After a long day of work, Tina Russell was ready to get home. She got into her Honda Fit, put it in reverse, and started backing out of her parking spot.
Unfortunately, she accidentally clipped the back bumper of the car parked next to her. “I was very mad at myself. Like how could I have done something like that,” she said.
Russell parked in the same garage every day without ever hitting a parked car.
“I was also terrified because I had never hit a parked car before. I had no clue what to leave on the note.”
The owner of the other car called her the next morning. “She was grateful I left a note because she had seen people hit cars in that parking garage before and just leave.”
More than 50,000 crashes happen in parking lots and parking garages every year according to the National Safety Council. Many of those are considered hit-and-runs because drivers don’t leave notes.
So, how does car insurance work if your car gets hit — or if you hit a parked car?
If you hit a parked car, what insurance covers your car versus the car you hit?
One bump into another car can turn into an expensive mistake, especially if you don’t carry enough or the right type of insurance.
Liability insurance covers any damage you cause to another driver’s car or property.
The good news is that it’s required coverage in most states. So you’ll most likely have coverage if you scratch or ding another car in the Trader Joe’s parking lot.
The bad news is that required minimum insurance varies state-by-state. So if you have basic liability coverage — which can range from $5,000 to $25,000 — it might not be enough to cover damages if you get into a larger fender bender.
Liability insurance does not cover any damages or repairs to your vehicle. So having that only protects the car you hit. To cover your own car that falls under collision insurance.
If you hit another car, collision insurance pays for any repairs needed to your vehicle.
The average cost of collision insurance is $596 a year, or about $50 a month. Collision deductibles range from $250 to $1,000 with $500 being the most common.
Comprehensive won’t help you if you hit a parked car. But collision will cover any damages that happen to your vehicle while you’re driving it. These include backing into a pole, running over a pothole, or hitting a parked car.
If you don’t have collision insurance, you will have to pay out of pocket for any repairs to your vehicle.
What to do if you hit a parked car
Accidents can happen to the best of us, but that’s why you have car insurance to fall back on.
Follow these steps if you hit a parked car:
- Do not leave the scene of an accident, it’s illegal. Stay to see if you can find the car’s owner. If you can’t, leave a note.
- When you leave a note: include your name, address, phone number, and a brief explanation of the accident.
- Take pictures and document the damage on both vehicles.
- Exchange insurance information if the other driver returns.
- Write down license plate numbers.
- Look for witnesses. Get any contact information and/or video record their account of what happened.
- File an accident report with the police (if necessary).
- Call your insurance company to report the accident and file a claim.
What is the process to file a claim?
Whether or not you’re at fault in a collision, you should report it to your insurance company as soon as possible.
Russell notified her insurance company the day the incident happened. The other driver initiated her claim after she found Russell’s note.
“It was really a painless and easy process,” Russell said.
After they each filed claims, the insurance companies asked the drivers some questions and then took care of the repairs.
Russell’s liability insurance covered all the damages to the other driver’s car. And after meeting her deductible, her collision coverage helped pay for a new bumper on her car.
“They gave me a place to drop off my car that was a few miles from my house,” she said. “I came back the next week and my car was fixed.”
Russell admitted fault but her premiums didn’t go up, and they might not. The cost of damages was minimal and she hadn’t filed any other claims recently, which can sometimes cause premiums to spike.
If neither party admits fault, the insurance company will determine fault after conducting an investigation into the incident. The at-fault driver’s policy will be responsible for any damages.
It could potentially help you save money. You might find a cheaper rate with another company despite the insurance claims you’ve made in the past.
Will my insurance cover a hit-and-run?
Here’s another scenario: You come out of a store to find that someone hit your car in the parking lot but there’s no note. What do you do?
You have two options: file a claim or don’t file a claim. But is a hit-and-run covered?
If you have collision insurance: Yes, but only after you meet your deductible.
If you don’t have collision insurance: No, you will have to pay out of pocket for repairs.
Note: Liability insurance does not cover your car in hit-and-run.
Filing a claim is purely optional.Many drivers are afraid of premium hikes so they choose not to, especially if there’s only minor damage or the cost of repairs is less than the deductible.
Keep in mind that there could be damage that’s hidden and not visible on the surface of your vehicle. If any damage poses a safety risk then you should file a claim as soon as possible.
Either way, if your car was involved in a hit-and-run, you should follow these steps because you might decide to file a claim later:
- File a police report
- Take pictures and document the damage
- See if you can find any witnesses
Paying out of pocket for a hit-and-run
Some drivers settle privately in hopes of keeping their premiums down. That’s what Mary Rodriguez did after she swerved out of the way of an oncoming van and knocked the side mirror off a parked car.
“I left a note, but I paid the person in cash as I did not want my rates to go up over a couple hundred bucks,” she said.
While settling privately isn’t illegal, it’s generally not recommended due to a variety of risks involved. If an accident involves anyone else or anyone else’s property at all, it’s better just to notify your insurance company.