A surprising number of auto accidents happen in parking lots, garages or curbside, involving a moving vehicle colliding with a stationary one. According to statistics compiled by the National Safety Council, incidents with parked vehicles account for as many as one out of every five accidents, which amounts to tens of thousands of collisions each year.
Accidents involving parked cars typically don’t inflict the kind of injuries or property damage of other kinds of crashes, but they can still be deeply frustrating to all parties involved. There are important steps that need to be taken, both by the driver of the moving vehicle and the owner of the parked car, to protect their rights and keep a minor problem from becoming a major headache. Here’s what you need to know.
MY CAR JUST GOT HIT. NOW WHAT?
It’s not an uncommon story: You return from work or a shopping trip and discover that your parked ride has been freshly damaged. What should you do about it?
If you’re fortunate, the driver of the other vehicle is still around, waiting to exchange insurance information with you, or has left a note with pertinent information. But regardless of whether the other driver acted responsibly or not, you need to take action right away to address the situation; those dings, dents and scrapes aren’t going to fix themselves.
First, call the police. Whether the police send an officer or have you come to the station to file an accident report, it’s important to get the incident on the record. The other driver might suggest not reporting the incident, since “it’s only a fender-bender” —but don’t agree. He or she could well renege on any promises to pay for repairs, and your insurance company might wonder why you didn’t report the accident.
Second, document the accident. If the other driver is available, collect insurance and vehicle information. If not, and you didn’t witness the accident yourself, try to find witnesses in the area who might have seen something and can describe the other vehicle. Take photos of the damage and gather as much pertinent information as you can—for example, whether there are video cameras operating in the area.
Third, contact your insurance company. If the other driver provided insurance information, your insurer will contact the other company in order to get the claim settled. Even if the person who hit your car is unknown, that shouldn’t leave you without options; your own collision coverage should pay for the damage to your vehicle (minus a deductible), regardless of who is at fault. You may also have a claim under your policy’s uninsured motorist coverage.
I JUST HIT A PARKED CAR. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
In the vast majority of parked car accidents, the driver of the moving vehicle is at fault — but that doesn’t mean the driver always owns up to that fact. Too often, the incident is regarded as “no big deal,” and the person responsible takes off, leaving no contact information behind. That’s a big mistake, for several reasons. You may think that the “minor” nature of the accident absolves you from an obligation to report it, but many states, including Colorado, require motorists to report any accident that involves property damage, whether there are injuries or not. Leaving the scene without contacting police or exchanging insurance information with the other party basically escalates a minor moving violation into a hit-and-run case that, depending on local laws, could be treated as a felony. At the very least, you’re risking a huge hike in your insurance rates — and possibly even more serious consequences — if you take off.
Here’s a better alternative: Stick around. If it’s not possible to locate the owner of the vehicle you hit, leave a note. Place it under the vehicle’s windshield wiper, or some other conspicuous yet secure location. The note should not include any admission of liability or your version of how the accident happened. But it should include the basics — your name, address, contact information, and insurance carrier.
After leaving the note, for your own protection, you should follow the same steps as the owner of the parked car. Take photos. Get contact information of any witnesses. Call your insurance company and report the accident. Yes, if you’re found to be at fault, you may see your insurance premium rise — but a hit-and-run on your record would be even costlier. By doing the right thing, you could be saving yourself considerable worry and expense.
THE CAR ACCIDENT LAWYERS AT FRANKLIN D. AZAR
For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Thornton, Fort Collins, Greeley, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call the car accident attorneys at FD Azar day or night at 720-372-2824 or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.