I Hit a Parked Car and Left No Damage. Do I Need to Worry about Anything?
It is almost astonishing to consider the number of people who manage to hit a parked car. It creates quite a peculiar situation. Typically, both the offending driver and the other driver are proceeding along a roadway.
In this case, an accident occurred though one of the vehicles was stationary. So, how does someone deal with this kind of matter? Can the at-fault driver leave knowing that parked car insurance will handle it? Does the fact that there is no damage change things?
Speaking of insurance, does an insurance company factor into it? Will it not cover the costs to fix the other car because it was a non-traditional accident?
The information below addresses the topic at two ends. First, it provides the at-fault driver with all the information needed on the steps to take, how auto insurance may come into play, and more!
On the flip side, if the driver who was hit is the one reading this, then there's a section that covers that scenario too, which is especially useful when there is a hit-and-run accident.
Do Not Hit and Run after Hitting a Parked Vehicle
The hit-and-run situation is the perfect starting point. It's especially compelling when the at-fault driver hit a parked car and observes no damage. Why stop in such a case? The parked vehicle is fine, right?
It would be wise to abandon that way of thinking and remain on the scene. What could've been sorted out between two drivers and potentially their insurance companies becomes a criminal offense when there's a hit and run.
It's often not very hard to implicate the at-fault driver too since there's evidence available in different forms. A license plate, surveillance cameras, witnesses, and other evidence can all stack up against the offender quickly.
Remember Charges Are Possible
If someone does hit a parked car in a parking lot without waiting for the car's owner, what happens?
There is no legal obligation to report the accident to the police if there is no personal injury at play in most states.
The chances are that, if there is no visible damage on the parked car, no personal injury happened. However, there is a legal obligation to address the damages caused.
All accidents are meant to be reported to an insurance company. One of the reasons for staying on the scene is to get the contact and insurance information of the vehicle owner.
Even an uninsured driver is better off staying. In that case, uninsured motorist coverage would likely have to cover the affected driver if there are damages.
Running away, especially when there is no insurance coverage, simply makes the eventual outcome worse.
Criminal penalties for running away after having hit a parked car vary. However, they can include fines or jail time.
Leave a Note if There Is No One Around
After having hit a parked vehicle, it may be a bit difficult to locate the car's owner. Sometimes, the driver of the other vehicle is in it when it was accidentally hit. However, this is not always the case.
Reasonably, no one would expect the at-fault party to sit and wait for the other driver for some unreasonable measure of time. Still, no one wants to hear that a hit and run was committed because it wasn't possible to wait anymore.
Thankfully, most states require a note to be left at a minimum. Therefore, if someone were to hit a parked car in a parking lot, for example, especially one that corresponds to a busy mall, a note detailing the at-fault party's contact information can be left.
It's wise to put the note in something waterproof just in case it rains, then stick it under a wiper.
Avoid saying anything in the note that is a direct implication such as "I was totally in the wrong here." That may be true but such statements can trigger an insurance carrier and lead to steep premiums later.
Only necessary information is required and this includes a name, phone number, address, and a brief explanation of the situation. Sometimes, states require certain specific information to ensure that requirement is being met as expected.
This should not be handled any differently than a standard car accident where possible. Therefore, gathering evidence is highly recommended. This could mean talking to witnesses or taking pictures.
If the driver of the other car is available, exchanging car insurance company and contact info is a great idea too.
Things are already difficult as a driver who hit a parked car. The last thing needed is the situation getting worse because someone claimed a hit and run or crucial evidence in the matter went entirely unobtained.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
Don't think having a car insurance policy is enough to handle the situation. An insurance company will always protect its own interests first. If it can swindle either driver out of compensation, it most certainly will.
The car insurance company representing the owner of the parked vehicle is especially an area of concern. It takes legal expertise and a passionate approach to prevent any kind of exploitation.
Getting an experienced attorney can help to ensure that justice is served. This may mean the assistance of property damage liability coverage or even just proving that the accident involving the parked car was not a hit and run.
Looping in the Insurance Company
Technically speaking, while it is not legal to drive without being covered by an insurance company, there isn't necessarily a need to report the fact that an accident occurred.
However, the insurance company reserves the right to deny coverage for such situations, so the at-fault driver has to weigh the risk of not notifying the insurance carrier.
Even if a note had to be left because it wasn't possible to locate the owner of the parked car, the provider will still process the matter.
In a standard vehicular accident where there is a personal injury, the police report is an essential part of the proceedings. Therefore, the drivers involved must provide a statement, after which a report is generated.
Where there is no injury, the parties involved could choose not to report the accident without any legal concerns.
Note that different states may have variations on this rule. For example, in Iowa, once there is an injury or death it must be reported. If there is only property damage, it does not need to be reported unless the value of that damage exceeds $1,500.
However, even in such a case, the report often plays a key role in the outcome of any insurance matter.
Similarly, in hitting a parked car, there is likely value in reporting the matter to the police and having a report compiled.
Does the Insurance Company Treat This Kind of Claim Differently Than It Would a Standard Car Accident?
This is one of the biggest concerns. In doing the right thing and exchanging insurance information with the owner of the parked vehicle, how does the insurance company handle it all? Surely, it can't be anything too daunting. After all, it was only hitting a parked car.
Unfortunately, the firm doesn't necessarily see it that way. The claims process still has to be executed, which will likely involve some level of investigative work and compensation to the other driver where necessary.
Of course, this could affect insurance rates thereafter. Shouldn't things be different if the parked car is undamaged, though?
Visible Damage and Responsibility
This is where it sometimes gets confusing for people. If the parked car was hit with enough velocity to cause some serious damage, it's usually pretty easy to see where it will need to be processed like a standard accident.
However, the real question posed at the beginning of all this speaks to how things work in the absence of visible damage. So, why was all the information so far provided as if the parked vehicle sustained any?
Well, that's because "no damage" and "no visible damage" are not the same thing. There may be nothing apparent on the surface, but who knows what could've been thrown off?
It's not impossible to damage a vehicle's suspension or frame this way. That's the real reason for treating these accidents the same way.
Even if the damage isn't seen, doing due diligence is necessary. If anything, it gives the at-fault driver less to worry about since there will likely not be any repair costs for the extremities.
Expect those car insurance rates to go up in any case.
Can the Owner of the Parked Vehicle Be at Fault?
In most cases, it's virtually impossible for the person who owns the parked car to be at fault. It was completely stationary (likely in a parking spot too) before it was struck.
Therefore, the person in the moving vehicle will pretty much be implicated for being wrong. Even in cases where it could be said that the owner had a part to play, it will never be full liability.
For example, imagine a case in which the parked car was in an illegal spot. While it is true that the vehicle should not have been where it was, the other person still hit a stationary car.
With a good attorney, the best case scenario is probably shared liability.
What if the Offender Already Drove off in Panic?
It can be a highly nerve-racking experience to hit another vehicle in motion. Hitting a parked car yields an arguably worse feeling. Shock will likely be present, but there may be a bit of self-loathing too.
Panic is not abnormal in these instances, which may mean that the at-fault driver may immediately leave the scene.
Technically, this would be grounds for a hit-and-run. The best thing to do is to speak to an attorney or call the police and report everything that happened.
Unfortunately, doing either may not always eliminate the possibility of a hit-and-run. Nevertheless, the likelihood of leniency is much greater considering the mere act of coming forward.
Is a Car Accident Lawyer Needed?
No matter which way it's viewed, hitting a parked car will put anyone in a strange place. In other accident types, the possibility of arguing the fault of the other party is way more probable.
However, avoiding liability is virtually impossible. An automobile accident lawyer in Des Moines provides a greater possibility for the best case scenario to take place (given the situation).
For example, after driving away in panic, the attorney can help with the "coming clean" strategy to try to encourage greater lenience.
Additionally, such lawyers are very familiar with the tactics an insurance company may use to try to get itself out of honoring a claim.
What if Someone Hit Your Parked Car and Drove Away?
The information provided above covers what the offender should consider and do after having hit a parked car. What should the owner of the said parked vehicle do?
First, use a non-emergency number to call local authorities. If an officer can be dispatched for investigation, which will lead to a police report being created.
Gather evidence by taking photos and potentially asking around to see if anyone saw what happened. Take contact information from these people. Don't move or even start the car before capturing your evidence.
If there's vehicle debris, especially from another vehicle, save it.
Note critical information. Where is the vehicle? Is it in a parking lot? Who owns the lot? Are there cameras? What time was it noticed?
Bring the insurance company into the matter. Collision insurance will typically help here, and if it's enough there will be no need to pay out of pocket.
Schedule a Free Legal Consultation Today!
Hitting a parked car makes for an uncomfortable situation. It's easy and tempting to drive off if the other car's owner is away. However, remember that there are hit-and-run charges, and that an insurance provider may not provide coverage in such a scenario.
It's best to stick around, especially since a lack of visible damage doesn't mean there is no damage.
If you've hit a parked car, even in the absence of damage you can see in Iowa, a legal consultant can likely help you understand your situation better.
Schedule a free evaluation with Tom Fowler Law today by calling (515) 203-8434!