When you toss your keys to the valet at a restaurant or hotel, you're giving a total stranger permission to take your vehicle away to some remote parking area. Valet drivers, even if highly trained, are only human, and accidents occur. Luckily, in most cases, there should be some insurance to cover your damages if your car is damaged while valet-parked.
Some hotels and restaurants hire their own valets while others contract with valet services. Either way, the valet's employer is responsible if its driver hit your parked car. However they may not be liable if another customer causes the damage to your vehicle. In that situation, you would have to make a claim against the customer and his insurance company for reimbursement.
Thankfully, most reputable valet companies carry lots of insurance to take care of their customers. Garagekeepers legal liability coverage will cover damage to a vehicle in the valet's custody or control. General liability or garage liability coverage will cover injury to people or damage to property the valet doesn't control. The National Valet Parking Association requires its members to carry at least $1 million of garagekeepers legal liability coverage and $5 million of general liability coverage.
Pursuing a Claim Against the Valet Company
You should call the police and ask them to make a report. This may not always be possible because police in some areas will not make reports for accidents taking place in parking lots and garages. Having a police report lends credibility to your claim and gives the insurance adjuster the basic facts of what happened. Talk with the valet supervisor and get the name of the insurance company. Then follow up in writing, supplying the insurance adjuster with the police report, photographs of the damage and a repair estimate. In most situations, the insurer will cut you a check, and a lawsuit won't be necessary.
Pursuing a Claim Against Another Driver
If you're pursuing a claim against another driver, you still need to gather the same documents to prove your claim but you might have to do some additional investigation to figure out who damaged your vehicle. If another customer hit your car and left the scene, it might be very difficult or even impossible to track them down. You should ask the valet supervisor if any video-camera footage is available. If you can't identify the negligent driver, you can submit your claim to your own insurer under your collision coverage. You will have to pay your deductible, so depending on the amount of damage it may or may not make sense to submit your claim.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Parking Lot Attendants
- Edmunds.com: Confessions of a Parking Valet
- Bankrate: Trust Your Car to Valet Parking Insurance
- Parking Management Services Company: Valet Parking Insurance Standards: What is Required by the NVPA
- Hotelexecutive.com: Mr. Dahm Insurance Valet Parking: Are You Driving Yourself into a Wall?
E.S. Martin is an attorney who has worked in civil litigation for more than eight years. He focuses his work in insurance, personal injury, subrogation and risk management.