Who is at Fault When Hitting a Parked Car?

There are numerous occasions when you just have to park your car on the side of a road or highway. Even when you park the vehicle right off the road on a generous hard shoulder, it is still possible to be hit by a passing vehicle.

If this happens and you are seriously injured, you may be able to recover the cost of medical treatment, the cost of damage to your vehicle and other amounts for pain and suffering and lost earnings by filing a personal injury claim.

You will need a personal injury attorney to help you do this.

Accidents Involving a Parked Car: Who’s at Fault?

There are numerous possible scenarios as mentioned above and each one must be taken into consideration individually.

If your car was parked well off the hard shoulder of a highway or in a designated parking area and your car was hit while you were in it then the other driver would be almost always at fault.

The situation becomes more complicated when your car is parked on the side of a road where there is no provision for it. If you have parked the car there without providing any sort of warning behind you, even if the situation is beyond your control (car broken down etc,) then you may be at least partly to blame.

If your car is parked without good reason on a narrow road (e.g. you stopped to take a photo), then you may also be partly to blame.

Similarly, if your car is parked on the side of the road at night without parking lights, you may be partly to blame.

The degree of fault in these last situations will determine exactly what you will be allowed to claim in a personal injury lawsuit.

Parked Car Accident Scenarios

If you are in a parked car on the side of a road because your car has broken down or you have a flat tire, there is always the danger of being hit by another vehicle. The most likely scenario is when there is little room at the side of the road to actually park the car safely and the road is narrow.

You are most likely to be hit at the rear or hit on the side by a passing vehicle whose driver has not judged the passing clearance well enough or who is forced to get too close due to an oncoming vehicle.

The most dangerous places to park a car in an emergency are on narrow, winding roads with busy traffic and large vehicles like tractor-trailers and RVs or cars towing trailers.

Bridges are also dangerous places to have to park your car, but occasionally it is unavoidable.

Parking lot accidents are less likely t be serious even if you are still in your vehicle because the speed of the offending vehicle is likely to be much less.

Auto Accident Scenario Tips - Who is at Fault When Hit in a Parked Car?

Damages That May Occur

If your parked car was hit, the result could be anything from a mere fright and slight scratches on the side of the car right through to a total wreck of a car and you on a hospital bed.

The damage depends on where the car was hit, how fast the other vehicle was moving, the size and weight of the vehicle and how badly you and other occupants were affected.

Unless you were parked illegally or on the side of the road at night without parking lights, the one advantage of a parked car accident is that you should have good grounds for proving that the accident wasn’t your fault and was caused by negligent driving by the other driver.

Damages you may choose to claim if you opt for compensation from the other driver’s insurer might include any or all of the following depending on the exact circumstances:

  • injuries to your body and others inside the car if you were in the car when it was hit;
  • side panel scratches and dents;
  • fender damage;
  • bumper damage;
  • bent or smashed side mirror;
  • broken side windows;
  • shattered windshield;
  • smashed lights;
  • damage to tires and wheels;
  • engine damage if the impact was in the front.

Note that you would be unlikely to be able to claim for compensation for injuries if the accident was in a no-fault state, but you may still have to make a claim for the damage to the car.

Filing a Claim

If you were hit when you were still in the vehicle you can talk to the driver directly. You will want:

  • contact details,
  • insurance and registration information.

Assuming that there was damage to your car, you will be making a claim with the driver’s insurer directly. You should also make sure you make a report to the police and your own insurance company about the accident.

The police may come to the crash site if someone has been injured or if traffic is held up. If they do, then they should make a crash report, which you should get a copy of.

If you weren’t in the car at the time of the accident, the other driver may either stay until you get back or leave the information for you as well as inform the police. It depends partly on the relative damage as it may be that the other driver’s vehicle needs to be towed away anyway.

It is illegal for anyone to hit your car then drive off without attempting to leave contact information or inform the police.

Compensation That May Be Available

The compensation you should claim for should include any or all of the following depending on the severity of the accident:

  • ambulance fees if necessary;
  • doctor’s fees;
  • the cost of all tests, e.g. x-rays, scans and other tests;
  • the cost of all medication;
  • accommodation in hospital if necessary;
  • cost of any surgery;
  • any estimated future medical costs;
  • lost wages or other earnings;
  • future lost earnings if necessary;
  • towing charges;
  • repair costs for damaged car;
  • replacement parts if necessary;
  • the cost of repair or replacement of any other property that might have been damaged.

Seeking Help From a PI Attorney

Whatever the circumstances, if you were in a parked car when it was hit by another vehicle, you will need to seek advice from a personal injury attorney.

As has been discussed above, when the blame is shared between you and another driver, it is important to have help in deciding what can be claimed.