By Marcus Fernandez
Depending upon the circumstances, hitting a parked car may cause more embarrassment to the errant driver than damage to either vehicle. Of course, hitting a parked car while traveling at the posted speed may cause thousands of dollars in property damage and injuries to occupants of either vehicle.
Knowing what to do when involved in an accident with a parked car may help you avoid criminal charges. If you are injured in the accident, either as an occupant of the parked car or the one in motion, you may have a claim for damages. Here to help you understand your rights and are the steps to take should you be in an accident with a parked car.
Stop and do not leave the scene
You must stop and remain at the scene of an accident resulting in property damage, which includes damage to a vehicle. Make certain that stopping does not obstruct other vehicles from safely passing.
It is permissible to move your car in order not to block traffic as long as you do not leave the vicinity of the crash site. Leaving the scene of an accident with a parked car in Tampa or other Florida location is a criminal offense punishable subjecting you to a $500 fine.
Report the accident to the police
It may have taken place in a parking lot, a parking garage or on the street, but every driver seems to have at least one story about hitting a parked car. The stories usually share a common element of an unoccupied car and driver who hit it leaving a note with contact information.
If the accident happens in Florida, leaving a note for the absent owner may not be enough to comply with state law. State law requires that drivers notify law enforcement by the quickest means possible when a crash results in any of the following:
- Injury to a person.
- Death of a person.
- $500 or more of damage to another vehicle or property.
Failing to notify law enforcement is a traffic infraction. You may not see any damage or be unsure about the cost to repair the car you hit, so the safest course of action is to call the police and let them make the decision about whether or not to come to the scene.
If the police come to the scene, they will fill out an accident report containing information about the accident, including details about the vehicles and parties. An accident that does not result in a police report either because the damage is less than $500 or the police do not come to the scene should be reported to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within 10 days either online or through the mail.
Exchange information with the owner of the parked car
The law requires drivers involved in a crash resulting in property damage, which includes damage to either or both vehicles, to exchange the following information:
- Driver’s license information.
- Registration number of the vehicles.
If the car you hit is unattended, you must stop and make a good faith effort to locate its driver or owner in order to provide the contact, vehicle and license information.
Only when you cannot locate someone may you resort to leaving a note on the windshield or other conspicuous place on the damaged vehicle. The note must include your name, address, and registration number of the car you drove at the time of the crash. You also must notify the police.
Take pictures of the cars
Protect yourself by documenting the accident by taking photos of the vehicles and any damage. Use your cellphone to take pictures of the car you hit and your car from as many sides and angles as needed to show their condition.
Contact a Tampa personal injury lawyer
Do not assume or admit that you were at fault in an accident with a parked car. This is particularly important when you or the occupants in your vehicle were injured in the crash.
If the car you hit was double-parked or otherwise protruded into the path of traffic, the operator may be at fault in causing the accident. The best way to learn about the rights you have after an accident with a parked car is by consulting with a Tampa personal injury lawyer who can review the circumstances of the accident and offer legal advice.