Suppose you have a friend over and their car gets damaged in your driveway. There are several ways this could happen, and in some, the property owner would be responsible.
I wondered, so I checked — and I’ve got good news and bad news.
If the damage is on your property and not caused by some other obvious fault, you will need to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance. The important takeaway is to find out what is covered on your policy and keep it up to date to cover this instance and many others.
Know What Coverage You Have, and What It Will Cover.
Is it Your Responsibility?
If another guest backed into your friend’s car, then that’s a situation for the individual auto owners and their auto insurance carriers. They should definitely get a police report, though, because auto insurance claims adjusters ask for that first thing. The good news about this is that it doesn’t affect you or your property. If a tree branch fell out of a neighbor’s tree and busted someone’s windshield in your driveway, then it’s the neighbor’s responsibility and you should reach out to their homeowner’s insurance company. But, if that tree is on your property and not just hanging over the property line, then you are responsible and should contact your homeowner’s insurance company.
Won’t Their Auto Insurance Cover the Damage?
Your friend may have full-coverage insurance which will cover any damage to their vehicle regardless of fault. However, this is an expensive insurance policy and making a claim will probably cause their rates to go up as well. Many people elect to continue to keep full-coverage insurance just for situations like this. If they only have liability coverage, their insurance will only cover damage done by their car, not to their car. Also, if your property is the cause of the damage, then it is your insurance that should be covering any damages incurred.
Do You Have The Right Insurance?
Sadly, many people don’t look deeply into their homeowner’s insurance. This means that while your insurance may cover your home and property in the event of a fire or if someone falls off your porch, it may not have a rider to cover “acts of God.” Acts of God include tornadoes, earthquakes, storms and pretty much anything that happens because of nature. (Like a tree branch falling on a car.) Also note, your homeowner’s liability coverage may be limited to a certain amount to be paid out, or you may have a large deductible before the insurance will pay anything.
Ask Your Insurance Agent
Even if you have a copy of your homeowner’s insurance policy, it’s wise to make an appointment and go over the coverage you have with a professional. That way, when you figure out there’s something you don’t have, but need, your agent can get it added right away.
Depending on where you live, your policy may have specific nature-related items included in your coverage. Hurricanes in Florida? Pretty standard on insurance coverage. Hurricanes in Oregon? Probably not included. With insurance policies, if it’s not listed, it’s not covered.
Here are a few things you should ask about to protect your personal finances from situations like your friend’s car damage:
- How much coverage do I have for homeowners liability?
- What is my deductible for damage claims?
- What damages to my property and guests are included in homeowners liability?
- Do I have protection for natural disasters and acts of God?
- Can I get protection in my area for acts of God?
- Can I purchase individual riders for items not included in my basic policy, such as flooding and lightning?
- What riders would specifically help in my area?
Do You Really Need Insurance for This?
Keep in mind that while paying for homeowner’s insurance that covers all the possibilities may be expensive, it is much less expensive than having to purchase someone a new car out of your pocket. A windshield or a scratch repair may not be too expensive, but what it that branch crushed the top of the car?
A guideline most insurers consider wise is to make sure you have enough coverage to completely replace your home and belongings if they are destroyed. You would think that would more than cover your friend’s car damage right? I would. But if you don’t have the specific wording in your policy and a rider for guest’s property damages then you could end up paying it yourself.
Each state has different requirements for basic homeowners insurance, and the availability and required additional coverage riders. To put it simply, if your tree dropped a branch onto a guest’s vehicle, then your insurance or you are responsible for fixing the damage. Avoid having to come out of pocket by getting to know your insurance policy ins and outs.