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driving concerns

I have a brand new BMW X5, and I’m terrified to park it in a public parking lot. If somebody opens their door into it and leaves a scratch, what can I do? Can I call police to come to the scene? Can I make an insurance claim? Or am I on the hook for the cost of repair? What if it gets hit by a shopping cart? – Nancy, Burnaby, B.C.

If your car gets dinged by somebody’s door in a parking lot, don’t expect the cops to show up.

“It’s unlikely we’re going to get involved,” said Cpl. Mike Halskov, spokesman for British Columbia RCMP traffic services. “We’re not going to attend to that because it doesn’t meet the damage threshold.”

In B.C., police generally show up to crashes if someone is injured or killed, a driver was impaired, it was a hit and run, or if the combined damage to both vehicles is more than $10,000.

Opening your door on another car – or accidentally pushing a shopping car into it – typically wouldn’t fit any of those categories as long as the person who dings you shares their name, contact information and driver’s licence number, Halskov said.

If they refuse to hand over their ID, it’s technically a hit and run. You can take down their licence plate number and report it to police, but police likely won’t show up to the scene.

“You can call police and say that this person has damaged your car and driven away,” Halskov says. “You’d get a file number, which you would pass on to your insurance.”

Failing to remain at a scene of an accident is a crime in B.C.; it comes with three demerit points and a $368 fine. But police are unlikely to charge someone for something as minor as an accidental door scrape.

“If it was deliberate and they slammed their door onto your car or a pushed shopping cart into it, then they could be charged with mischief,” Halskov said.

But Halskov says you should definitely call the police if that scuff turns into a scuffle.

“If the situation turns heated between the individuals involved and somebody’s safety is in jeopardy, call us,” Halskov said. “We don’t want people to put themselves in a situation where they could get hurt.”

The rules vary by province, but most are similar to B.C. – you have to report crashes involving serious injuries, deaths or a crime like impaired driving. But in any province, police probably wouldn’t show up for a door ding.

Several provinces, including Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia, require you to call police to report a crash if damage is more than $2,000. Others don’t mention a specific amount.

Will your insurance cover it?

Can you get your insurance to pay for a door ding or will your wallet take the hit?

It depends – and it gets complicated.

In B.C., if your car is dinged by somebody’s door and you have optional collision insurance, their liability insurance would pay for the damage, said Lindsay Wilkins, spokeswoman for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), the province’s government-owned insurer.

Your rates wouldn’t go up and you wouldn’t have to pay the deductible, which can range from $300 to $2,500 in B.C.

“If the damage can be repaired for less than the cost of the deductible, there would be no claim,” Wilkins said.

If you don’t know who doored you, it would be a hit-and-run, and your insurance would cover it.

While your rates wouldn’t go up, you would have to pay the deductible.

If a shopping cart was pushed or rolled into your car, you would be covered by comprehensive insurance – if you have it.

You would have to pay the deductible, but your rates wouldn’t go up.

The specifics vary in other provinces, but, generally, you’re likely covered if someone doors your car.

But what it might cost you will vary.

In Ontario, for instance, if you know who did it and you have their insurance information, you won’t have to pay the deductible since the damage would be covered by direct-compensation insurance, said Anne Marie Thomas, spokeswoman for Insurance Hotline, a rate-comparison site.

If you don’t know who did it, it would be considered a hit and run and would be covered by collision insurance.

“Anytime it’s under collision, you’re responsible for your deductible,” Thomas said.

If you can tell your insurance company who doored your car, then there’s “no real downside” to making a direct compensation claim, Thomas said.

“If you’re innocent, there’s no negative impact,” Thomas said. “You don’t have to pay the deductible and they can’t increase your premium because it’s not an at-fault claim.”

Besides getting their information, make sure you get photos of their licence plate and all the damage, she said.

If somebody doors you, they may ask to give you cash without getting the insurance company involved, said Pete Karageorgos, director, consumer and industry relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC)

Or, if it’s a minor scratch that can be buffed out easily, you might decide just to let it go.

“Every situation is different. What if it was the neighbour’s kid who ran into your car with a bike?” Karageorgos said. “Yes, you could go after the neighbour, but do you really want to if you have to keep living there?”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that comprehensive insurance would apply in Ontario. The Globe regrets the error.

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