Picture this scene: You’ve just finished a wonderful dinner at your favorite restaurant. As you enter the parking lot, you’re feeling great. But once you see your car, you instantly go from cloud nine to feeling sick. Your previously pristine vehicle – the car you consider your pride and joy – has been hit and suffered serious damage from another car. You franticly examine to see if anyone has left insurance information, but there is no note on your car.
You’ve just become the victim of a hit and run driver.
While we generally think about hit and run drivers fleeing the scene of a crash while on the road, most of the incidents of hit and run involve parked cars. And if the situation above had (or has) happened to you, you wouldn’t be alone.
Allstate Insurance reports that in their experience, seven of every 10 hit and run incidents involve a parked car. Unfortunately, in most cases, you’ll find that it is highly unlikely that you’ll be able to find the responsible party. While most states have laws on their books requiring drivers to leave information when they collide and damage parked cars, the vast majority of drivers fail to do so.
So what should you do if you’re involved in such a situation?
- If you’ve planned ahead, you have uninsured motorist coverage as part of your car insurance policy. While you might think this type of coverage is just for situations where you’re involved in a crash with someone without insurance, it’s also applicable in situations such as this, even if the other driver cannot be found. We suggest you ask your agent or other company representative if you have sufficient coverage for incidents like this.
- If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, all hope is not lost. If you have full coverage, meaning you’ve purchased collision and comprehensive coverage, you’re still covered, minus your deductible.
- Regardless of your coverage, you should begin to document the scene immediately. If you have a cell phone with a camera, snap close up images of any damage before you move your car. If you don’t carry a cell phone, we suggest always having a cheap one-time use disposable camera in the glove box of your car.
- Check to see if there are any surveillance cameras in place in the parking lot. Most retail shopping centers, commercial parking lots and garages and even cities have such cameras in use. If you spot them, there is likely video documentation of the incident. Be prepared to ask the business that owns the parking lot if you can have copies of any footage.
- While it might be a long shot, if there are others in the area, ask them if they saw anything. You may get lucky and find someone who saw the entire incident.
- Call your insurance company before you leave the scene. They’ll be able to not only start a claim if you’d like, but they will also let you know if you should call the police to have an official report filed on the damage. Because insurance is regulated on the state level, the procedure can vary based on where you live.
In most cases, if you have the appropriate coverage, everything will work out fine. And since these sorts of situations aren’t normally considered at-fault accidents, you probably won’t be facing any increases on your car insurance premiums.