Parking Lots Are Hazardous on Black Friday — Are You Covered?

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This post comes from Penny Gusner at partner site CarInsurance.com.

The National Retail Federation found that 89 million people braved crowded parking lots last year on Black Friday to shop till they dropped. What could possibly go wrong?

Looking at the origin of the term “Black Friday” may give you an idea.

Philadelphia police reportedly coined the term in the 1960s to describe the horrible traffic conditions that sales the day after Thanksgiving create. The term also came to be used to mark the time when retailers’ accounting sheets go from red ink to black ink.

While the term has changed over time to mean a day of sensational shopping sales, the traffic situation hasn’t gotten any better.

In 2012, the NRF found that a total of 139.4 million adults shopped multiple days during the four-day Black Friday weekend (as one day of shopping really isn’t enough for most).

Progressive Insurance data found that parking-related claims increased 36.5 percent on Black Friday compared with the Fridays surrounding it on the calendar. The insurer found that Black Friday parking claims doubled from 2010 to 2011.

Here are three common scenarios of what could go wrong on Black Friday – and how to deal with them.

Your car gets hit

First things first, stop the other party and exchange information. You can call the police to get an accident report written. However, many law enforcement officers won’t respond to minor parking lot accidents if there are other more important incidents requiring their attention.

If you aren’t sure what information to exchange, the back of your insurance card may tell you. Or, if you have a smartphone you can use WreckCheck, a free app from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which outlines what to do immediately after an auto accident.

If the other party is insured, you can make a third-party claim against the individual’s property damage liability coverage. If the insurance company finds its driver at fault, it should pay for your vehicle’s repairs.

If the vehicle is uninsured, or its insurer denies your claim for some reason, then you’ll need collision coverage to make a first-party claim with your own car insurance company for your vehicle’s damage.

Your collision deductible will be due, but if your car insurance provider finds the other party at fault for the incident, it might pursue that individual for payment and may be able to recoup your deductible in the process.

You hit someone else’s car

If the driver is in or near the car, make sure he or she is not injured, then exchange information and carry on (unless the damage to your vehicle is so extensive that it’s unsafe to drive). If no one is in the car, you’ll need to leave a note. If you don’t, it will be considered a hit-and-run, which is a serious offense in most states.

Your note doesn’t have to give a lot of personal information (you don’t want to leave your driver’s license number on a windshield), but enough so that the person knows what happened (what time you hit the car and where you hit it) and how to contact you for your insurance information.

Either way, the other driver can file a claim under your property damage liability coverage for the vehicle’s damage.

For damage to your own car in this scenario, you need collision coverage to make a claim — and then, only if the damage to your car is over your deductible amount. If it’s lower, then you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket for the repairs.

Being found at fault for an accident and having claims against your car insurance policy can raise your future rates.

Your car gets broken into

All those nice new items on your back seat may be too much of a temptation for a scoundrel who doesn’t like to pay for his own holiday gifts.

If you have comprehensive coverage on the vehicle, a broken window or damage done to the car or attached accessories should be covered, minus your deductible.

However, anything not permanently attached by the factory, such as an aftermarket DVD player or stereo, is not normally covered. This also includes personal items — for example, the tablet you stored in the center console or holiday gifts stolen before they even made it home.

Personal belongings stolen from your car are generally covered by your homeowners or renters insurance policy. To make a theft claim against your home insurance, you’ll need a police report.

Comprehensive claims typically don’t affect your car insurance rates, unless you have multiple claims, of any type, within a short period of time.

More on CarInsurance.com:

How Much Car Insurance Should You Buy?

Who Can Drive Your Car?

The Best Places to Save on Car Insurance

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