Someone hit my car and drove off! According to CBS News1, as many as 20% of accidents happen in parking lots. You may park your vehicle only to return to a sideswiped car with significant dents or scratches. Or maybe you were in the car when another driver accidentally bumped your vehicle after you parked.
So, what should you do if someone hits your parked car? Our Tampa car accident lawyers explain.
1. Don’t Move the Vehicle Right Away
If there’s no immediate hazard, don’t move your vehicle right away. You need to survey the scene and take photographs. There could be vital evidence pointing to the responsible party and proving their negligence.
2. Call the Police
Florida law requires a driver to call the police if there is more than $500 in apparent property damage in the accident. In today’s reality, that’s almost any accident. The other driver should have called the police. However, with parking lot accidents, we know they don’t always do the right thing. Call the police to report the accident.
The driver responsible may ask you not to call the police. They may have a host of reasons for not wanting to make the report, including the at-fault driver wants to pay out of pocket. However, it’s never a good idea to agree to that. The insurance company needs the accident report, and you need documentation of what happened.
Additionally, a police investigation is a neutral third party who observes and makes a record of what happened. If the accident occurs in a private lot, the police may not respond, but you’ll have done your part by making the report.
3. Locate the Driver
Ideally, the driver will do the right thing and tell you they hit your parked car. If they contact you or leave a note, you should get their:
- License information
- Phone number
- Insurance policy details
Ask them what happened, but be careful if emotions are running high or they appear under the influence. Take photos of their vehicle if you can, especially any areas showing damage.
4. Determine the Cause
It’s essential to know the cause of the accident. Of course, the cause is that a vehicle hit you. But beyond that, there may be a reason that the collision occurred. Here are some possibilities:
- Cramped spaces – Parking lots are notoriously cramped. A driver may have been trying to squeeze into a tight space where there isn’t room.
- Poor visibility – Ramps, posts, trash cans, and other barriers can make it difficult to see in a parking lot.
- Slippery conditions – Wet or sandy conditions can make a vehicle harder to control.
- Potholes, cracks, and debris – When a parking lot isn’t well maintained, potholes and other hazards can cause an accident.
- Driving too fast – People in a parking lot are often in a hurry. Moving too fast can result in an accident in a parking lot, just like it can be a factor on the roads.
- Not looking before moving – It’s up to a driver to ensure that they have a clear path before moving their vehicle. The driver must take the time to look before backing up.
- Illegal parking – Parking where there is no room or instructions not to park can increase the likelihood of an accident.
- Drunk driving and drugged driving – Driving under the influence decreases reaction time and judgment. In turn, that can cause an accident in a parking lot.
5. Take Photos
Before you even move your vehicle, take pictures. Photograph where the car was when the accident occurred, the damage to your vehicle, and the car parked next to you. Capture images of the larger scene and the other vehicle if it is still nearby. Your smartphone camera is sufficient to take pictures of the accident scene.
6. Report the Accident and Ask for Video Footage
You should report the accident to the owner of the parking lot. If it happens at the store, report the accident to the store. If it’s a privately owned or government lot, you should find the party responsible for managing it and let them know.
Ask them if they have video or security footage of the incident. Many parking lots are under surveillance, and it may help identify the driver by looking at the video. Ask the owner to produce a copy of the video for you to keep.
7. Find Witnesses
What if someone hit my parked car and left? There are still ways to identify the guilty party. If there are any witnesses to the accident, gather their contact information. Ask them what they observed, and take notes of their comments.
8. Contact Your Insurance Company
Someone hit my car – whose insurance do I call? Let your insurance company know about the accident as soon as possible. You may know that Florida is a no-fault state. That’s true for medical benefits. However, the property damage insurance that you’re required to have is property damage liability. The party responsible for causing the accident is the person whose insurance should cover the property damages.
If you cannot locate the responsible party, or if they do not have the insurance they’re supposed to have, your own uninsured, underinsured, or even collision coverage may apply. Our lawyers can help you examine your policy to determine coverage.
In addition, reporting what happened to the insurance company prevents you from any kind of questioning about the cause of the damage later. This can be important if your vehicle sustains additional damage in a separate incident.
9. Make a Claim Through the Other Driver’s Insurance Policy
If someone hits your parked car, in most cases, you can make a claim through their insurance. Because of Florida’s laws for mandatory insurance, the other party should have at least $10,000 in liability coverage. They may have more. Making a claim involves reporting the accident and getting estimates for the cost of the repairs.
The information you gathered at the scene can be critical to knowing who is responsible, how to file the claim, and proving that you deserve compensation. Remember, if you can’t find the driver, you may be able to make a claim through your own insurance policy. In addition, the parking lot owner or even another party may be responsible for a dangerous condition that caused the accident.
Miami Car Accident Lawyers for Parked Car Accidents
Our experienced car accident attorneys represent victims throughout Florida to help them get the compensation they deserve. If you’ve been hurt or sustained property damage due to a parked car accident, contact us today for a free consultation regarding your claim. We can fight for justice and ensure the responsible party is held accountable.
1CBS News. (21 November 2016). Why hundreds are killed in crashes in parking lots and garages every year. Retrieved 11 April 2022.