Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: May 2, 2022

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Key takeaways...

  • Private property is defined as a store parking lot, a driveway, a residence or other areas not owned by the public
  • In some states, police departments won’t file any police reports for accidents that happen on private property
  • If you have a collision on private property, you must collect all of the pertinent information your adjuster needs
  • When you hit your own garage or a fence on a property that you own, your auto insurance won’t pay for repairs
  • Your own vehicle repairs will be covered, even if you have a private property accident if you have full coverage

Accidents don’t just happen on freeways and highways; they can also happen on private property.

If you’ve ever heard a story on the news about a dangerous incident where a driver had a seizure behind the wheel and crashed right into the middle of someone’s living room, this is an example of a private property collision.

In your mind, an accident is just an accident.

It might not seem like the place where the accident happened matters, in the eyes of the insurer paying out on the claim, location is important.

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Your own insurance policy may provide coverage for accidents on private property, but there are some limitations. Here’s what you need to know so that you can take the appropriate steps after the accidents to make filing a claim quick and easy:

How do you know if you’re on private property?

If you’re driving down Interstate 5 or you’re cruising east on Junction 66, you’re driving your vehicle down a road that’s legally owned by a government entity.

Since the roads are constructed by tax dollars and maintained by a state or federal agency, they are owned by the public.

It can be surprising to learn what’s classified as private property. The most basic definition of private property is a parcel of land where the property is owned by non-governmental legal entities.

What if the incident happens on private property? Does car insurance cover accidents on private land? The owner of the private property is responsible for maintaining it and also liable for incidents that happen there. Examples of private property include:

  • Residential driveways
  • Parking lots
  • Ranches
  • Farms
  • Garages

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Can you file an accident claim through your insurer?

If you’re backing into a driveway and you hit the garage door because you misjudge how much space you have, you can file a claim against your auto insurance policy.

Since you were the operator who damaged the property, you can be held liable to pay for repairs. Your insurer may be able to help you with this, but there will be some very strict restrictions.

Can you file a police report?

Most auto insurance claims adjusters will ask you if you filed a police report after the incident happened.

Having the police report is very helpful because it includes the following information:

  • the location of the accident
  • the vehicles involved
  • the drivers
  • the damage to property
  • who the officer believed was at fault

Law enforcement officers usually will report to the scene of an accident when they are called. In some cities, where the need for police services is high, officers only go to the scene to draft a report when there are injuries.

These rules usually apply to accidents occurring on public property. Unfortunately, in most jurisdictions, officers will not come to your private property to write an accident report.

Can your insurer reject a claim because you don’t have a police report?

You only have one opportunity to file a police report. After the fact when the dust settles and you clear the scene, you can’t ask officers to come.

You might be panicked when the adjuster you’re speaking with asks for a police report number. While the report is helpful, for an accident-related claim, the report isn’t necessarily mandatory.

The law says when you’re required to file a police report in every state. Some states say that you need to file a report when damage exceeds $1000. Others require reports if the accident results in personal injury or death.

While laws do apply, they usually refer to accidents that occur on public property.

You don’t always need a police report. An insurer might sound nit-picky when asking for reports but it’s just standard protocol to ask.

As long as you’re filing an incident where both parties can be interviewed and everyone can be contacted for statements, you can tell the insurer that you couldn’t file a report because the accident happened on private property.

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Getting All the Details Is Crucial

If you forget to document something after an accident, a police report can save the day. You can look up insurance information, license numbers, VIN numbers, and other details that you didn’t collect by looking at the document.

Since having this information is a must, you need to get all of the information possible at the scene. Here’s what you will need:

  • License plates of each vehicle
  • Property address
  • Damage to your vehicle
  • Damage to other property
  • Time and date of accident
  • Weather conditions
  • Description of injuries
  • Driver information
  • Property owner name
  • Contact information
  • Insurance information

Are incidents on your own property covered?

If your teen drives into your garage and creates their own makeshift drive-through, there is a gray line as to how the coverage will work.

You may still have a damage claim to file, but your auto insurance isn’t going to cover the damage to the garage door or any of the property that was located inside the garage.

You have to remember that your liability coverage is designed to pay for losses that occur to others when you’re in a collision. You have Property Damage Protection, which pays for damaged property that is not your vehicle, but it won’t pay for property owned by you.

That is a universal exclusion under all personal auto liabilities policies.

Your coverage won’t pay for damage to your garage if you or a household member collide with it, but full coverage under your auto policy will pay for the damage sustained to the car.

You’ll have to file a collision claim for coverage and pay a deductible before money is paid out. If you need help repairing your property that was hit, you may be able to file a claim under your home insurance.

Can the property owner be held liable?

If you’re driving on private backroads and a hazard leaves you in a ditch, there’s a chance that the property owner could be held liable for your damages.

It all depends on the scenario, if there were hazard signs, and what type of insurance the owner has. Your insurer can help you with this type of claim.

Your insurance will pay for some accidents that occur on private property. You need to review your insurance coverage to ensure that you have all of the right coverage.

Before making any final decisions on your insurance company, it is important to learn as much as you can about your local insurance providers, and the coverages they offer. Call your local insurance agent to clear up any questions that you might have. Questions to consider asking include, “What is the best coverage plan for me/my family/my situation?” “What are the minimum coverage requirements in my state and what form of coverage do you recommend?” “Do you guys offer any bundle discounts if I take out both my auto insurance and home insurance with you?” and “What is the average rate of insurance quotes you guys offer?”

Before making any big insurance decisions, use our free tool to compare insurance quotes near you. It’s simple, just plug in your zip code and we’ll do the rest!

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