Hitting a parked car is not as uncommon as one might think.
In fact, hitting parked cars happens quite frequently. Consider this: you are pulling into the parking lot, backing into your spot, and you misjudge the nose of the vehicle behind you, causing you to hit the front bumper. Now, you get out to find that you’ve not only scratched your bumper but dented the other vehicle’s. Sound familiar?
While hitting a parked car doesn’t result in a ticket, it is an insurance infraction. Whether your insurance rates will increase depending on the insurer and the damage done. Also, you must follow the proper steps if you do hit a parked vehicle – so that you can make sure your insurance covers the damage done.
What to do if You Hit a Parked Car
If you did hit a parked car, you need to follow a few steps. Ignoring these could result in your insurance company not covering the damage, but still penalizing you when it comes to your annual premium.
Here are a few steps to take first:
Stay and Notify the Police about the Accident
It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident – even if the owner of the other vehicle is nowhere to be seen.
First, you must contact the local police department and report the accident. Depending on your city’s laws, the officer may take the report over the phone and permit you to leave, or they may show to the scene. Regardless, it is a misdemeanor crime to leave the scene without reporting it – so stay put until you do.
If you leave without reporting it or following the proper steps, you may have a hit-and-run on your driving record – something that increases your insurance premiums much higher than just taking the hit for the accident itself.
Leave a Note for the Vehicle’s Owner Too
If law enforcement decides that the damage is too little to justify a report, and they permit you to leave, you still must leave a note for the other driver. Most states require that you leave a note with information about the incident and contact information for that owner, including your name, address, phone number, and an explanation.
Take Pictures of the Scene
Leaving a vehicle and note on it can be risky because there are those people who will claim you did more damage than you genuinely did. To protect yourself, and to help expedite the claims process with your insurance company, take photographs of your entire vehicle, the scene, and the vehicle you hit. Do not just focus on the damage, but the full car to show any damage already present in other areas – just in case.
Find a Witness
Witnesses are great for insurance claims, especially if there is a dispute about the damage or how it happened. If anyone saw the accident, get their contact information so you can give it to your insurer or the police.
Notify Your Insurance Company Right Away
Now, you must report the accident to your insurance company. While it is not pleasant, the fine print on your policy requires that you do so – and quickly at that. Most insurers have rules that state you will not be covered, and they can dismiss your policy if you fail to report an accident within so many hours (ranging from 24 to 72 hours).
Will Hitting that Parked Car Increase My Insurance Premiums?
Hitting a parked car is treated as if you hit a car while moving – it is a collision.
The costs of repairs to your vehicle and the other vehicle will come out of the collision portion of your policy, minus any deductibles you owe. Therefore, if you have a deductible of $500, but the total damages are $2,000, insurance pays $1500 while you cover that $500 deductible.
It doesn’t matter where the parked car is located either – whether private property, parking lot, or on the city streets. Your insurer considers it a collision, and they will use liability and collision coverage for the damages. If you do not have liability coverage, however, you may not have ample insurance to pay for the damage done – and some may come from your pocket.
The Total Damage Determines Your New Policy Rates
The total amount the insurance company pays ultimately determines how high your premium goes. If it is your first accident or claim, you may not see much of an increase. Also, if your policy has accident forgiveness, you may not see any increase.
If, however, you have multiple claims or accidents on your record, or the property damage ends up over $1,000, you may see an increase in your premiums.
Your Premiums Might Go Up, but Not the End of the World
While you will see an increase, remember that if you keep driving safely afterward, eventually those premiums will go back down. Likewise, you may want to consider an insurance company that has accident forgiveness programs – so that when you do have a minor fender bender, you are not paying hundreds per year for it.