Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products, including home, life, auto, and commercial, and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, mainly in the insuranc...

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UPDATED: Oct 19, 2021

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Important facts to know...

  • If you have basic car insurance, your policy is designed to pay for third-party repairs and medical bills
  • If you cause damage to property owned by others, it’s your property damage limit that pays for accident repairs
  • If you file a third-party claim for damage to other property, your insurer won’t pay for any non-accident repairs
  • You must have first-party coverage like comprehensive and collision to file a claim for damage to your own car
  • Your comprehensive coverage will pay for some non-accident damage to your car if it’s because of a covered peril

Car insurance is a financial product you can’t rationally live without. As long as you own a vehicle, you’ll have to carry at least a minimum amount of liability coverage to protect your current assets and even your financial future after getting into an at-fault accident.

Without insurance coverage, many negligent drivers would find themselves paying large settlements after battling it out in court.

Your auto insurance will always pay for third-party accident-related damages when you’re found liable for an accident, but will it pay for your own damages? Many people wonder if only accident repairs are covered.

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At the end of the day, what’s covered depends on how much insurance you have. If your car has been damaged by an event other than an accident, here’s what you need to know:

What is property damage coverage?

If you look through your policy documents, you’ll find a document that specifically covers what type of coverage you’re carrying and what limits you’re paying for.

Unless you live in a no-fault state, you’ll definitely see a section that pertains to property damage coverage. This is a mandatory form of liability insurance in most states.

Property damage is a third-party car insurance coverage that only pays when you or a covered driver in your vehicle damages someone else’s property.

The property is most commonly someone’s car, but it could also be other types of other property like:

  • a bicycle
  • a scooter
  • a building
  • a garage

If you’re negligent in an accident and damage is sustained, your insurer will pay up to the property’s Actual Cash Value or up to your limits, whichever is lower.

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What type of repairs does property damage pay for?

If you’ve filed a claim with your insurer and you’re allocated at least 51 percent of the fault for the loss, it will be your adjuster’s duty to estimate the damage and offer a payment to the third-party claimant.

When damage is being estimated, your adjuster will consider the vehicle’s pre-loss condition and the severity of the damage caused in the accident.

If the car had repairs that were needed prior to the accident and the car was declared totaled, the insurer will deduct that from the vehicle’s value.

If non-accident repairs were needed in addition to the accident repairs, only a check for the damage that was obviously sustained in the loss will be issued.

What else does your liability coverage pay for?

Liability coverage goes beyond simply paying to repair property or replace it. There’s an entirely different liability coverage called bodily injury liability that pays for much more than just repair bills.

If you’re in an accident and there are injuries, your bodily injury coverage will also kick in to pay for a host of expenses.

Bodily injury (BI) will pay for all reasonable medical expenses when a driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian is injured in an auto accident.

In addition paying for medical treatment and transport, your BI coverage will also pay for lost wages, the cost of home care, and the cost for other services. Your supplemental coverage will kick in to pay for legal defense and other court costs if you end up going to court.

Will your policy pay for your accident repairs?

When the claim is investigated and you’ve been labeled the at-fault party after a car crash, you’ll have to review your policy to see if your own accident repairs will be covered.

You can’t expect the other party’s insurance to offer you any type of money when you’re the negligent driver. Carrying sufficient coverage is crucial.

You need to carry what’s referred to as first-party physical damage coverage if you want your insurance to consider paying for your accident repairs.

There are two types of auto insurance coverage that you must have:

  • comprehensive
  • collision

When you’re filing any type of accident damage claims, collision is the coverage that will pay out.

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How much of your accident repairs are covered?

When a car is mangled in a collision, you can’t expect the insurer to send you to a repair shop immediately to fix the cosmetic and mechanical damage. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense for an insurer to pay for accident repairs at all.

You shouldn’t rush to get your car repaired before understanding how your damage is estimated.

Under your collision physical damage coverage limits, your contract says that the insurer is only legally obligated to pay you up to your car’s fair market value in its pre-loss condition. The insurer will only pay you what the car is really worth.

If the damages exceed what the adjuster believes your car’s fair market value is, the car is classified a total loss and you’ll receive a check for its value plus other title fees and taxes.

There are always exceptions to the total loss formula. In some states, the damage only has to exceed a certain percentage of the car’s value before the car can be declared totaled. This percentage is called a Total Loss Threshold.

If the threshold is 70 percent, and repair costs are about 80 percent of the car’s value, the insurer will total the car instead of paying for the accident repairs.

What happens if your car is damaged by something other than an accident?

You don’t have to crash your car to have a need for physical damage insurance. Having collision coverage is necessary after a crash, but when you have collision coverage you’ll also be carrying another important coverage called comprehensive.

Comprehensive is the coverage you’ll need to learn about if you want non-accident damage covered by your auto insurance provider.

What is comprehensive coverage?

Like collision insurance, comprehensive is a form of first-party physical damage coverage that pays to protect your covered vehicle. There are many similarities between the two coverage options.

Both coverage options are subject to deductibles and both will only pay up to your car’s Actual Cash Value. Where there are similarities, there are always differences.

The major difference between comprehensive and collision and what’s covered under each. The cause of the damage must be not collision related when you’re filing a comprehensive claim. The coverage is often called the “Other Than Collision” benefit.

It will kick in when there are non-accident damages caused by covered perils.

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What kinds of non-accident repairs are covered?

Comprehensive sounds like a wonderful coverage option that picks up the pieces when you have damage that doesn’t qualify for a collision claim. That’s not always the case.

There are times when non-accident damage won’t be covered by your insurance company, but the coverage is a lot broader than many think. Here are some examples of non-accident repairs covered when you file a comprehensive claim:

  • A tree falls on your car while it’s parked
  • A large object falls off of a truck and lands on your hood
  • Your vehicle is submerged by water after a flood in your neighborhood
  • Softball sized hail damages your vehicle during a storm
  • You collide with a live animal in the road
  • A runaway shopping car causes major damage to your driver-side door
  • Someone vandalizes your vehicle while it’s parked at your home overnight
  • Flying rocks chip or crack your windshield

No matter what type of physical damage claim you file, the insurance claim will be subject to a deductible. You should check and see if filing a non-accident claim will have a future effect on your rates.

In most instances, a single comprehensive claim won’t lead to future rate hikes.

What other types of coverage should you consider?

Collision and comprehensive will cover you for most scenarios, but you also have additional coverage options to consider.

  • Mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI) – This coverage pays for vehicle repair when a part breaks down, such as the transmission, brakes, air conditioning, or electrical system. MBI is often cheaper than extended warranty coverage from a dealership.
  • Roadside assistance – With this coverage, your auto insurer will send someone to your location if you ever break down on the side of the road with a flat tire or run out of gas.
  • GAP insurance – If your car is totaled, GAP coverage will pay the difference between what you owe on your auto loan and what the car is worth.
  • Medical payments coverage – This coverage pays for the cost of your medical expenses after an auto accident.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage – If you’re in an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to pay for your damages, this coverage kicks in the rest.

Keep in mind that routine maintenance is not covered by mechanical breakdown insurance.

Make sure to use our online rate quote tool to see if you can save money on your insurance by switching. Get insurance quotes from multiple companies to see which can give you the best deal.