Who Is Responsible When an Illegally Parked Car Is Hit?

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California is notorious for difficult driving, a high rate of uninsured drivers, and motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, not all drivers abide by the traffic laws, and some violate parking laws. When a driver illegally parks their vehicle, they could potentially block handicap access to nearby establishments, disrupt traffic flow if double-parked on the road, or otherwise disrupt the safe flow of traffic in the vicinity.

You might notice illegally parked cars as you make your way in your own vehicle, and it’s important to remember that if you hit an illegally parked car, you will still incur liability for the resulting damages. However, due to California’s pure comparative negligence law, you can reduce your financial liability by proving the car was parked illegally, thus proving the car owner’s negligence.

Who is responsible if you hit an illegally parked car?

How Does Comparative Negligence Work in California?

Most US states enforce a modified comparative negligence law. Under this system, a plaintiff who is partially responsible for causing their claimed damages in a personal injury case loses a percentage of their case award equal to their fault percentage. In a modified comparative negligence state, plaintiff recovery is prohibited if the plaintiff is 50% or more at fault. This is not the case in a pure comparative negligence state like California. It’s theoretically possible for a plaintiff to be 99% at fault and still recover 1% of their claimed damages.

If you hit an illegally parked car, it’s generally wise to assume that you will absorb most of the fault for the incident. The driver of a moving vehicle always has a higher duty of care than the owner of a stationary parked vehicle. You will likely be responsible for the resulting damages, but you can reduce your total liability by proving the car was illegally parked, thus establishing the parked car’s owner’s comparative negligence.

If you caused $20,000 in damages and the owner of the illegally parked car is found to be 10% at fault, they would lose 10% or $2,000 of the case award. This means you would be liable for the remaining $18,000 under the pure comparative negligence statute.

What to Do If You Hit an Illegally Parked Car

If you hit an illegally parked car in California, you must immediately report the incident to the police. California requires all drivers to report accidents that result in death, injury, or substantial property damage. If you are unsure whether you legally need to report an accident, it is always best to report it. This will prevent you from being charged with a hit-and-run and create an official police report of the accident that you may need later.

While waiting for police to arrive, take photos of the accident scene and make sure you capture pictures showing the other vehicle was parked illegally. Proof that the owner illegally parked the vehicle will reduce your overall financial liability, potentially resulting in substantially fewer damages than you would otherwise face.

Should I Hire an Attorney After Hitting an Illegally Parked Car?

It’s natural to have lots of legal questions after experiencing a car accident, especially one you caused. You’re likely worried about your liability and may wonder whether the owner of an illegally parked car will face any consequences for their negligence. Speaking with an experienced car accident attorney is a wise decision in this situation. Your attorney can help determine how much liability you will likely face for the accident in question. They may also assist you in filing an insurance claim if you qualify for any coverage.

Ultimately, accidents involving illegally parked vehicles often lead to contentious legal disputes. The owner of the illegally parked vehicle may deny any liability because their vehicle was parked, but the other driver is likely to contest their liability due to the illegal parking. The best way to approach this difficult type of accident case is by working with an experienced attorney.


Q: Will My Insurance Increase If I Hit an Illegally Parked Car?
Your insurance premium rate is based on the insurer’s perception of your risk level. When you cause accidents, this inherently increases your risk level in the eyes of your insurance company. Your auto insurance policy will likely stipulate how and when your premium rate will increase and what actions may increase insurance costs. Be sure to review your policy carefully, so you know what to expect.

Q: What If I Hit a Parked Car But Can’t Find the Owner?
If you hit an illegally parked car and cannot locate the vehicle owner, you are still expected to take responsibility for the incident. You should report the incident to the police and wait for them to arrive at the scene. They can create a formal report and help you identify the owner of the vehicle. If the accident was minor, leaving a note for the vehicle’s owner with your contact details should suffice.

Q: How Does an Insurance Company Determine Fault When an Illegally Parked Car Is Hit?
If you hit an illegally parked car, the insurance company will likely consider you at fault for the accident but will take the illegal nature of the parking into consideration. This is why it is crucial to take photos of the crash scene that show the vehicle’s position where the accident occurred. In addition, you can reduce your liability significantly if you can prove that the vehicle was illegally parked so that you have very little time or space to avoid hitting it.

Q: What Happens If You Hit an Illegally Parked Car and Leave?
If you cause an accident, even if it is with an illegally parked car, you have a legal obligation to take responsibility for the incident. If you leave the scene, you are committing a hit-and-run. Once the police locate you, you will likely be arrested and face criminal prosecution for hit-and-run. While you may wish to avoid liability for the accident, it is never worth risking a criminal conviction for hit-and-run.

The Kreeger Law Firm offers comprehensive legal counsel for car accidents in the Sacramento area. Whether your vehicle was hit while illegally parked or you hit an illegally parked car, we can provide the legal counsel you need to navigate the subsequent legal proceedings. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our team.