cached Wikipedia Vandalism Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.