D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: May 24, 2021

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Just the Basics

  • Driving on anything other than public roads is considered private property
  • Private property includes parking lots, parking garages, driveways, and any other privately-owned property
  • Standard liability car insurance may not cover accidents on private property if no fault is assigned
  • Adding insurance coverage to standard liability car insurance will protect you financially in private property car accidents

It’s a fact of life that car accidents happen, both on roads, in parking lots, and in many other places. What happens when you get into an accident on private property? Is private property covered by car insurance?

What does private property mean? Roads maintained by the local, state, and federal governments are considered public roads. Driving anywhere else is considered driving on private property, including parking lots, parking garages, driveways, or on property owned by private parties.

Does car insurance cover damage on private property? Learn about the different types of car insurance coverage available for better coverage when driving on private property.

Enter your ZIP code to get private property car insurance quotes.

What is considered private property?

Roads owned by the government are considered public roads, including highways, county roads, and locally maintained roads. Driving anywhere else is considered driving on private property.

Private property can include buildings such as parking garages, store and mall parking lots, private residence driveways, and private lands.

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Does car insurance cover damage on private property?

Basic car insurance, known as minimum liability car insurance, covers damage from a car accident on private property. Liability insurance kicks in if you are the at-fault driver. There are two types of liability:

  • Property damage liability pays for the damage you are legally responsible for in a car accident, but it does not cover the cost of damage to your own vehicle.
  • Bodily injury liability covers the medical costs for the other driver and passengers if they are injured in a car accident you caused.

Liability insurance will not cover the cost of repairing your vehicle, it will only pay for damage done to someone else’s vehicle.

Because fault may not be assigned in an accident on private property, liability coverage may not be enough to protect you financially. Other types of insurance should be added to your policy to ensure your financial protection.

Can fault be assigned in private property accidents?

Public roads are clearly marked with signs and information so police on the scenes of accidents are able to assign fault. Private property may or may not be as clearly marked with signage. 

Police may respond to accidents on private property but will respond if there have been major injuries or damage. Police may not assign fault in their accident reports on private property.

Assigning fault in private property accidents can be difficult as it may often be unclear whose fault it was. 

If no fault is assigned, your liability insurance will not cover the cost of the other person’s damages. Other types of insurance should be added to your policy to ensure your financial protection.

What types of car insurance cover private property accidents?

Collision coverage will cover the cost of repair and replacement if your car is damaged on private property. If you are in a collision and the other driver is at fault, traditionally their insurance would pay for your damages. But if an accident occurs on private property, police may not assign fault.

Each driver would then file a claim with their own insurance company. Drivers with collision coverage would be covered for damages on their car after an accident with no fault on private property.  

Comprehensive coverage protects your car on private property if it is damaged by fire, theft, vandalism, or acts of weather. With comprehensive coverage on your policy, if one of these events happens on private property, it should be covered.

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What happens in a car accident on private property, no insurance?

The Insurance Research Council (IRC) says one in eight drivers in 2019 was driving without car insurance. What happens in a car accident on private property if the driver has no insurance? 

Top 10 States with the Highest Percentage of Uninsured Motorists

State% of uninsured motorists
Mississippi29.4
Michigan25.5
Tennessee23.7
New Mexico21.8
Washington21.7
Florida20.4
Alabama19.5
Arkansas19.3
District of Columbia19.1
California16.6

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Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you and your vehicle up to pre-determined amounts if you are in an accident with someone who is either uninsured or underinsured. It replaces the liability coverage the at-fault uninsured/underinsured driver should have had to provide if they were at fault. 

Are hit and runs on private property covered? 

Hit and runs are one of the most common types of accidents on private property. If your car is parked in a store’s parking lot while you are shopping and you return to find it has been damaged by another car with no note claiming responsibility, it’s considered a hit and run.

Uninsured/underinsured insurance coverage could cover a hit and run since it happened on private property, you’re not at fault and you have no idea who is at fault. With uninsured/underinsured coverage on your policy, you may have insurance coverage for damages.

Car accident on private driveway, is it covered?

Car accidents can happen in driveways too. If you hit a friend or family member’s car in your driveway and you are clearly at fault, your liability insurance will pay for their damages. You would need collision insurance to cover the damage to your car. 

If you hit another car you own in the driveway, you would have to file collision claims for both vehicles to cover damages if you had collision coverage on both cars. This could mean having to cover the deductibles for two collision claims. 

Would it be worth filing a claim? If the cost of repair is less than your deductible, you may choose not to file a claim. If the person whose car you hit in the driveway decides to sue you though, your insurance company may find it difficult to defend you if no claim was filed with them.

If you file many claims with your private property car insurance company, expect the policy premiums to rise. Insurance is about risk and if a company deems you riskier because you have been in several accidents, even if you were not at fault, they may raise the annual rates.  

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What happens immediately after a car accident?

Regardless of whether you are in a car accident on public or private property, the Insurance Information Institute (iii) recommends you follow eight steps to protect yourself and get all the information needed to file an insurance claim. 

The most important thing is to call 911 if you, your passengers, or anyone in the other vehicle involved in the accident has been hurt. 

The eight recommended steps all involve documenting the scene of the accident with photos and with information, especially if a police officer is not able to respond to the scene to create an accident report. 

Take photos of the damages on both vehicles, and exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver.

It’s important to note that insurance companies routinely ask for police accident reports to begin their investigation. If one is not available, you will still be able to file a claim.

Since the accident occurred on private property, contact the owner of the property to inform them. The property owner may be able to assist you if they have security cameras and footage or photos of the accident.

The accident may have nothing to do with the property owner or they may be partially liable if their property wasn’t maintained or appropriate signs were not in place. Sometimes the private property owner may become involved in an insurance company investigation due to this evidence.

Now you know that car insurance does cover private property accidents and the types of insurance you need to be fully covered. Shop around before you buy private property car insurance. 

Enter your ZIP code now to compare quotes for affordable private property car insurance options. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is private property covered by car insurance? 

#1. What can I do if my car has damaged my property?

You cannot submit a claim to your car insurance if your car has damaged your property, for example, if your car has hit and damaged your garage door or wall.

You will need to file a claim on your homeowner’s insurance to cover the damages caused by your car.  If you have collision coverage on your car, the cost of repairing the car should be covered minus the deductible. 

#2. Will an accident on private property raise my auto insurance rates?

It depends upon your insurance company, but many companies do raise rates after private property insurance claims. Insurance companies insure you based on risk assessment. Making multiple claims will raise your auto insurance rates, even if you were not the at-fault driver. 

#3. Is private property stolen out of my car covered by car insurance?

Private property stolen from your car will not be covered by car insurance, whether your car is parked on public or private property.

Comprehensive policy coverage only covers items that are permanently installed in your car. If your purse, wallet, computer, or any other valuables have been stolen from your car, you can file a claim on your renter’s or homeowners insurance policy. 

References:

  1. https://www.insurance-research.org/sites/default/files/downloads/UM%20NR%20032221.pdf
  2. https://www.iii.org/article/scene-accident