·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Someone Hit Your Parked Car and Left. What Now?

— August 30, 2021

According to the NSC, parking lots are more dangerous than we’d like to think. Besides property damages, people suffer car accident injuries, other personal injuries, etc.

If your car gets hit while parked, even if you are not inside, it still counts as an accident, and it should be treated accordingly. Unfortunately, the driver who caused the accident often drives off, hoping never to get caught. 

We talked to some legal experts regarding this situation to offer the public a short but clear guideline for all those who go through these types of accidents. Unfortunately, they occur daily all over the country. When it comes to parking lot accidents, their number is incredibly high (tens of thousands each year), and their resolving is often difficult. Even if people are not inside the car to suffer injuries, you still face property damage.  

First of all, know your state’s laws. Next, stay at the scene of the crime and try to locate the perpetrator. Next, talk to any bystanders that might have witnessed what happened. Finally, contact the police and your insurance company to report the incident and document the accident. Does it sound much easier than it is in reality? Let’s take one thing at a time, then!

Understand Your State’s Laws (and Your Rights)

In general, if your car was in someplace and someone else hit it, the driver of the moving car is generally at fault for the accident. However, laws are not simple, especially when it comes to car accidents and insurance companies.

The best advice to hold on to is this: no matter where the accident occurs, be prepared to get an attorney from that state, even if you were visiting. For example, it would be best to hire a Houston car accident attorney if the parking lot accident occurred in Houston. For instance, according to Texas laws, establishing who is at fault in such an accident requires some investigation. For example, did you legally and appropriately park your car in the first place? Was the other car in motion?  You need a local law firm to deal with such issues, especially if the damage to your car is serious and the state law requires you to file an official accident report so you can use it with your insurance company as well.

Each state has its provisions regarding the dollar amount above which you need to file a police report (usually, for damages above $1,000). Having a lawyer in your city by your side will help you move your case forward with insurance companies and at-fault parties. If you are unsure about your rights, don’t say anything to anyone and contact an attorney.

Image by Alex Iby, via
Image by Alex Iby, via

Stay on the Scene 

If your car was hit while parked, stay on location and do not leave it unattended. Also, do not move the vehicle or any other surrounding objects linked to the collision. The whole scene is evidence, so try your best to preserve it.

Try to Locate the Perpetrator

If the driver who caused the collision drove off, try to identify and locate them. As you probably imagine, it might prove difficult to the extreme, depending on the specifics of your case. If you have not witnessed the crash yourself, try talking to other people nearby who might have. Ask for their contact information, so you can reach them if you need more information in the future.

Try to obtain information that can help identify the driver. Ask around for the characteristics of the vehicle. If someone wrote down the license plate number, you struck gold. If not, do your best to gather as much data as you can. Also, it will be extremely helpful to ask people if they got a good look at the driver, their gender, hair color, and any features that can help identify them.

Remember that there might be security cameras on the location (you might be in luck if the accident took place in a mall’s parking lot, for example). If cameras have caught the event on tape, you have an excellent starting point. Although asking for these tapes is the job of the police, you can make sure that they do not overlook this aspect by accident.

Document the Scene

Make sure to document the scene as best as you can. Although the police will do their fair share of documentation and investigation, you should have an additional record of the incident. Also, this will be very useful when dealing with your insurance company.

Use your phone to take photos of the damage done to your car – snapshots from different angles are valuable in any insurance talk or even a lawsuit. First, try making a video to capture the whole scene and the immediate surroundings. Then, carefully check the surrounding area for any damage or marks. If you see any skid marks or car parts, take photos. These might belong to the vehicle that bumped into yours.

Contact Authorities

Contact the police and your insurance provider. The police will come to the scene to document what happened and write a report. Hitting a parked car and fleeing will likely be treated as a hit and run. Please provide them with all the information you have. Share with them what you have learned for witnesses or documented yourself. The police can help identify the other driver since they have access to resources that civilians do not.

You will also have to notify your insurance company about the incident and file a claim, if necessary. How the insurance company will handle things depends on the state, the policy, the insurer, etc. In some cities or counties, you will need uninsured motorist or collision coverage to cover your damages.

However, if the driver who hit your car is insured, their insurance company will cover your damages. If they fled the scene, it might further complicate things for you. In this case, file a claim with your insurance company to cover the cost of damages. Make sure to do this as soon as possible to increase the chances of a favorable outcome.

Depending on how the case proceeds, you might also benefit from assistance from a qualified attorney. They have an in-depth knowledge of the system and can help you navigate through the bureaucracy to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. 

Final Thoughts

If your car was hit while parked and the driver fled the scene, follow these steps to ensure that your case will have a positive outcome. According to the NSC, parking lots are more dangerous than we’d like to think. Besides property damages, people suffer car accident injuries, other personal injuries, etc. Such accidents are easily preventable with the rise of technology (cars’ backup cameras, parking sensors, and navigational systems). Nevertheless, they still happen every day.

Try to keep calm and go methodically through each step if you find yourself in such a situation. Remember that if at any point the situation feels overwhelming, you can contact a qualified lawyer to help you resolve the case.

Join the conversation!