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Did you hit a car on the side of the road when attempting to parallel park? Those accidental “love taps” may seem innocuous at the time; after all, no harm, no foul, right? Wrong. A minor fender could lead to a heavy fine or jail time. Here is what to do if you accidentally hit a parked car.

What should I do if I hit a parked car?

A parked car that was involved in an accident.
A parked car was involved in an accident. | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

If you hit a parked car in a parking lot or on the side of the street, you should not drive away. Instead, here are some tips from State Farm:

  • No matter how minor that accident is, don’t drive off: If any witnesses or security cameras catch you, you could be liable for a hit and run.
  • Wait for the car’s owner: If you’re unsure where the owner could be, you can wait for them to return. Or, if you’re in a store parking lot, you can go into the store and see if the store manager can help you track them down.
  • Leave a note: If you can’t track down the driver, you can leave a note and put in on their car. Write down your basic information – name, phone number, and a brief explanation of the accident. Take a picture of the damage, the car, and the license plate for your records.
  • Call the police (if needed): Depending on how extensive the damage is, you might want to call the police. They can document the accident and maybe help you find the car’s owner.

Contact your insurance company

Several parked cars caught fire on the in Berlin.
Several parked cars caught fire in Berlin. | Lisa Ducret/picture alliance via Getty Images

It may not seem necessary for you to contact your car insurance company for such a small accident. According to Find Law, “The owner of the damaged car has two to three years to make a property damage claim.” That means that if you don’t contact your insurance company, they can refuse any claims associated with the accident later on.

Also, your current rates shouldn’t be affected if you admit to hitting another car. However, your insurance can be greatly affected if you’re charged with a hit-and-run accident.

There are major penalties for hit-and-run accidents

If you do decide to flee the scene instead of going through the proper procedures, then there could be some major consequences. In some states, getting caught in a hit-and-run accident could lead to 10-90 days in jail and/or a fine of $150 to $300. Depending on the state, prosecutors have a lot of time to file a claim against you, so it’s best not to think that you’re in the clear just because no one potentially saw the accident happen.

Whether you hit a parked car on the side of the road or in a parking lot, it can pay to do the right thing and report it. Although the accident may have only led to a minor fender bender, the potential repercussions of dealing with the aftermath won’t be worth it. To help reduce your chances of getting into an accident, here are six easy ways to avoid one.


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