Is Hitting A Parked Car Legally Considered A “Hit And Run”?

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.

Is there anything worse than being in a car accident and having your car destroyed? Possibly — coming out to a parking lot to find that someone has hit your car and left without a note can be worse. If you are in a car accident, at least you can recover your damages. If you aren’t even in your car, you might be wondering if you can make a claim on your insurance to have the damage repaired.

Although it’s against the law, some motorists will leave the scene of the crime to avoid paying for someone else’s car. And there are times when they might not even notice that they caused any damage. A car accident Tampa attorney can confirm that a hit-and-run is classified as a person leaving the scene of an accident before taking care of their duties according to the laws of the state.


Those duties could include both leaving information and providing aid if it resulted in an injury. Depending on the extent of the accident and the specific state laws, someone who leaves the scene may be subject to jail time and some pretty significant penalties and fees.


There are two different types of hit-and-run accidents. The first is where you hit a car and then  leave without stopping or leaving any information. The second is when you hit a parked or sitting car that is left unattended, and you leave without waiting for the owner to return or leaving your contact information. If you ever do back into or hit a car by accident, it is imperative that you leave your contact information — or you are breaking the law.

If you hit a car that is parked or left unattended, you should first look around and see if there was anyone in the car to ensure that no one was hurt. If someone was injured, you should call for immediate assistance. Next, it is your responsibility to make sure that you leave your information in a clear and visible area to notify the car owner of what happened. Things that must be included in the note are:


  • Your name, address and phone number
  • The make, model and specifics of your car
  • Your license plate tag


In some states, it is also necessary for you to call the police to fill out a police report. That is the case even if you have left your personal information. Knowing the specifics in your state is important to cover yourself legally.


Before you leave the scene, it is imperative that you take certain steps to protect yourself. If there is a lawsuit resulting from the hit-and-run, you will want to have all the information written down and recorded. Do the following so that you have the information when you are asked for it:


Record the location and time – You will want to make note of the time, location, and the conditions of the scene. Make sure not just to write them down, but also to take pictures of the entire location from different angles.


Call law enforcement – The last thing that you might want to do is sit and wait for the police to come. But to ensure that you have the proof necessary to protect yourself if need be, then you have to get a policeman to sort through the details and have all the required documentation on file.


Take photos of everything – It isn’t enough to just get photos of the scene; take pictures of both your car and theirs, so there is no mistake about where or how it was hit. Photo evidence will help the insurance company discern damages.


Find any witnesses and get their information – Ask around to see if anyone saw what happened and get their information so that they can be contacted to provide additional information.


Call your insurance company immediately – Whether you do it at the scene or upon returning home, you will want to call your insurance carrier immediately to notify them. Contacting them is a critical step. You want to make sure to get things underway and have your account on record while it is still fresh in your mind.


If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident, it is possible to have your insurance company cover the cost. The only time you might not be able to recover is if you don’t have underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage on your policy. That is why it is critical to make sure you have the right insurance to keep you protected from all the things can happen to you and your car.


If you get into a hit-and-run accident, make sure to follow all the steps to ensure that you are doing what is legally required.

Hugh Howerton