Question: I came out from visiting a friend's condo and heard a loud bang. Some kids pushed a dumpster into my car, causing damage, and then ran off into the dark. Is this covered under comprehensive coverage as vandalism?
Answer: In our experience, this typically would be a considered a collision claim, not vandalism (that is, a comprehensive claim) since the dumpster collided with your vehicle. However, ultimately it will be up to the claims adjuster assigned to your case to determine if this situation falls under your auto insurance company’s definition of vandalism.
Vandalism typically covered by comprehensive coverage is caused by intentional and malicious acts, such scratching your vehicle, breaking glass or slashing tires. These are situations where a person deliberately comes up to your car to damage it -- like an angry ex who keys your car’s beautiful paint job in a fit of rage. (See “When car vandals attack”)
Pushing the dumpster may have been a deliberate act by the teens, but the damage to your vehicle that resulted was likely unintentional. The collision of the dumpster with your vehicle, and the ensuing damage, is what your auto insurance company will look at.
Hopefully you called the police and made an accident report so that the individuals that did the damage can be looked into. If the kids who pushed the dumpster are found, the insurance company can pursue them to pay for any claim money it paid out for your damaged vehicle, as well as your deductible.
A police report is also necessary when you try to file a vandalism claim. Even if your insurer doesn’t consider this to be vandalism, a police report can still help back up your description of how the incident happened (you didn’t hit the dumpster, but that it was pushed into your vehicle).
If the damage to your vehicle is minor, then before getting your car insurance company involved we’d recommend that you first take the car to a body repair shop to get an estimate of how much it will cost to get it repaired. (See "Save money by paying for the small stuff")
If the repair costs are less than your physical damage deductible amounts (collision and comprehensive), then there would be no reason to make a claim. Your deductible is due before your car insurance policy benefits even start. If repair costs are below that amount, your insurance company would be of no help to you. And calling in the incident in could get it noted on your claims report, even without a claim being paid out.
If damages are major enough to you use your auto insurance, it’s possible this incident could affect your future auto insurance rates. If your rates do rise, then you’ll want to comparison shop and see if you can receive cheap car insurance premiums elsewhere. (See “The best way to save on car insurance”)