Crowded lots, tight street parking, and limited visibility can all cause an accident with a parked car. As accidents go, a crash with an unattended vehicle is relatively minor, but that doesn’t mean offenders can simply drive away without consequence. Drivers who leave the scene of a crash often find themselves in trouble with the law, even if nobody is injured. However, a few simple steps can help a driver protect himself after a parked-car crash.
Driver Responsibilities After an Accident With a Parked Car
After any crash, not only can you avoid potential legal action by following the correct procedures, you can also help salvage your insurance premiums. If you hit a parked vehicle, it is vital that you:
- Stay at the scene. Car accidents are high-stress experiences, and it’s easy to let your emotions get the better of you. You may have an impulse to just drive away, especially if nobody is around. However, leaving the scene of an accident is grounds for a hit-and-run charge, regardless if nobody was in the car you hit. Additionally, there is always the chance that someone inside a nearby building saw the crash, or it was recorded on a surveillance camera. A hit-and-run charge can add up to six points on your license, lead to an increase in your insurance rates, and bring a steep fine.
- Attempt to find the owner. It is your responsibility to track down the owner of the empty car. If you hit the car on the street, you can knock on the door of the nearest house and ask about the vehicle. If you struck the car in the parking lot of a business, you can ask someone at the customer service desk to make an announcement over the loudspeaker.
- Leave a note. If you made a reasonable attempt but could not find the owner, leave a note. The note should include a brief explanation of the incident, as well as your name, your home and work phone numbers, your email address, and the time and date of the accident. If you were driving someone else’s car, you must include the name and address of the car’s owner as well as your own. Place the note under the windshield wiper or in a similarly secure spot.
- Take pictures. It is vital that you take pictures or video evidence of any visible damage, the car’s license plate, make, model, and position of the car. A few seconds of video recording on your phone can be invaluable to proving the condition of the vehicle when you left it.
- Look for witnesses. Witnesses can be invaluable even if you caused the accident. A witness can describe the damage to the vehicle, as well as your attempts to track down the owner, ensuring that the owner makes a fair claim against you. Make sure to write down any witness contact information and his description of what happened.
- Notify the police. If the damage is extensive, you will need to notify the police. The law requires police to file crash reports for any accidents that cause death, injury, or property damage over $1,500. You should stay at the scene to answer any questions, and remain with the car while police locate the car's owner.
- Call your insurance company. Once you return home, you should report the incident to your insurance company. The other driver can get payment through your property damage liability coverage, which will also pay for any damages done to your own vehicle.
If you were involved in an accident with a parked car, you may want to hire an attorney to provide legal assistance. Our Fairfax auto accident lawyers can help you with insurance claims and advise you of your legal options. Call us today to schedule your free consultation.