“I accidentally hit a parked car” is a situation nobody wants to go through. In most cases, there’s damage to both vehicles. The owner of the other car is nowhere in sight. You’re wondering how much it will cost and whether your auto insurance will cover the damage. Most of all, you’re wondering what you should do.
In this situation, taking responsibility for the accident is the right thing to do – for you and the owner of the other vehicle. If someone accidentally hit your parked car, you would want them to do the right thing. Plus, the law requires that you report the accident to the owner of the other vehicle, either in person or by leaving a note on their car.
Although the laws can vary from state to state, the basic steps for what to do after you accidentally hit a parked car, are as follows:
Don’t leave the scene.
Although tempting, especially when the damage is minor or unnoticeable, driving away and hoping nobody saw you can have more severe repercussions if you get caught. It’s against the law in every state to leave the scene when you accidentally hit a parked car. In some cases, it can be considered a hit and run, which can result in a misdemeanor charge that leads to costly fines, suspension of your license, and even community service or jail time.
Depending on your state’s points system, a hit-and-run conviction can also add as much as six points to your license. This can send your insurance premiums through the roof and disqualify you from working at a job that requires driving a motor vehicle.
Finally, even if the area looks deserted, there’s a good chance someone saw you hit the parked car. It might be someone walking by that you didn’t see, or someone inside a store or office building who witnessed the accident. Or, the event could have been captured on a surveillance camera, especially if the accident occurred in a commercial or retail area.
So, no matter how strong the urge to make a quick getaway, don’t do it! From a moral, legal and financial standpoint, it definitely pays to stick around and do the right thing.
Try to find the owner.
The law doesn’t expect you to hang around all day waiting for the owner of the other vehicle to show up. It does ask that you make a reasonable attempt to find the owner before driving away. For example, if someone saw the accident, ask if they know who the car belongs to. If the car is parked right in front of a store, go inside and ask if anyone knows who the owner of the car is. Otherwise, wait around 10 or 15 minutes to see if the owner appears. If not, you can legally drive away after leaving your name and contact information.
Leave a note.
When you can’t find the owner of the parked car you hit, the next indicated step is to leave a note for the owner of the vehicle. Most states require the note to include your name, address, contact number, and a brief explanation of the accident. You may also want to include the name and contact information of your insurance carrier. If you were driving someone else’s car, include the name and address of the car’s owner as well.
Describe the accident in a very general way, as any information in the note can be used against you when the insurance companies are settling the claim. Make sure the note is tucked securely under the windshield wiper before driving away.
Document the damage.
Use your cell phone to take photos or video of the other car’s license plate and the auto body damage to both cars. If you don’t have your phone with you, describe the damage in the note you leave behind, and write it down for your insurance company as well.
Try to locate a witness.
If someone in the area saw you hit the other car, ask them to help you document the incident. Write down their version of the accident, or use your smartphone to video their description of it. Be sure to get their contact information in case you need to get in touch with them again.
Call your insurance company.
Once you have taken all the steps to document the accident and notify the other vehicle’s owner, call your insurance company – the sooner the better. This will enable them to initiate the claims process so both vehicles can be repaired in a timely manner. Be prepared to provide all the details, such as location, time of day, and what you were doing when you struck the other vehicle.
Nobody wants to call in late to work and say, “Guess what, I accidentally hit a parked car.” But it doesn’t have to ruin your day. Take the appropriate steps, let your insurance company handle the claim – and next time be a little more careful.