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Car Damaged by Valet

by Chris

I had my car parked for 8 days at a valet airport parking lot. When I dropped it off, there was no damage to my vehicle. When I picked it up, there was damage to the rear, passenger side bumper and wheel-well.

The parking company had their own claim form. I submitted a claim with them, and they denied the claim. I submitted an appeal to their claims manager (with pictures of the damage), and they denied it again. They believe that the damage was pre-existing. They suggested calling my own insurance company.

I called my insurance company. They said that I would not be at-fault, but I would have to pay my $500 collision deductible. My wife was traveling with me, and was the first person to notice the damage. However, the insurance company said we need an "independent" witness in order for them to pursuit the parking company.

The car is a leased 2008 Pontiac. It is only 2 months old, and has only 1000 miles on the odometer. I do not feel that I should be responsible for the damage. I am going to a collision shop to get an estimate to repair the damage. I believe that I have a couple of options:

1. Avoid the insurance claim, and pay for the repairs myself.
2. Submit an insurance claim, and pay my $500 deductible.
3. Get the damage estimate, and take the parking company to small claims court.

Should I even attempt to take the company to small claims court? If there was no “independent” witness, am I likely to win the case? Would I be able to recover the cost of court fees?

Or, do you have any other suggestions?

Thank you for your help.


Hello Chris,

Your options are all correct. You can choose one of them and fight that. You can find more information at

there you can learn what you can ask for and how to document either your property damage claim or your small claims court case.

Number 1. really is accepting that YOU CAUSED it and walking away from this. I am not sure you want to do that. If anything out of principle. But it is the easiest solution, you can do this and be done with it.

2. If you do this, yes, you will be subject to a deductible and your insurance company will have to investigate. It is true that an "independent witness" is important, but it is not a deal breaker if you don't have one.

If you file a claim, your insurance company must (MUST) believe you (Unless they can find an independent witness against you - you hit the car yourself - or video, which some valet parking lot have.)
It will be a word v. word situation and very likely your claim will end up in arbitration. The two insurance companies will end up arguing your case in front of a neutral insurance adjuster.

Her decision will be binding. Remember, arbitration adjusters put a lot of weight on "independent evidence" and they will place a high burden on you to prove that you were damaged by the parking lot. You can do this and choose to let your insurance company go after them. If they win, you will get all the damages back, including deductible and rental car for the time the car was needed.

3. Going to small claims court is not easy. It is not difficult either, but it takes time and it can be a pain on the rear. However, you can better convey your story to a judge. They listen and you can persuade them better than an adjuster could with another "file" on their desk. Maybe I am wrong, but it is my experience that clients can show their honesty and truthfulness better by simply explaining what happened.

If you go to court, it will be you against some manager or someone that probably was not even present at the time. Even if this is not the case, you can show that you know your vehicle, that your wife is with you and she can verify. I know that everyone argues that the witness must be "independent".

For insurance they have to be because adjusters are looking at the claim, but for judges, they do not have to be. A witness is a witness and it is up to the judge to decide credibility and the relevance of their testimony. Sure, the fact that this is your wife will play a role, but it very well might be what you need to have a judge go your way.

Also, your facts are pretty good. 8 days vale parking for a 2009 lease vehicle... very unlikely that this car had preexisting damage (like a 1998 car) or something that effect. With that little miles in it, it is likely that you would of notice the damage before. This is not to say that you will win, but the facts seem to help you if you know how to convey them.

If you win, you are entitled to your damages plus court cost (filing fee + the service of process if you paid to have this served). The court will probably not award your preparation time or your time loss from work to come to court.

I hope this helps,

Good Luck,

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