Hitting a parked vehicle, regardless of whether it is parked legally or otherwise, is by itself a negligent act. This is just like using your mobile phone when driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A driver is required by statute to exercise reasonable care to avoid injury to persons or property in any circumstance. Therefore, if the vehicle you hit was parked illegally, you and the owner or driver of the illegally parked vehicle will share responsibility for the accident.
When is a vehicle considered illegally parked?
It is a parking violation for a vehicle owner to stop, park, or leave his vehicle in any of the following locations: an intersection, a crosswalk, or within 15 feet of a fire station driveway. However, if stopping, parking, or leaving the vehicle is necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or to comply with a police officer’s directions, it is not considered a violation.
Comparative Fault Law
California recognizes the pure comparative fault rule. This rule allows the damaged party to recover even if they are 99% at fault. However, this recovery is reduced by their degree of fault. Hence, in the case of hitting an illegally parked car, the degree of the driver’s fault for hitting the property of another will be lessened by the degree of negligence of the owner or driver which will be determined by the court.
What should you do if you hit a parked car?
The Vehicle Code details the responsibilities of a driver who has hit another vehicle. Section 20002 of the Code provides that if you are the driver who hit the parked car, you should stop at a safe location that is nearest to you and locate the owner or driver of the vehicle. Do not leave as if nothing happened. Hit and run is a felony, and you can go to jail or pay a fine.
If you cannot find the owner or driver of the parked vehicle, you are required by law to leave, on the vehicle or damaged property, a written note with your name, address, and a statement of what has happened. Then, you should report the incident to the police department of the city where the incident happened without delay – but of course, that rarely happens.
If you hit an illegally parked car, you will need to call the police and make sure that you take photos of the illegally parked car as evidence of the owner’s or driver’s negligence. Documenting the other party’s negligence will help reduce your financial liability.
Jin Kim is a car accident attorney in Sacramento, CA. She helps victims recover financial compensation for motorcycle, truck, and auto accident injuries.