How to React When Valet Parking Damages Your Car

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valet parking sign (Photo: @akedynamic via Twenty20)
When you let a valet take your keys and park your car, you expect to receive your car back in the shape you left it in, with anything of value still in it exactly where you left it. While many companies take great care of your vehicle once they have it in their possession, some are a little less professional than others. If you do notice damage after picking up your car, it’s good to know who bears the responsibility for paying any damages so that you can pursue the correct course of action.

What to inspect your car for before handing it to a valet

Inspecting your car before you leave the valet area, and especially before you give a tip, represents the best way to protect yourself when it comes to a valet attendant damaging your car. Once you drive away, it becomes much more difficult to prove that the damage to your car occurred at the valet parking lot. When performing an inspection after picking up your car from valet parking, perform the following checks.
  • Walk around: Do a complete walk around of your car. Look for any new damage that wasn’t there when you dropped your car off. Pay particular attention to your tire rims and the corners of your bumpers, as these areas tend to come into contact with obstructions or other vehicles first. You might have difficulty seeing damage at night, so take a flashlight if you expect to pick your car up after dark.
  • Check your mileage: You should also take note of your mileage both when you drop the car off and pick it up, especially if you plan on leaving your car with the service for an extended amount of time. If you discover a large discrepancy, you should bring it up with the valet company management.
  • Check your personal belongings: If you left any personal belongings in the car, check to make sure they are still there before driving off. You should also show the attendant who takes your car when dropping it off any personal belongings or valuables in the car. That way you have proof that the belongings or valuable were in the car.

What to do if you notice damage

If you notice damage to your vehicle, first bring it to the attention of the attendant. Next, take a picture to document the damage. This could also come in handy if you end up filing a claim with your own insurance company.
You should also speak with the valet manager. The company might have a claim form. If they do, get one and fill it out before you leave. When you sign it, make sure the management signs it as well. Finally, get a copy for your records.

Who is responsible when a valet damages your car?

The responsible party when a valet damages your car depends in part on the valet company and who is at fault. The following section details the responsible parties depending on the circumstances.
The hotel or restaurant
Depending on the establishment, the hotel or restaurant the valet company serves might cover any damages to your car or pay for stolen property. This might even give you some recourse if for some reason the valet company refuses to honor your claims.
The valet company
Many valet companies carry extensive insurance to help protect customers’ cars if one gets damaged. In addition, the National Parking Association requires its members to carry at least $5 million in general and $1 million in legal liability coverage. The types of insurance that a valet company might carry includes:
  • Direct insurance: This type of insurance pays for damage to your vehicle regardless of who is at fault.
  • Liability insurance: Liability insurance only pays for damage caused by a valet.
Your insurance
If the valet company has neither of the above insurance coverage, then your collision coverage, if you carry it, should pay for any damages. Otherwise, you will have to pay for any damage out of pocket or sue the valet company in court, both potentially expensive options.
Luckily, most valet companies in the U.S. carry enough insurance to cover your vehicle if it gets damaged while in the company’s care. If for some reason the company does not have insurance, then your collision coverage, if you’ve got it, should pay for the damages to your car. Just make sure to check your car for damage when picking it up from the valet and you should not have any problems proving the damage occurred in their care.