Parked/Unoccupied Hit And Run: Your Rights and Responsibilities

Car has a dented rear bumper after an accident to illustrate hit and run

It’s one of those things that seems to happen to everybody at one time or another: Someone has smashed into your car in a parking lot or while you’re parked along the street, and they didn’t leave a note. A hit and run.

Ugh. Parked or unoccupied hit and runs are more than a nuisance; they’re criminal. (And let’s face it — just downright rude.)

If your car’s been hit while you were away, there are a few steps to take to ensure your vehicle is repaired and returned to its pre-loss condition. In addition, there are a few things you can do to prep for the possibility that you’ll be victimized by a parked hit and run.

Did You Hit Someone’s Car?

More on both of those in a second, but first, let’s speak some plain truth: If you ever hit an unoccupied vehicle, do not flee the scene without leaving a note.

No matter how mild a bump you think it may have been, the right thing to do is wait to see if you can contact the vehicle’s owner.

Is it a business parking lot? Go inside the store and ask the manager to make an announcement over the PA.

Is the vehicle you hit parked on a residential street? Knock on some doors.

In other words, do what you can to get in touch with the vehicle owner before leaving the scene. And if you must leave the scene without having spoken to the owner, leave a note with your contact information.

After all, you’d want someone who hit your car to show you the same courtesy, right? Hitting a parked car and letting your insurance company’s collision coverage handle the damages and cost of repairs is much better than being charged by police with a hit and run accident.

“Remember,” writes Nolo.com, “a hit and run might be classified as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. While the term ‘misdemeanor’ sounds relatively minor to some people, in most states misdemeanors are punishable by a significant fine of up to $5,000” and can also include jail time.

It’s just not worth it. Leave a note!

Hit and Run: The Law in Oregon and Washington

Oregon law (811.700) is refreshingly clear on this matter. It’s worth quoting at length.

“If the person is the driver of any vehicle that collides with any vehicle that is unattended, the person shall immediately stop and:

      (A) Locate and notify the operator or owner of the vehicle of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle striking the unattended vehicle and, if the vehicle is a motor vehicle, the name of the insurance carrier and the insurance policy number of the insurance policy insuring the motor vehicle; or

      (B) Leave in a conspicuous place in the vehicle struck a written notice giving:

      (i) The name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle doing the striking and a statement of the circumstances thereof; and

      (ii) If the vehicle is a motor vehicle, the name of the insurance carrier and the insurance policy number of the insurance policy insuring the motor vehicle.”

In Washington state (RCW 46.52.010), the language of the law reads as such:

“Duty on striking unattended car or other property—Penalty.

“(1) The operator of any vehicle which collided with any other vehicle which is unattended shall immediately stop and shall then and there either locate and notify the operator or owner of such vehicle of the name and address of the operator and owner of the vehicle striking the unattended vehicle or shall leave in a conspicuous place in the vehicle struck a written notice, giving the name and address of the operator and of the owner of the vehicle striking such other vehicle.”

It’s a misdemeanor in both states to not follow the letter of these laws.

Did Someone Hit Your Car?

If someone has hit and damaged your vehicle while it was parked, then you are the victim of a parked or unoccupied hit and run. Call your insurance company right away and ask them about your responsibilities.

Laws regarding hit and runs vary by state, so the best resource for information is your insurance agent. You may be required to file a police report at the scene, and some insurance policies will lower deductibles in situations like this. Again, it’s important to speak with your insurance agent for your particular details.

In fact, it’s best to speak with your agent before something like this happens. That will make the whole post-hit-and-run rigamarole a little less stressful. Ask your insurance agent about uninsured motorist coverage. Finally, make sure you have collision coverage on your vehicle.

A lot of insurance companies, such as State Farm, encourage their policyholders to call the police for any and all collisions — regardless of how “minor” they may seem. A police accident report is a powerful tool that helps you and your insurer navigate the claims process.

Hit and Run: Next Steps

After you’ve spoken with the police and your insurance company, it’s time to choose a body shop. We know a good one! Please contact McCollum Auto Body so we can get started on repairs. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.