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Accidents happen and many of them involve parked vehicles. According to data analyzed in a 2009 Allstate Insurance study, 69 percent of hit and run accidents in the U.S. involve parked cars.

Being involved in an accident isn’t a crime. You commit a crime when you leave the scene of the accident. If you’ve hit a parked car, there are several things you should do – one of the first is to calm down. Hitting a parked car happens to many people. You’re not the first and certainly won’t be the last.

Things to do after hitting a parked car

Don’t leave the scene – it’s against the law

It’s against the law in every U.S. state to leave the scene of an accident, even if it involves a parked car. It will be considered a hit-and-run accident. You could be convicted and receive a hefty fine, jail time, suspension of your license, community service or a misdemeanor charge. In many states, a hit and run could add six points on your license. This can result in disqualification when searching for jobs that involve a lot of driving.

It’s advisable to stay and try to find the owner of the vehicle. If you aren’t able to find them, you should leave a note. Odds are that someone saw you hit the car. There were over 30 million surveillance cameras deployed all over the U.S. by 2007, according to an article published by Popular Mechanics. There are high chances that the accident may have been recorded by surveillance cameras that law enforcement will use when investigating the incident.

If law enforcement has to hunt you down, your insurance company will not only have to pay for the cost of repairing the damaged vehicle, but also the legal and investigative fees involved. It doesn’t make financial sense to leave the scene.

Leave a note if no one arrives

If you can’t find the driver of the vehicle, leave a note. Keep the note simple. Include information such as your name, address, contact information and an explanation of how the accident took place. If you happened to be driving someone else’s car, then leave the car owner’s contact information as well.

The note should be tucked carefully under the windshield wiper or any other conspicuous location on the vehicle. Failing to leave contact information could result in a hefty fine or jail time in some states.

Keep a record of the scene

Take photos or video footage of the scene. Take both vehicles’ license plate numbers and pictures of the damage. This is evidence will go a long way to protect you in case of a lawsuit.

Gather witness information

Were there witnesses at the scene? Gather their contact information and take a video recording of their description of the accident.

Inform your insurance company

Report the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible. This will give the insurance company ample time to investigate the incident and as well as speed up the claims process.

Will my insurance rates rise?

This depends on the nature of the accident. You can expect your insurance rates to rise if:

  • You received a ticket for the incident
  • You have made many claims in a short period of time
  • The damage reaches the accident threshold chargeable by the company

If you’re unable to get a good rate with your current provider when time for renewal comes around, consider searching for another provider. Use online comparison sites like CoverHound to get auto insurance quotes from reputable insurers before deciding on a new policy.

Accidents and mistakes are inevitable; we’re all human, after all. By handling your mistakes responsibly, you’ll avoid making the situation worse. So keep the above tips in mind should you hit a parked car. The person’s car you hit will appreciate it, that’s for sure.