I Hit a Parked Car…Now What?

Imagine you are in a grocery store parking lot and backing out of your parking space. It is dark outside, and as you are backing out, you feel a sudden jolt. You just reversed into a car parked behind you. Or perhaps you are pulling into a parking space and bumped the car parked in front of you as you pulled in.

If this has happened to you, then you are not alone. Parking lots can be busy places, especially around busy shopping seasons. If you do hit a parked car, there are some steps you can take to see the matter resolved and get everything back to normal.

What you can do after striking a parked car

California law actually addresses the responsibility of a driver who strikes a parked vehicle. If you strike a parked vehicle, California Vehicle Code section 20002 requires drivers to stop at the nearest safe location and attempt to locate the owner or person in charge of the vehicle. If you are unable to identify the driver or speak with the owner of the car, the law directly states that you are to:

“Leave in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other property damaged a written notice giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle involved and a statement of the circumstances thereof and shall without unnecessary delay notify the police department of the city wherein the collision occurred or if the collision occurred in unincorporated territory, the local headquarters of the Department of the California Highway Patrol.”

Okay, so you leave a note, contact the police, and then what?

You should also speak to any eyewitnesses to the crash. Get their names and contact information.

You need to report the incident to your insurance company. Your insurance carrier expects you to report any incidents, and you are required to do so according to your insurance policies requirement. Just relay the facts of the case and do not admit blame.

Can you get away with just leaving the scene?

It may be tempting to leave the scene after striking a parked car, especially if there is no visible damage. This is a bad idea. There may be damage that you do not realize, and there may be eyewitnesses who call the police and report you for hit-and-run. The last thing you want is for the police to show up at your door soon after the incident. You also do not know whether the incident was caught on cameras in the parking lot or cameras on a nearby business.

Simply leaving the scene of an accident is illegal.

What if I do not hear from the owner?

Just because you do not hear from the vehicle owner right away does not mean you will not hear from them. In California, the statute of limitations for property damage is three years, meaning the owner of the vehicle could wait a while before pursuing damages.

What if the car I hit was illegally parked?

If you hit a vehicle that was illegally parked, you need to call the police. Use a camera or phone to take photos of the illegally parked vehicle to prove their negligence. You may not be responsible for damages in this instance.

If you were involved in hitting a parked car, contact our Orange County accident attorney for a free consultation.