Illegally parked vehicles are not uncommon. Drivers can get into the habit of parking their vehicles almost anywhere. Even noticeable fire hydrants and well-marked emergency vehicle lanes are often not enough to prevent rushed or inconsiderate drivers from parking their vehicles.
Occasionally, drivers may find a parking ticket on their windshield, but what happens if the vehicle is involved in an accident? Who’s at fault and responsible for covering the damage? Here’s what you should know about your rights after an accident with an unlawfully parked vehicle.
Hitting an Illegally Parked Vehicle
Logically, when you hit an illegally parked vehicle, the accident isn’t your fault. After all, a logical conclusion is the accident only occurs because the vehicle is unlawfully parked, and the accident would not have happened if the other driver followed the law—however, it may still mean you are the at-fault driver.
Why could YOU be responsible for an accident? Although traffic laws vary slightly across states and municipalities, most municipalities concur it is your duty to remain aware of your surroundings at all times – no matter if an illegally parked car hits you first! Your insurer could still cover damages should such happen!
On the bright side, if there is one, the same laws apply if your vehicle is in an accident while it is illegally parked.
Damage Payouts May Be Limited
Insurance companies are notorious for preferring to settle claims out of court. However, taking an insurance provider up on the first offer is usually not a good idea.
If your vehicle is the one illegally parked, you may not receive the full amount due to cover the damage. When you are the driver at fault, the opposite can occur. The other driver’s insurance carrier may send you a larger-than-expected bill.
Regardless of who’s at fault, the best advice is to consult with an accident attorney before accepting any blame or settlement.
An attorney is experienced with local traffic laws. These laws are based on negligence. Your accident may have totaled the other vehicle’s front or back end, but it may not mean you are fully responsible for covering all of the repair costs. Negligence often works both ways when the accident involves an unlawfully parked vehicle. Both drivers are at fault, and this can significantly reduce compensation amounts.
For example, Texas law often assigns 50-50 blame in many cases. Both drivers are equally at fault. If the court rules for and against both parties, the 50-50 judgment cuts the damage amount in half.
As the at-fault driver, your damages liability is significantly decreased; however, when another motorist was responsible, partial payments may not cover all damage done to your car.
You may still have to pay out-of-pocket for the repairs, and this is on top of the deductible and any potential fines. Unlawfully parked drivers can still receive a ticket, along with the insurance payout.
Proving Negligence in These Cases
Proving negligence without assistance from an attorney is difficult. If you are the driver responsible for the accident, it can work in your favor. The unlawfully parked vehicle owner can also benefit from proving you are a negligent driver.
An attorney must prove the driver who caused an accident was negligent by failing to pay attention to their surroundings, particularly illegally parked cars and illegal parking spaces. As such, their client stands guilty of breaching his/her responsibilities in this circumstance.
Hopefully, injuries did not occur as a result of the accident. If so, negligence is also a primary part of the case. The attorney for the no-fault driver will need to show their client’s injuries are a direct result of the accident.
What if Both Vehicles Sustain Damage?
Hitting an illegally parked car can cause damage to both vehicles. So, who pays for the repairs, or are both drivers on the hook?
The answer can be a little complicated. Remember, every accident is different. So, what the courts decide in one case may not apply to yours.
Prepare for the standard argument stating the accident would not have happened if your vehicle was parked legally. This argument will continue to claim you are responsible for covering repair costs for both vehicles. However, your attorney can use the same argument if you hit an illegally parked vehicle.
However, the courts often settle these cases by deciding both drivers are at fault. This means you are only responsible for repairing your vehicle and the illegally parked driver covering their repair costs.
Will Insurance Cover the Repairs
Whether or not your insurance covers repair costs to your vehicle and/or the illegally parked one depends on a few factors. If you only carry liability insurance, you will pay for your repairs out-of-pocket. Drivers with full coverage can submit a damage claim, but check your deductible amount. Sometimes, the deductible is higher than the repair costs.
You may also want to consider the extent of the damage—if it’s only a tiny dent or small paint scratch, it may be something you can learn to ignore. Regardless of whether you have liability or full coverage, your insurance will cover the amount the court awarded to the other driver.
While your insurance provider will save you the expense of paying for all, most, or half of the damage, be ready to see an increase in your insurance premiums. Some insurance companies will ignore the first accident, but almost all start raising rates after the second.
Save Time and Money By Paying Attention
You can avoid court costs, traffic ticket fines, lawyer fees, and repair bills by always paying attention to your surroundings. Accept the fact that some drivers will park illegally and watch for these vehicles—heck, maybe you even occasionally park unlawfully.
So save yourself time, money, and aggravation in the future, and always leave your vehicle in a legal parking spot.