Question: I was towing a small trailer. It came off the ball, but the chains were still connected, and it struck the back of my van. Is that a collision or comprehensive claim?  

Answer:  Your trailer collided with the back of your vehicle, thus any damage to your van would normally be covered by your van’s collision coverage, minus your deductible amount.

The claim would go under your collision coverage because this is the portion of your policy that pays when your vehicle hits, or is hit by, another vehicle or object. Comprehensive coverage is for damages that are a result of things that are other than collision: theft, fire, hail, wind or vandalism.

Your situation isn’t unlike owning two cars and having one hit the other. You can’t put either claim under your property damage liability coverage (since liability insurance doesn’t cover your own property), but you may be able to put the claims for each under each vehicle’s collision coverage.

If your trailer were also damaged, then a claim would depend upon your specific car insurance policy and its interpretations. Coverage for trailers and related equipment varies.

In general, most car insurance policies extend your car’s liability coverages (bodily injury and property damage) to a trailer when the trailer is being towed by your insured vehicle.

But, since state laws and auto insurance policies vary, you should always review your policy and check with your car insurance company to see what is and isn’t covered.

You might also be wondering what happens if the trailer was a rental. Here, again, you’ll have to speak to your auto insurer to see if it’s covered. Some policies cover rentals while others don’t. If coverage isn’t extended to rental trailers, you would need to have purchased insurance coverage from the rental company to cover any physical damage the trailer sustained.

It’s possible that your future auto insurance rates will rise due to you making a collision claim for your van. Likely your car insurance company will find that you were negligent in some manner, and that is why the trailer came off the ball and hit your van causing the damage. If rates do rise, shop around for car insurance and see if another insurer offers lower rates, even with claims on your record.

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Penny Gusner
Consumer Analyst/Insurance Expert

Penny has been working in the car insurance business for more than 10 years and has become an expert on procedures, rates, policies and claims. She has seen it all, and working with from its inception, she researches the routine and the bizarre with equal enthusiasm. She has three very active children and a husband with a zeal for quirky cars.