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: Mar 17, 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • Some states protect drivers from insurance penalties after a hit-and-run
  • You may not need to report your accident, but you should always collect evidence 
  • Paying for the damage of a scratch is likely going to come out of pocket

We’ve all experienced it: you come out of a store to find a new mark across your car. Sometimes it’s not always clear what to do if someone scratches your car while parked because you may not be there when the accident took place. In this guide, we will help you go through the process of filing your accident claim.

So, if you come back to your parked car to find a note on your windshield, you already know you’re in for some trouble. However, don’t panic. Collect the information from the note and call your car insurance company. 

If you already know what to do when someone scratches your car while parked but need a new car insurance company, you can enter your ZIP code to speak with a local agent about car insurance rates.

What are the next steps if someone scratches your car while parked?

When you notice your car has new damage, the first thing you want to do is collect evidence, take pictures, and make your round of calls. Take photos of anything that could help your claim. Evidence could include varying angles of the damages, the position of your vehicle, and any other environmental factors you feel could help your claim, such as private parking signs.

Your car insurance company and law enforcement are likely to ask for it, so have your evidence handy.

However, not every driver is lucky. If you come back to find your car damaged without a note, that doesn’t always mean you’re in the dust. Keep reading to learn what to do when someone scratches your car and drives off.

What should I do if someone scratched my car and didn’t leave a note?

If someone hits your car and drives off, your initial steps should be the same as previously mentioned. Take pictures of the damage and anything else you could use as evidence to send your insurance company or the police.

If possible, collect any witness descriptions of the vehicle that left damage to your car. If someone hits your car in a parking lot with an accessible camera — such as a work parking lot — you have an advantage.

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If someone scratches my car while parked, will my insurance go up?

More than likely, your insurance company will change your rates after an accident. However, you may be in luck depending on your state auto insurance rules. In California, for example, your rates can’t increase because of a hit-and-run accident.

Before diving into consequences, we’ll discuss the ways your car insurance company will handle an incident after someone scratches your car while parked.

A minor accident is when the damage to your vehicle does not impede the vehicle’s ability to operate normally. A hit-and-run accident is when someone crashes into your vehicle and leaves the scene. Most drivers are unprepared for the consequences of these accidents, particularly when you don’t know the other driver.

High-congested areas, such as California and cities in the Midwest and Northeast, are leaders in hit-and-run accidents. These areas report hundreds of thousands of accidents per year, but that does not reflect insurance claims.

In many cases, the victim bears the burden of paying, which may steer drivers away from filing an insurance claim. According to the Insurance Information Institute, instead of the at-fault driver’s insurance covering the costs for vehicle repairs, it is the victim’s responsibility to pay the deductible and all other expenses.

Accidents can raise rates drastically, and drivers can use rate information know which companies will protect them and their property. See the table below for example rates after one accident, compared to a clean record and other penalties.

GroupClean recordWith 1 accidentWith 1 DUIWith 1 speeding violation
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75$4,330.24$3,025.74
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78$7,613.48$5,701.26
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01$3,636.80$3,186.01
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If law enforcement can’t locate the culprit, your insurance company will classify the incident as a hit-and-run with an uninsured driver. In that case, you’d need to have collision or uninsured driver insurance to repair the damage to your vehicle. The following sections will discuss how to file a police report, an insurance claim, and what to do if someone scratches your car while parked and leaves.

How to File an Insurance Claim After a Hit-and-Run

The worst part about a hit-and-run is being helpless during an accident. Even if you weren’t in the car when it happened, the surprise of car damage is never fun. If your car needs repairs after a hit-and-run, you may decide to file an insurance claim to get it fixed.

The first thing you need to do is call the police if there are any injuries or major damage. Then, call your car insurance company.

The sooner you file an accident claim, the quicker you can get your car to a mechanic. Don’t try to find the driver yourself unless you are simply acquiring video or statements from witnesses. In that case, you need to collect as much of the following information as possible:

  • The other car’s license plate number
  • The other vehicle’s make, model, and color

If you do not know what car it was, but you did see the vehicle, you can still provide descriptions. Disclose general size, color, or special marks.

  • Description of damage to the other vehicle, if applicable
  • Which direction the other vehicle was headed, if applicable
  • Photos of the damage to your vehicle
  • Location, date, time, and cause of the accident

Unfortunately, even if you collect all the correct information, your car insurance company could still deny your claim.

In most cases, insurers will treat a hit-and-run accident the same way as if someone without insurance hit you.

An uninsured motorist policy will help you pay for any damages to your car. It is the preferred policy in a hit-and-run accident, but it’s not always applicable. Your claim may be denied based on your state, and if it is available, the other driver needs to be present.

If you have collision coverage and you’re the victim of a hit-and-run, you likely can make a claim on your policy without having to find the other driver.

How to File an Insurance Claim After Someone Hits Your Car 

The better news is that if someone scratches your car while parked but stuck around or left a note, you have better options. GEICO and other companies have accident hotlines to help drivers know what to do when someone hits their parked car.

If you return to a damage vehicle, you can start the claim process by calling that number.

The process will be very similar to a hit-and-run. You will collect any evidence, information from the other driver, or any other identifying information. If you know who the other driver is, there is a better chance of you not assuming responsibility.

There are some factors that drivers need to consider before calling their insurance company.

Do I have to file an accident report?

In most states, drivers need to report to the department that oversees transportation and law enforcement after an accident. Minor accidents and those that don’t cause injury could be exempt.

Drivers don’t need to report every accident to law enforcement. In most cases, if the accident didn’t result in an injury, you don’t need to report it.

Check with your state about the specific rules, but keep reading for some examples.

If property damage exceeds $1,000 in California, drivers need to report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles within two weeks. In Illinois, you have to report an accident to the Department of Transportation if the property damage exceeds $1,500.

If you don’t want to call 911, you can file a crime report to your local law enforcement officials. Some lawyers recommend that drivers call the police immediately to the scene to facilitate the process. The better-safe-than-sorry ideology applies there.

Drivers should be aware that even if you locate the person that hit you, you could still be held accountable. Make sure you are obeying traffic laws and adhering to parking signage. If you are illegally parked, the police may find you at fault. 

The Bottom Line: What should you do when your car is scratched?

Unfortunately, if you don’t know who hit you and have no way to find out, you may need to swallow the cost or live with the scratch. Drivers may have some protections, but those will fluctuate depending on your state and coverage. 

Auto experts always encourage full coverage on the road. You never know when something will happen or what it will cost you, and insurance can be confusing. Make sure you get all your facts. 

Enter your ZIP code to speak with local car insurance experts about your options.