The basics of auto insurance are mostly understood by drivers, but when filing a claim for an accident on private property, car insurance may get a little complicated.
It can be an intimidating process, especially if you’re worried the accident will impact your insurance.
The average person has a 30% chance of being involved in a serious car accident during their lifetime, so it’s essential to understand how to file a claim. We’ll take you step-by-step on what to do immediately after an accident occurs whether it’s on public or private property.
Private Property vs. Public Property
Public property refers to any area commonly used by the surrounding public and managed by public authorities. These properties are owned by the state, government, or municipality. Some examples of public property are:
- State-funded hospitals
- Parks and playgrounds
- Public schools
- Sidewalks, streets, and highways
Private property can be owned by a specific individual, business, or group of people and is not state-funded or governed. It can be sold or handed down to another person, group, or business, but it’s unable to be taken for public use. A local restaurant’s parking area is used by the public every day, but it is still considered to be private property since it’s owned by a private owner.
Other examples of private property are private roads, private driveways, and parking garages.
What to Do After a Car Accident on Private Property
The very first thing you should do after you’ve been in an accident on private property is to contact the local police. They may not respond to the scene if it’s a minor accident with no injuries, but it’s still a good idea to call them so they can at least provide you with an incident report.
Otherwise, you could try getting one from the property owner or someone who works there.
If you were injured during the accident, get medical attention as soon as possible. Putting off receiving medical care after a crash can limit the amount of compensation you can recover for your injuries. Plus the longer you wait, the worse your injuries could get.
The next thing you should do is contact an attorney, even before you speak to your insurance company. This is because your insurance provider will likely try to pay you the smallest amount possible. An experienced attorney will have the expertise to give you advice on how to get what you deserve.
Other things you should do:
- Document everything by taking pictures of the accident scene, your injuries, and property damage. This could include signage or other fixed objects.
- Exchange personal and insurance information with the other party involved in the accident as well as the property owner, if possible. You should also obtain contact information from any eyewitnesses of the crash.
It’s important to remember not to accept any settlement offers from your insurer until you’ve contacted an attorney.
To determine liability in a car accident, you have to identify negligence on the part of the drivers that were involved in the accident. Negligence in accidents that happen on private property is similar to an accident that happens on public property.
However, the main difference between an accident on private property and an accident that happens in a public area is that the owner of the property could share some of the liability. For example, lack of signage or poor visibility could cause an accident and be a result of negligence by the property owner.
Regardless of whether they feel they are liable, the property owner may step in any way if they can provide camera footage or an incident report. Sometimes, though, a property owner can be defensive and refuse to help for fear that they would have to contribute to the settlement.
Understanding negligence is especially important in any case that involves personal injury. You have to prove that the property owner or driver owed you a duty of care, or a legal obligation imposed on them to provide reasonable care while performing dangerous acts, and breached this duty. Their negligence must have caused the accident that caused you injury or damages.
It’s more difficult to prove this on private property. Some states don’t specify that drivers on private property have a duty of care like they do on public roads. The property owner not cooperating can also make proving negligence difficult.
Therefore, having an experienced lawyer could make or break your case. They’ll be able to do a detailed investigation and consider every factor to determine if the property owner and the other driver will share liability.
Beneficial Insurance Coverage to Have
Almost every state has a minimum requirement for insurance that drivers must have to legally drive. This is known as the minimum liability auto coverage. While this is still some coverage, often it’s not enough to cover you financially in the case of an accident.
There are several forms of coverage that you should consider purchasing to protect yourself in case of an accident, particularly accidents occurring on private property. These coverages include:
- Collision coverage can help repair or replace your vehicle if it was damaged in an accident.
- Comprehensive coverage can help repair or replace your vehicle if it was damaged in any incident besides a car accident.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist can protect you in case you were in an accident with another driver who is uninsured or underinsured.
These types of coverage are beneficial to have to keep yourself as protected as possible in the case of an accident. When in doubt about which policies work best for you, you can always contact a licensed insurance agent.
Impact of an Accident on Your Auto Insurance Rates
How your car insurance coverage is affected by an accident depends on who is at fault, who your insurance provider is, where you live, and other factors. Typically though, even being partially at fault can increase your rates.
If you are at fault and were performing other risky behaviors, your license could be suspended. It can be difficult to get car insurance with a suspended license.
In fact, your rates could increase by anywhere between 23% and 50%, depending on your insurer, for just one accident. However, if you are not found at fault for an accident, your insurance rates likely won’t go up. This does depend on the insurer. Some companies raise rates slightly after an accident regardless of if the driver is at fault.
Your insurance rates will go up immediately after the crash and then should go back to normal after three to five years (as long as your record remains clean during this time).
A car accident’s location affects insurance claims in a multitude of ways, but knowing how and why will help you understand the legal result and stay prepared for future incidents.
Luke Williams writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, BuyAutoInsurance.com. His passions include best practices for insurance and helping everyday drivers understand accid