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Ask the Car Insurance Expert

My car was parked. Another vehicle was hit by another car and crashed into my car. Who's liable for it? Also, I only have liability coverage.

In this situation, you should get the contact and insurance information of the other drivers, and then inform their insurance companies of the damage to your car. The police ultimately determine who is at fault, and the insurers will make the determination based on the findings by police and their own inquiries.

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If your own car insurance is limited to liability coverage, then your policy will not pay for the damage to your car. Liability coverage pays only for damage you do to others when you cause an accident.

In order for your insurance to pay for damage to your vehicle in this case, you'd need collision coverage. Collision coverage, as you know, is optional. It pays for damage to your vehicle if you cause a traffic accident or if you're in an accident in which no one is determined to be at fault. (Comprehensive coverage is also optional; it pays for damage caused by factors other than a traffic collision, such as a natural disaster, theft, vandalism and collision with a deer or other animal.)

If you had collision coverage, you would first file a claim with your own insurance company. Your insurer would typically pay the claim to keep the process moving, and then would launch a process called subrogation. In this process, the insurer tries to get the other driver's insurance company to pay the claim and reimburse you for the cost of the deductible.

Because you don't have collision coverage, your only recourse is to work with the other drivers' insurers.

Some states have no-fault insurance laws. In these states, drivers get reimbursed by their own insurance companies for medical bills, regardless of who was at fault and are restricted in their ability to recover losses from others. These laws were adopted to reduce court congestion and ensure people get the medical treatment they need quickly. Most no-fault states (except for Michigan) allow insurance companies to subrogate losses for property damage, but typically when someone else is at fault.

For more, see dealing with another driver's insurer when a crash is not your fault and what to do after a car accident.

Last updated: Jan. 20, 2011
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