If your car is damaged by a hit-and-run driver, you may think your comprehensive coverage will pay for the damage. That's not necessarily the case. To better understand why this is, you need to understand exactly what comprehensive coverage can and cannot do, and what other types of coverages are available to you.
"Comprehensive" may suggest it covers every type of damage, but it doesn't. According to Farmers Insurance, this type of insurance covers any damage caused by Mother Nature (storms, quakes, floods and the like), as well as unfortunate incidents such as your car being stolen or damaged by fire. But when it comes to collisions — other than animals such as birds or deer colliding with your car — you're not covered with this type of insurance alone.
Insurance that covers damage caused by your car being hit or hitting another car is called collision insurance. You may think this option would then apply to a hit-and-run scenario, but that's only the case if you file a police report and know the identity of the individual that hit you, or if the other party has admitted to hitting you, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Uninsured/Underinsured Driver Insurance
If you don't know who hit you, you'll wish you had uninsured or underinsured driver insurance coverage. With this type of insurance, if don't know the identity of the person who hit you, the case is basically treated as if you were hit by an uninsured driver, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Such insurance is considered an "add-on" to your existing policy, however, and isn't meant to replace collision coverage, as it doesn't provide sufficient coverage for repairs or replacements. It's simply considered an added layer of protection against damage sustained from hit-and-run drivers or from those who don't have car insurance, according to online marketplace CarInsurance.com.
Full Coverage Insurance
If you don't have uninsured/underinsured coverage and you don't know the identity of the driver who hit you, full coverage is the only way you won't be stuck paying for the damages, according to CarInsuranceRates.com. Full coverage insurance is essentially liability insurance — which is required by law and insures against any bodily or property damage caused by you — comprehensive coverage and collision coverage balled into one. This type of insurance isn't limiting like comprehensive, which covers everything but vehicle collisions; the full coverage option covers damages that you cause, as well as damages to your vehicle, including those resulting from a hit-and-run accident, according to CarInsuranceRates.com.
There isn't a lot you can do if someone hits your car in the parking lot while you're elsewhere. But if you're the victim of a hit-and-run accident (which is responsible for more than 10 percent of all traffic accidents nationwide, according to the Insurance Information Institute) and you happen to be present, keep your bearings enough to get the license plate number of the other car. This will allow you to possibly identify the driver and, in turn, a responsible party to pay for your damages. It's also handy, according to The Street's Mainstreet website, to have a disposable camera in your car to get photographic evidence of the damage right away. From that point, follow the typical process involved with any car accident: Call the police, who will work up a report, and then call your insurance company and file a claim.
Since 2000 reporting and writing has taken Michelle Leach to Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, D.C., Chicago, London and Sydney, Australia. Her stories have appeared in various media outlets including NBC's "The Today Show," Reuters, Chicagoland dailies and network affiliates across the United States. Leach has a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor's degree in journalism/politics from Lake Forest College.