Accidents happen, they are a part of our life. As we get busier with our daily routines, it's possible to miss out on small details and lose attention. This loss of attention can often lead to hitting a parked car and unfortunately, by the time you realize what has happened, the damage has already been done. As a driver, you are obligated to pay attention to the road and the parked car and do everything you can to avoid a collision. Even a minor accident can have consequences you did not expect.
All sorts of charges, including criminal charges, can result from this. This is where a car accident lawyer will be helpful to you.
There are several steps that you can take to ensure you handle the matter like a responsible citizen. Let's look at the hit and run laws in Texas and what it means for you when you hit a parked car.
A Glance at Texas's Hit and Run Laws
The Texas Transportation Code Title 7, Section 550.001 clearly states the hit and run laws in the state. It contains proper steps that a driver needs to take in case of a hit and run or in this case, hitting a parked car. The law clearly states that the driver needs to pull over as close to the vehicle that's been hit and determine if they caused any injuries or serious damage to the vehicle they hit.
If the driver hits a parked or stationary car with no human presence, they are obligated to stay on the scene and fulfill the duties laid out in section 550.001. These duties include:
- Trying to locate the owner of the vehicle through all reasonable measures
- Leaving a note in a visible and apparent place with your name, address, and contact information
- Including the details of how the accident happened in the note
- Mentioning the name of your insurance company
Texas law categorizes hitting a parked car as a hit-and-run case. You can be charged with either Class C or Class B misdemeanor depending on the damage caused to the vehicles involved in the accident. If the damage exceeds $200, the act is categorized as a Class B misdemeanor. If people are severely injured as a result of the accident, the act will be treated as a felony crime, resulting in community service, possible jail time, a prison sentence, or fines.
Who Is Liable for Hitting A Parked Car?
Here are some common reasons due to which a driver can hit a parked car:
- Parallel Parking
- Driving into a parking space
- Driving out of a parking space
- Wrong turning into a narrow street
- Hitting a car with your door when you open it
No matter what the reason, the law remains the same. Let's explore the steps you should take after hitting a parked car in detail:
What Should You Do After You Hit a Parked Car in Texas?
Anyone can end up hitting an unattended vehicle or an occupied car in parking lots, roadsides, or any other possible areas. There are some steps that you can take right after you hit a parked car that can help you avoid paying heavy fines and compensation.
Stay Right Where You Are:
So, you accidentally hit a parked car? What now? You need to stay put. The law demands that you stay at the accident scene. If you flee the accident scene, it's a clear hit and run case and can be classified as a Class C or Class B misdemeanor and if there were injuries involved, you can end up in jail.
Do not think that if you leave the scene, you won't get caught. The victim can file a report against you and that will launch a full-blown investigation into the accident by the local law enforcement forces. They will question witnesses, look at supporting camera footage from video cameras in nearby commercial areas, and etc.
You will eventually get caught, and not only will you pay hefty fines, but the opposing insurance company may also come after you for costs like investigative and legal costs and fees.
Texas law demands that if you hit a parked car, you need to wait for the owner to come to their car or leave them a note.
Leave a Note
If the owner of the car doesn't arrive or you've failed to locate them, you need to leave them a note.
The state of Texas requires you to leave the following information in your note:
- Contact Number
- Insurance Company information
- A note about the occurrence of the accident
Let's say you were driving someone else's car, you will need to leave the actual car owner's details as well. You might want to get away thinking that the other victim's insurance will take care of the repair costs for their vehicle but you can't be sure that they have collision insurance. Even if the car owner has uninsured motorist coverage, their insurance provider won't cover the costs if they can't prove that you're uninsured.
Document The Scene
Make sure you use your phone and take photos of the vehicle damage and the license plate numbers. Even small dents can cost thousands of dollars to repair so you need to document the damage on the spot.
Document Witness Testimony
Look around you, do you see any witnesses? You should get their contact information and also get a statement or video of what they saw happening.
Contact Your Insurance Company Immediately
You need your insurance company to be fully aware of what has happened so they can expedite the claims process for you. You will be paying for the damages done to the other car through your property damage liability insurance coverage. You will use your collision coverage to pay for the repairs needed for your own car once you've paid the deductible.
Will My Insurance Rates Go Up After I Hit a Parked Car?
You are most likely to ask this question once you've informed your insurance company of the accident and the answer is most likely yes. Your insurance company will put this in the category of an at-fault accident.
You can expect a rise in your insurance rates if:
- The damage to the other car reaches or surpasses your insurance company's chargeable accident limit .
- You were given a ticket after the accident
- You've already had multiple claims in a short span of time
If any of these cases is applicable, your insurance rates may go up by 20%-40% of the actual base rate. The base rate is the standard rate offered by the Insurance Services Office. It's the average rate that's charged in Texas before any adjustments or discounts, and the insurance claims processing fee.
It is important to understand here that if the claim exceeds the chargeable accident threshold, a multicar policy will increase by 20% for the first two cars, and if it's a single-vehicle policy then it will increase by 40%. This rate is determined by the ISO but the insurance companies rarely follow these rules and may increase the rates to even higher than this.
The damage to your vehicle and your deductible will determine whether you will file a claim for the cost of your repairs or not. You will have to take care of the cost of repairs before you reach your deductible amount.
This simply means that if your deductible is $1000 and the cost of the repairs is $800, you will have to pay for the cost out of your pocket. And, you may also be faced with a rate rise if you file a claim under collision. So, it's better to pay for your damage rather than see your rates go up.
And, if you've filed more than one claim within a short period of time, your insurance company may not even renew your policy for another term because you're viewed as a high-risk client.
How Can The Glenn Law Firm Help You?
Hitting a parked car can have serious repercussions for you. It can even go on your driving record and get your license suspended. As a citizen of the state of Texas, you have certain legal responsibilities that include driving carefully and reporting any accident you're involved in, to the concerned authorities immediately.
If you happen to hit an unoccupied vehicle while it was parked. You need to contact an auto accident attorney and discuss your options with you and help you determine liability.
If by any chance, you panic and leave, you may be discovered via security camera footage, and be faced hit and run charges. The situation becomes even worse if you caused bodily injury to the people sitting in the other vehicle, you may even be faced with a felony charge at this point.
You may also have to pay the medical bills for the injured victims. In addition to medical payments, you might be sued with a personal injury lawsuit as well.
In this case, you need an experienced attorney to help you fight the case and avoid a brutal punishment.
At the Glenn Law firm, we understand that accidents can happen. We understand that distracted driving can result in minor accidents. The best thing for you to do is to report such an accident immediately and rule out the liability of the other driver. In some cases, the other driver may have parked illegally and may be liable for the accident too. We help you determine such factors and also help you take an action that's most favorable in your case.
Call us now.