Hitting a parked car is a common mistake (especially for new drivers). It’s easy to back into a car in a crowded parking lot or bump into parked cars when trying to parallel park. In these situations, there’s a code of conduct drivers must obey to take responsibility for property damage.
Even if there are no witnesses and the driver isn’t at the scene, it’s your duty to take certain steps to remedy the situation. Driving away is technically a hit-and-run – a criminal charge in West Virginia that can result in fines and license suspension. Read on to learn what to do if you strike a parked car.
Wait for the Owner
Stay on the scene and wait for the owner of the vehicle to return. Odds are that the owner will come to the vehicle within a reasonable time, giving you the opportunity to explain what happened and exchange insurance information. If you’re in a shopping plaza, head into the store and search for the owner. Give a manager the description of the vehicle, and he or she can ask for the vehicle owner over the intercom. If you leave the scene to search for the owner, leave a note behind just in case the owner returns while you’re gone.
Once you speak to the owner, be polite and understand that he/she may be angry or shocked. Remain calm and explain that you’ll take full responsibility for the car accident and property damage. If the owner gets aggressive, call for help. Give the owner your name, contact information, and insurance company information.
Leave a Note
If you can’t find or wait for the owner of the vehicle, leave a note secured beneath the windshield wiper or somewhere else where it won’t blow away. The note should have your full name, contact information, insurance policy info, and a brief explanation of what happened. Leaving the note fulfills your legal duty to the other owner. It’s then up to the owner to contact you or your insurance company to file a claim.
Gather Witness Information
To protect your rights, speak to eyewitnesses and gather their statements or information. Having statements about what happened can protect you from the other driver alleging that something else occurred. For example, the other driver could total a vehicle in a separate accident the same day and then allege that it was you who caused the damage. Witness statements serve as proof of the facts.
Take photographs of the scene of the collision and the damage to both vehicles. Photographic evidence is excellent in a court of law and serves as undeniable proof of the extent of property damage. Keep these photos for your personal records.
Report the Accident
In West Virginia, you must report the accident if it resulted in at least $500 worth of property damage. When in doubt, play it safe and call the local police. Failing to report the incident to police can result in fines and a hit-and-run charge. You’ll also need to report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible.
Hitting a parked car is never a good thing, but it can be a simple matter if you obey the law and follow these steps to remedy the situation.