Auto insurance does two things. First, it pays for damage that a driver causes to another person’s vehicle or property. Second (if the policy has full coverage) it will pay for repairs to the insured vehicle itself. People who discover vehicle damage may be able to file a claim for repairs if the damage is covered under the policy. How car insurance companies determine whether or not damage will be covered is based upon the details of the policy and how the damage was caused.

Whenever a claim is filed, a car insurance company will dispatch a damage adjuster to complete an inspection and estimate the vehicle repair cost. While the primary purpose of this inspection is to determine cost it also serves as a way for the adjuster to confirm the probable cause of the damage and make sure any damages matche the loss description.

Attempting to file a claim with false data is insurance fraud and can lead to the claim being denied and the insurance policy being canceled. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to be honest with the insurance company about how any damage occurred.

First Party Coverage

In order to cover the repairs of an insured vehicle, the policy must include first-party coverage. Basic auto insurance only covers liability, or insurance to pay for repairs to another person’s property when the insured driver is at fault for an accident. First-party coverage is purchased separately and is also referred to as full coverage insurance. New vehicles often have full coverage insurance, especially if they are being financed, but older-model vehicles often do not carry full coverage due to the cost associated with it.

Within full coverage insurance, there are two types of coverage: collision and comprehensive. These can be purchased independently of each other, so it’s possible to have a policy with one or the other rather than both. They have separate deductibles and cover different types of accidents.

Collision Insurance

Collision coverage pays for damage any time a vehicle is damaged due to a collision with another vehicle, person or fixed object. Most of what people think of as car accidents usually qualify as collisions. Collision accidents can either be at-fault or not-at-fault; if a person is not at fault for his accident, they can usually have the deductible reimbursed from the at-fault person’s insurance company. Otherwise, they are responsible for paying the deductible to the body shop before or when the repairs are completed. The most common collision deductible is $500, but $1,000 and $250 are also quite common.

Comprehensive Car Insurance

Comprehensive coverage pays for damage caused by natural disasters, falling objects, vandalism, animals and other situations where there is no clear liability and no impact between a vehicle and property. Because there is no fault assigned to a comprehensive claim, it will usually have less effect on a driver’s insurance policy. The deductible is often lower for comprehensive coverage as well, although it doesn’t need to be. Comprehensive deductibles are usually not refundable.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Some states provide a third option for first-party auto repairs. This coverage is called uninsured motorist property damage coverage and it pays for accidents caused by uninsured drivers. UIM can also pay for damage caused in a hit-and-run accident. The deductible is usually lower than the collision deductible, but it cannot usually be reimbursed to the insured.

Will My Dent Be Covered?

After you’ve filed the insurance claim and the adjuster inspects the vehicle, the adjuster will confirm whether or not the damage is consistent with the loss facts. He will then decide which coverage will apply to the accident and verify that the necessary coverage is on the policy. As long as a person’s insurance covers the peril that caused the damage, the dent will be covered by insurance. There are a few reasons why a dent may not be covered:

— The damage was caused by regular wear and tear over time, not a single specific incident
— The insured does not carry the coverage that applies to the loss facts
— The damage appears to have been self-inflicted or non-accidental
— The damage occurred a long time ago and is past the statute of limitations, usually one year in most states
— The vehicle did not have insurance at the time of the accident
— The damage would cost less to repair than the policy’s deductible

If the insurance company decides it cannot pay for the damage, the adjuster will explain why and provide you with a written denial of the claim. At this point you would be responsible for paying for the damage out of pocket. Otherwise, if you have the necessary coverage to pay for the damage (and the claim is accepted) you will receive a settlement check for the cost of damage less any deductible that you owe. You may then take this check to the shop of your choice for repairs.