Parking lot accidents are all too common. A speedy driver rushing towards an exit, an SUV parked in a spot for compact vehicle and a distracted driver backing out, all this is a recipe for a fender bender or worse.
It’s unfortunate to find your car scraped or dented after returning to the parking lot. Whether it be at a crowded shopping mall or in your apartment complex, a hit-and-run – even a minor one – is a frustrating annoyance. So, the question is – what should you do if you hit a car in a parking lot to avoid making the situation worse?
According to Allstate Insurance, in 2010, 69 per cent of hit-and-run accidents involved parked cars. Does that make hit-and-runs right? Even if there are no damages?
In this article we’ll go through the steps a driver needs to take after hitting an unattended car in a parking lot…
Step #1: Don’t Panic and Flee
Don’t panic and don’t drive away. Natural instincts will insist that you get out of the crime scene as quickly as you can, but don’t. If you hit a vehicle, even if it’s a slight bump, it would still be considered a collision. You would still be at fault. If you leave, you’d face the risk of being charged; many parking lots have video cameras and witnesses.
Step #2: Contact the Car Owner
If you are unable to connect with the car owner immediately, leave a note in a conspicuous place, under the windshield wiper, for example. Write a short explanation of the accident followed by: your name (name of car owner), phone number, license number, your vehicle’s identification number and address.
Step #3: Write Down Information (Take Pictures)
The more details you have on the car you hit, the better. Mark down the vehicle’s make, model and license plate. If you can think that specific circumstances contributed to the accident, include them: poor lighting, slippery surface, vehicle parked improperly and so on. Take pictures of the vehicle to help with your case.
Step #4: Report the Situation
Since parking lot accidents are not high-priority cases, police officers may not rush down to help you. However, reporting the situation over the phone will help protect you going forward. Many insurance companies will even waive the deductible if you report the issue within 24 hours of the incident.
Step #5: Wait and Negotiate
You are not going to go to jail for hitting a parked car. More often than not, your civil gesture of leaving a note is a sign of decency. The owner of the car you hit might happily work out a deal with you.
Paying out of your own pocket is the way many people choose to deal with minor accidents. Get an estimate for the damage and ask for a quote from the car owner of the vehicle you hit. Don’t pay immediately. Compare the estimates to your own deductible. If the repair cost is below your damage deductible, it may be worth keeping the insurance company out of the picture. Write a cheque and get the whole accident out of the way.
Step #6: Find Out If Involving the Insurance Company Will Increase the Premium
While some resources would advise that you handle the accident privately – especially if it’s a small one – it’s not always recommendable. If negotiations between you and the owner of the car you hit do not go as smoothly as you wanted them to, it’s wise to contact the insurance company.
Only provide your (semi-)private details to someone who is trustworthy and reasonable. If the person insists that you go to their mechanic or demands cash without an estimate, then you should not give them your details.
Remember that if you don’t tell the insurance company, you are taking a risk, leaving yourself vulnerable. While a hike in premium may end up costing more than resolving it privately, having an insurance company behind you is worth the assurance. Find out how much the premium increase will be and make a decision sooner than later. If you let the situation drag out for too long without contacting the insurance company, you might lose your coverage on the accident altogether.