Does my car insurance cover accidents on private property? (Laws + Coverage)
Auto insurance covers accidents on private property up to the limits of the policy. If you're at fault, your rates could go up as much as 50%. After an accident on private property, you should follow standard steps: call the police if necessary, check for injuries, and report the accident to your insurer.
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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021
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|Key Info||From Experts|
|Private property is any property owned by any entity other than the government||Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute|
|Regardless of where an accident occurs, if you're found to be at fault, it can increase your insurance rates by up to nearly 50 percent||Quadrant|
No matter where they occur, car accidents can be complex and require careful record-keeping. This is especially true for car accidents that occur on private property.
Does my car insurance cover accidents on private property? Does it matter what type of auto insurance coverage I have? How do you file an insurance claim for accidents on private property? What qualifies as private property?
We know finding the answers to these and other questions related to private property car insurance can be difficult, frustrating, and even stressful. But don’t worry, we’ve done the work for you. Take a few minutes to read through this article to learn more about what happens when you get in an accident on private property, how to file the insurance claim, whose insurance is liable for the cost of damages or injuries, and more.
You don’t want to get into an accident without the right car insurance, regardless of location. Enter your ZIP code and get a free quote on auto insurance and shop around right now.
What happens when someone hits your car on private property?
Let’s say you end up in a car accident in a parking lot. Does this mean your accident occurred on private property? If so, does car insurance cover damage on private property? Will your existing auto insurance policy suffice? Do you have to report an accident that occurs on private property? Will the police generate a report on what happened?
In an already stressful situation, the last thing you need is to try and figure out the answers to these questions. Over the next few sections, we’ll discuss all of these topics so you have the information you need, in case you find yourself in a car accident on private property.
But first, what is private property? According to the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, private property is defined as,
“Property owned by private parties — essentially anyone or anything other than the government. Private property may consist of real estate, buildings, objects, intellectual property…”
When looking at a property from this perspective, it is clear that nearly any accident that occurs somewhere other than on public roads or government property may be considered private property. So in our previous example, if you’re in an accident in a parking lot, you’re likely on private property.
What happens to my auto insurance rates if I am in a car accident?
Ultimately, the effect on your car insurance coverage is dependent on who is at fault, who your coverage provider is, where you live, and other related factors. However, to give you an idea of what may happen, we’ve compared the rates for a clean driving record to a driving record with one accident for the major insurers across the country in this table. Take a look.
|Companies||Clean record||With one accident|
As you can see, an accident in which you are at least partially at-fault may cost you in more than just repairs and injuries. Your rates may increase by anywhere between 23 and nearly 50 percent, depending on your insurer, for just one accident!
When an accident occurs on private property, it’s often unclear what happens next. The steps aren’t much different post-accident than when an incident occurs on public roads, but there are several things drivers should know when and if they are involved in an accident on someone’s private property.
Following these steps helps ensure a person’s insurance does cover the cost of an accident on private property.
Take a moment to watch this video to learn a bit more about accidents on private property.
We’ll start with the eight primary steps you need to take, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), should you find yourself in an accident on private property
Step #1 – Should I move my vehicle?
If necessary, move your vehicle out of the way of traffic. However, you should only move your vehicle if safety demands it. And if the accident occurs on private property, the likelihood that this is necessary is greatly reduced, because you’re not on a public road.
Step #2 – Should I check for injuries?
To be on the safe side, even in the event of relatively minor accidents, it’s recommended that everyone involved in an auto accident seek medical attention. Whether it’s a serious accident or one that’s not so serious, it’s helpful to seek medical attention to be sure all victims are properly treated. Injuries are not always visible or immediately noticeable.
This is especially important because many injuries don’t present until several days or weeks following an accident. The longer an injury remains untreated, the worse it can become. While It’s not legally required for accident victims to seek medical attention when an ambulance appears, it’s a good idea to visit the doctor post-accident.
The best time for this is within one day of the accident. It’s always better to pay a co-pay to find out there’s nothing wrong than it is to save a few dollars now, only to pay far more later when injuries begin to appear.
Step #3 – Should I assess damages to the vehicle?
Accurate records of exactly what happened during the accident are vital. While this is true in every accident, it is especially true in the case of an accident that occurred on private property because of the necessity of being able to establish responsibility for the accident and the fact that police reports are not always generated (more on that in a later section).
One way to ensure all information is accurately and completely recorded is to take photos of the scene of the accident. This information log will help ensure your accident claim is handled efficiently and increases the chances of your claim being paid.
Why? If you have accurate accident photos, they can be used to:
- Indicate the cause of the accident
- Highlight what else may have contributed to causing the accident
- Preserve the damages specifically associated with the accident
- Record any resulting injuries
Ultimately, the photos you take at an accident can be used as evidence to support your claim(s).
Step #4 – Can I leave the scene of the accident?
No. You should not leave the scene of the accident immediately. Regardless of the specifics of the incident and whether or not you’re the only party involved, you’ll need to take the time to record exactly what happened, at a minimum. If others are involved, you’ll also likely need to exchange contact information, insurance information, etc.
In the case of our parking lot accident, if you hit another vehicle, even if you can’t find the owner, you shouldn’t leave the scene of the accident until you’ve recorded what happened and left your name and contact information for the vehicle’s owner, so they can reach out to you when they come back to their vehicle and see the damage.
Step #5 – Should I contact the property owner?
You will need to contact the property owner as soon as you are able. Even if the accident had nothing to do with the property owner and is in no way their responsibility or fault, it’s wise to inform them an accident occurred on their property.
However, it is important to note that some accidents might occur on private property through some fault of the owner, which means there could be at least three parties involved in a dispute (we’ll touch on this in a bit more detail in a later section).
Additionally, if a car damaged the property, it is especially important to get the property owner involved, so all disputes are handled correctly.
The other common reasons to contact the property owner is for assistance. The cause of the accident might have very little to do with the property owner, but they might be able to provide additional information regarding the accident to you, the other parties involved, and the police (if they do generate an accident report).
How and why? They may have security cameras on-site, which can be used as evidence if the incident was recorded. Additionally, if they witnessed the incident, they can provide their statements about what occurred. All of this information can be used by insurance companies to more efficiently and effectively establish fault and payout on claims.
Step #6 – How and what type of information should I collect?
Any piece of information related to the accident may be relevant, so you should ensure you’ve collected everything you can. This includes:
- Names and contact information for everyone involved
- Insurance information for all involved drivers
- Driver’s licenses and vehicle registration from everyone involved
- Location, time, and weather conditions when the accident occurred
- Photos (if you haven’t already taken them) of everything relevant to the accident (damages, injuries, vehicle positions, potentially contributing factors, etc.)
This list of information is by no means exhaustive, and you may be able to collect other information as well, depending on the type of incident, how and where it occurred, etc.
Step #7 – When should I call the police?
Do I have to report an accident on private property to the police? One of the primary outcomes of most accidents is an accident report. However, unlike a regular accident on the highway, calling the police for a private property accident is slightly different. Often, when you report an accident on private property, the police do not generate or file accident reports for incidents that occur on private property (though they can do so if the situation warrants it).
So while police officers can examine the scene of the private property auto accident, write a report, and note any details of interest, this may not occur. While insurance companies prefer paying out on accident claims only if there is a police report, they are not actually required when filing a claim (again, we’ll discuss this in more detail in a few sections).
Police accident reports also depend on where you live.
For example, if you’re involved in a car accident on private property in Alabama, the police may or may not generate an accident report, as we’ve already discussed. However, if you’re involved in a car accident or hit and run on private property in Georgia, you’ll need to fill out an SR 13 reporting form (also referred to as a Personal Report of Accident form), provided by the Sheriff’s department, which can then be provided to your insurance company.
If you’re in an accident on private property in Michigan, you can get a police report online or in-person as long as you have the names of every driver involved, the police department that responded to the accident, and the incident report number (which you’ll need to get at the time of the accident). Regardless of where an accident occurs in Michigan, you’re required to file a police report if:
- Personal injuries occur,
- Death occurs, or
- Vehicle damages of $1,000 or more result from the incident
Filing a claim yourself guarantees nothing gets looked over or lost in translation. This is one of three reasons to file an auto accident insurance claim online.
If no accident report is generated, it is doubly important that you take accurate records and photos of exactly what happened, because without a report, it’s much easier for insurance companies to deny a claim. That’s one of the worst situations for drivers involved in any private property accident.
Step #8 – When should I file a claim?
We’ll go into more detail on this in a few sections, but once you’ve collected all the relevant information, you should call your insurance agent. In fact, the sooner you call the better, so the details are fresh in your mind and they’re involved as soon as possible.
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Private Property Auto Insurance
Now that you know what to do in the event of an auto accident on private property, what kind of insurance coverage do you need to ensure you’re protected if this happens to you? Will your current coverage suffice?
In the next few sections, we’ll answer your questions about the coverage you need, what happens if the other driver flees the scene of the accident, when it’s appropriate to file a claim, and more.
What kind of auto insurance do I need if I get in a car accident on private property?
Nearly every state in the country has a minimum requirement for insurance that drivers must carry in order to legally drive. This is typically referred to as minimum liability auto insurance coverage. However, in general, minimum liability coverage is not enough to protect you financially in the event of an accident.
There are several other forms of coverage you should consider purchasing to protect yourself in the event of an accident, particularly one that occurs on private property. We’ve summarized these coverage types in the below table, and we’ll go into more detail on them in a moment.
|Coverage Type||What it Covers|
|Collision||Repair/replacement of car if damaged in an accident|
|Comprehensive||Repair/replacement of car if damaged in something other than an accident|
|Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist||Protects drivers who are in accidents with drivers who are uninsured or underinsured|
Wondering what the difference is between collision and comprehensive auto insurance? We will outline it below.
Collision coverage is exactly what it sounds like. It provides coverage in the event you are in an accident with another vehicle or object (like a tree, for example). Watch this video to learn a bit more about collision coverage.
Collision coverage protects you in the event of a car accident regardless of whether said accident occurs on public or private property.
Next is comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage, which is often referred to as “other than collision” covers essentially any other kind of damage to your vehicle from vandalism to weather damage.
Watch this video to find out more.
Like with collision coverage, a comprehensive policy will provide you with the protection you need, regardless of where an incident occurs.
Finally, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is something to consider adding to your policy, particularly if you live in an area with a high percentage of uninsured (or underinsured) drivers — and you’d be surprised how many drivers don’t have auto insurance.
Watch this video to learn more about the coverage.
These are just some of the options for additional coverage you can purchase, which are also often recommended as good options to purchase for any driver. For further questions about these coverage types, the laws in your state, other options you may have, etc. you should speak with a licensed insurance agent.
Can you get in a hit and run on private property?
Parking lot hit and runs are one of the most common types of auto accidents that occur on private property. Unfortunately for the owner of the property, when this occurs, they may be dragged into the investigation and any resulting disputes because of the potential evidence they may be able to provide. As we briefly discussed earlier, the property owner may have access to security cameras, witnesses, etc., all of which can aid you in your insurance claim.
If you can prove the incident occurred, but there is no way of identifying the at-fault party, and you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you may receive a payout from your own policy’s uninsured liability coverage.
When and how do I file a claim?
When should I report a car accident to the insurance company if I’m involved in a private property auto accident?
You should call your own insurance company, regardless of whether or not you’re at fault. Once an accident report is filed (or the evidence you’ve collected is submitted, if no accident report is generated), the property owner is notified, and medical attention has been handled, it’s time to call the driver’s insurance company to begin the claim process.
Whether or not an accident report is filed, you should have all relevant evidence on-hand and ready to submit to the insurance companies to support your claim.
Once the insurance company is notified, they can begin their own investigation into the accident. This means talking to witnesses, reading the accident report, reviewing any additional evidence, and disputing items that they don’t believe should be covered.
Take a look at this video to learn a little more about what to expect in the event of filing an insurance claim.
But what happens with auto insurance if a car is damaged without a police report? As we noted above, not all private property car accidents will result in a police report. So what do you do?
If you don’t have a police report, you can still file a claim, as an accident report is only required if one of the drivers flees the scene (though insurance companies do prefer you have one). Filing a claim without a police report won’t necessarily mean you don’t get paid, but it may slow down the claims process, as the insurance company will be looking for more information that substantiates the claim.
Who is liable if I get in an auto accident on private property?
When you are involved in an accident on a public road, it is highly unlikely the government will be liable in any way for the accident. However, in the case of incidents that occur on private property, the property owner may be liable for a portion of the cost of damage and/or injuries, if the property is found to be a factor in the accident.
For example, if there is poor construction or signage that contributed to an accident, the property owner may be liable for a portion of the costs that result from the accident. And in some cases, simply being the owner of the property can result in some amount of liability.
If you find yourself in a car accident on private property, make sure to follow the steps we’ve outlined here, so the appropriate insurance companies have the information they need to make a claims determination.
Finally, when you’re shopping for insurance, ask questions. When you’re speaking with a licensed insurance agent, find out what their policies are for handling auto accidents that occur on private property. Find out what they may require if you’re the victim of a parking lot hit-and-run or other common private property auto accident.
Frequently Asked Questions: Private Property Auto Insurance
We’ve done our best to cover everything you need to know about how to handle a car accident that occurs on private property, but we know you may still have some lingering questions. Take a few moments to read through these frequently asked questions for more information.
#1 – What is the minimum amount of auto insurance coverage I am required to have?
As we noted above, nearly every state requires some amount of insurance coverage in order for you to legally drive. This mandatory minimum liability coverage provides very little in the way of financial protection for drivers. In fact, in general, it only provides coverage for the cost of damages and injuries for the other driver (not you), up to the limit of the coverage.
Take a moment to watch this video to learn a bit more about liability coverage.
We’ve also summarized the minimum coverage requirements for each state in this table. Take a look.
|State||Insurance required||Minimum liability limits|
|Alabama||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Alaska||BI & PD Liab||50/100/25|
|Arizona||BI & PD Liab||15/30/10|
|Arkansas||BI & PD Liab, PIP||25/50/25|
|California||BI & PD Liab||15/30/5|
|Colorado||BI & PD Liab||25/50/15|
|Connecticut||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Delaware||BI & PD Liab, PIP||25/50/10|
|District of Columbia||BI & PD Liab, UM||25/50/10|
|Florida||PD Liab, PIP||10/20/10|
|Georgia||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Hawaii||BI & PD Liab, PIP||20/40/10|
|Idaho||BI & PD Liab||25/50/15|
|Illinois||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Indiana||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Iowa||BI & PD Liab||20/40/15|
|Kanses||BI & PD Liab, PIP||25/50/25|
|Kentucky||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Louisiana||BI & PD Liab||15/30/25|
|Maine||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM, Medpay||50/100/25|
|Maryland||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||30/60/15|
|Massachusetts||BI & PD Liab, PIP||20/40/5|
|Michigan||BI & PD Liab, PIP||20/40/10|
|Minnesota||BI &PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||30/60/10|
|Mississippi||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Missouri||BI & PD Liab, UM||25/50/25|
|Montana||BI & PD Liab||25/50/20|
|Nebraska||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Nevada||BI & PD Liab||25/50/20|
|New Hampshire||FR only||25/50/25|
|New Jersey||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||15/30/5|
|New Mexico||BI & PD Liab||25/50/10|
|New York||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/10|
|North Carolina||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||30/60/25|
|North Dakota||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Ohio||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Oklahoma||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|Oregon||BI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Pennsylvania||BI & PD Liab, PIP||15/30/5|
|Rhode Island||BI & PD Liab||25/50/25|
|South Carolina||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|South Dakota||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Tennessee||BI & PD Liab||25/50/15|
|Texas||BI & PD Liab, PIP||30/60/25|
|Utah||BI & PD Liab, PIP||25/65/15|
|Vermont||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/10|
|Virginia||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Washington||BI & PD Liab||25/50/10|
|West Virginia||BI & PD Liab, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Wisconsin||BI & PD Liab, UM, Medpay||25/50/10|
|Wyoming||BI & PD Liab||25/50/20|
When looking at this table, BI refers to bodily injury, PD refers to property damage, PIP refers to personal injury protection, and UM/UIM refers to uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Keep in mind, with the minimum protection this coverage provides, you should consider purchasing additional coverage to ensure you have what you need to be financially protected behind the wheel. Speak with a licensed insurance agent in your area to find out the best coverage for you, given your particular situation.
#2 – Do the police respond to parking lot accidents?
The short answer is, it depends. If the accident occurs in an area in which there is a significant amount of police activity, they may not be able to respond to minor incidents. However, if there are injuries or the accident is blocking traffic in some way, the police will most likely respond.
In the event of a parking lot accident with no police report, it is doubly important that you gather all available information, as we discussed in an earlier section. What about coverage? Does insurance cover accident in a parking lot? Yes, your insurance will cover you for an accident in a parking lot.
#3 – Are there auto accidents in which I shouldn’t call the police?
The simple answer is yes. In some cases, it is not appropriate to call the police. Any accident that only involves you (for example, if you hit a curb or run into a tree) should not involve the police. Though you’ll still need to document what happened, take photos, etc. if you plan to speak with your insurance company about repairs. Ultimately, the police should only be called if at least two parties are involved in an accident.
Before you go, take a moment to use your ZIP code to get a free quote on auto insurance and make sure you’ve got good coverage in case of an accident.