Accidents Involving Parked Cars
You come out of a crowded shopping mall, walk to your car, and notice the rear fender has a huge dent and paint transfer. After you overcome your disbelief at your bad luck, you walk to your windshield hoping for a note only to find nothing. If this has ever happened to you, you're certainly not alone. This scenario is one of the most common in the world of auto accidents. In fact, according to a study conducted by Allstate in 2010, 69 percent of hit-and-run accidents involve parked vehicles. Whether you are the driver or the victim of an accident with a parked vehicle, this article will walk you through each step of what you'll need to do to deal with the attendant legal, logistical, and insurance issues.
My Car Was Hit While Parked--What Do I Do?
If someone hits your car while it's parked, you should immediately look around for potential witnesses once you discover the damages. An employee in a nearby store may have seen the accident, for example, and could help you identify the make and model of the offending vehicle. If you find witnesses, make sure to get their names and phone numbers for future reference. Alternatively, many parking lots now have 24-hour surveillance, in which case you could try contacting the business that owns the lot to try to access the tapes.
Once you have whatever information you can gather, you might want to file a police report if the damage appears significant. This step is largely up to your discretion. A police report might help you with your insurance company and in possibly identifying the at-fault driver, but some victims prefer to spare the hassle. Either way, you will need to contact your insurance company to begin the claims process as soon as possible. In most cases, your insurer will cover the claim if you carry uninsured motorist coverage. Some insurers may apply collision/comprehensive coverage to such a situation, but this is far less common.
Before you file a claim, remember that unless your insurer has some sort of "freebie" program that allows you one free claim, your rates will likely rise. In deciding whether to make a claim, compare an estimate of the damage to the increase in your premiums multiplied by three (most premium increases apply for three years). If the damage exceeds what you will pay in higher premiums, then file the claim.
I Hit a Parked Car—What Now?
Typically, state law requires all drivers to stop if they're involved in an accident, and hit-and-run driver penalties can be extremely steep. So if you hit a parked car, don't drive off. More than likely, at least one witness saw the accident, and even if not, there's a good chance you were caught on tape. Here's what you should do if you hit an unattended, parked car:
- Try to identify the owner
- If you cannot find the car's owner, write a note containing your name, phone number, license plate, address, vehicle identification number, and a short description of the accident and place it under the windshield wiper. If you don't own the car you're driving, be sure to include the name and address of its owner.
- Write down a description of the vehicle you hit, including license number. Make a note of any extenuating circumstances that contributed to the accident, such as ice, bad lighting, or a poor parking job on behalf of the other driver.
- File a report with the police
- Call your insurance company ASAP