Car accidents on private property can often work differently than accidents on public roadways. This article walks you through a typical private property accident and the claims process that follows.
Two people just finish grocery shopping and are both backing out of their parking spaces when they unfortunately meet.
How do the police respond?
When you have an accident on a public roadway, the first thing you should do is called the police so they can complete an accident report. This report is often the final determination of who's at fault for an accident, so it's SUPER important it is completed, especially if the accident is NOT your fault.
When you have an accident on private property, the police have no jurisdiction to do a report, since it's not a public roadway. So they don't complete an accident report. If you're lucky, the place you have the accident at MAY do an "incident report". Often times they're done by security guards or some other sort of campus authority. The incident report is a simplified version of an accident report, but is often better than nothing when trying to prove fault.
In the example above, the grocery store did not have security officers, so no report could be filed.
What happens after the accident?
One of two things can happen here, just like any accident- the driver of the other vehicle can drive away or can stop and exchange contact and insurance information. If it's the former, then your policy will have to pay to repair your vehicle (typically the collision coverage, which is subject to a deductible). What if you don't have collision coverage on your vehicle? Then if you have Uninsured Motorists Property Damage coverage, you MAY get some help, but it's limited. If you don't have either, then you're out of luck, and will have to pay for the repairs out of pocket. Yes, it totally stinks, but in the absence of any other insurance coverage, you have no choice but to fall back on your coverage OR your checkbook.
If the other driver stays and you exchange information, then there are a few additional outcomes- the other person admits fault, you both admit fault, or neither of you admit fault. In the case of people backing out simultaneously, it's really difficult to determine who's at fault. Security cameras (if available) may help, but it's pretty tough, especially when the cars meet in the middle.
If the other person admits fault and says he will turn in to his insurance company, then I would expect to get a call from an adjuster within a few days, to make initial contact. The claims process should work pretty smoothly after that, including taking statements, determining liability, reviewing damage estimates and issuing checks.
If neither person admits fault or you both feel like you might be at fault, then the best way to handle this situation is to turn in the claim to your insurance company. Each company will do their investigation and determine who's at fault. It's very possible that each person will be held responsible, so your insurance may pay for your damages and the other person's insurance will pay for his damages. Read our article- Ohio car accidents: How Car Insurance Responds When Fault Can't Be Determined for a more detailed explanation of this process.
The moral of the story
The outcome of a parking lot accident is VERY dependent not on an official document that determines fault, but whether one or both drivers admit fault. It can unfortunately become a "he said, she said" situation and in the absence of clear-cut fault, will often result in each person's insurance paying his or her respective damages.
Of course, the ideal situation is for the other party to admit fault and your vehicle repaired by his or her carrier, but that seems to be more the exception rather than the rule nowadays. In any case, this article is designed to give you a better idea of how private property accidents work, with parking lots being the most common location.
Let's face it, insurance claims can be confusing and scary. If this type of claim concerns you, rest easy- we help our customers with their claims when they need us. If you'd like to experience the same approach with your auto insurance, call us at (937) 592-4871 to request your quote. You can also request your auto quote quickly and easily on our website.