What if I hit a car without knowing?

7 minute read Published on May 12, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

A closeup of a man's hands taking a photo with a phone of car collision

Have you ever accidentally bumped into a car while backing out of a parking spot? Or perhaps you came out of the grocery store to discover a dent in your car that wasn’t there before. These are examples of hit-and-run accidents. Generally speaking, it’s nearly impossible to hit another car without knowing it. However, sometimes, if we only lightly tap or brush up against another car, we may be inclined to drive off, thinking it’s no big deal. But the reality is that these small incidents are accidents, and if you leave the scene, it will be treated as a hit-and-run.

Hit and run accidents in Canada

Hit-and-run accidents are a reality, and yet fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime in Canada. That said, sometimes people panic or fear possible punishment, and so they drive off after getting into an accident. When people think of hit-and-runs, they probably think of someone fleeing the scene after a major car accident, but the reality is that even fleeing the scene following a small accident, such as after you hit a parked car, is still considered a hit-and-run.

While penalties may vary depending on which province you live in, hitting a parked car and failing to leave a note or contact the owner can result in the same type of hit-and-run charge as if you had gotten into a major collision and fled:

Penalties for hit-and-run accidents

Let’s get a little more specific about the penalties for hit-and-run accidents. In Alberta, failing to remain at the scene after hitting a parked car can result in a fine between $00 and $750 and three demerit points. Plus, since it will be considered an at-fault accident and accidents affect car insurance rates, you can expect your premium to be raised until the accident is no longer on your record, which can take up to three years.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, the penalties are even more severe. For failing to remain at the scene of an accident, you can be fined up to $2,000, face six months of jail time, have your driver’s licence suspended, receive six demerit points, and also have to face higher insurance rates for a number of years.

As you can see, the penalties for hit-and-run accidents across Canada are harsh. Don’t make the situation worse for yourself by fleeing the scene of an accident, even a minor one. Speaking of minor accidents, in addition to reporting the car accident, you should also call your insurance company after a minor car accident.

Reporting an accident after hitting a parked car

If you get into a collision, even if it’s with a parked car, you might be wondering what to do if you’re in a car accident. We outline the process below:

Stay calm

Staying calm is the first step. Do not panic. Assess yourself for signs of injury and call 9-1-1 if you require medical assistance.

Remain at the scene

Whatever you do, remain at the scene. While it can be tempting to drive out of the parking lot, doing so will only make it worse if you were responsible for the accident.

Report the accident to the police

The next step is to report the accident to the police. Not reporting a car accident can have serious repercussions. Plus, you’ll want the police report to use as evidence when you file an insurance claim down the road.

Leave a note for the owner

If you hit a parked car but the owner is nowhere in sight, you must leave a note. The note should include your full name and phone number so that they can easily contact you. If you do not leave these pieces of information on the note, you could still be charged with a hit-and-run.

Gather evidence

After leaving the note, but before leaving the scene, make sure to take some photos and videos. This will ensure that you have a record of the exact damage that you caused. This will come in handy when you file a claim with your insurance company.

Contact your insurance company to file a claim

The next step is to contact your insurance provider. They will instruct you on how to file a car insurance claim, as well as what type of claim to file. They will also investigate the accident. During the investigation, the insurance company will determine fault. In most cases, the driver who hit the other car will be deemed at fault. However, shared fault is possible if the car was parked somewhere illegally.

What should I do if I panicked and left the accident scene?

Panicking and fleeing the scene of an accident is something that can happen to anyone. If this happens to you but you later realize that fleeing was a bad idea, return to the scene of the accident as soon as possible. If you hit a parked car, it could still be there. This means that you still have a chance to leave a note with your contact information. You should also call your local law enforcement agency to inform them of the accident. Be honest and let them know that you were nervous and temporarily left the scene. Next, as you would after any accident, contact your insurance provider to inform them of what happened.

Is the driver always at fault when they hit a parked car?

Not always. Although most of the time, the driver who hit the parked vehicle will be found at fault for the accident. There are some cases where both parties could be deemed liable. For instance, if the car that was hit was parked somewhere illegally, then the fault may be shared between both drivers.

Will my car insurance rates go up after hitting a parked car?

Most likely, yes. If you report the car accident and it ends up on your record, then chances are your car insurance rates will go up the next time you renew your policy. This is because accidents that involve parked cars are usually at-fault accidents for the driver who hit the parked vehicle. At-fault accidents are the type that often result in insurance premium increases because they raise your risk level as a driver. As such, if you get into an at-fault accident with a parked car, you can expect your rates to be higher for a few years until the accident is no longer on your record.

Am I financially responsible for hitting a parked car?

If you are found liable for the accident, then yes, you will be financially responsible for the accident. In this case, you would likely need to file a third-party liability car insurance claim, which would help pay for the cost of the damage to the vehicle.

Can I leave the scene if I hit a parked car but there is no visible damage?

No. If you hit a car, even if you do not see any damage, you should never flee the scene without leaving a note. Why? There are many types of damage that a car can suffer, and many of them are not visible. Therefore, it’s possible that when you hit the vehicle, you damaged it internally. For this reason, you should still leave a note with your contact information, even if you do not see any damage on the car’s exterior.

Car insurance and hit-and-run accidents

Car insurance is designed to protect drivers against a whole host of risks, including property damage from accidents. If you accidentally hit a parked car and damage your vehicle in the process, you would likely need to file a liability car insurance claim to cover the cost of repairs to the other car, as well as a collision car insurance claim to cover the cost of the repairs to your car. Keep in mind that collision coverage is not mandatory in Canada, so unless you choose to add it to your policy, you won’t have it. In this case, the damage to your car would have to be paid for out of pocket.

Alternatively, if you are the victim of a hit-and-run and you have your own auto insurance plan, then you will be covered through uninsured automobile insurance, also known as hit-and-run insurance coverage. This type of coverage is designed to protect drivers who get into accidents with at-fault motorists who are uninsured, underinsured, or who flee the scene of the accident and are, therefore, anonymous. This type of coverage can pay for medical fees, repair bills, and more.

In terms of your insurance rates following a hit-and-run accident, whether or not they increase depends on who is found to be at fault for the accident. If you were the victim of a hit-and-run, then it is unlikely that you will be found liable for the accident. As such, your rates will probably stay the same. However, if you were the perpetrator of a hit and run or you hit a parked car, then the odds are high that you will be found liable, and as such, the accident will go on your driving record.

Get in touch with BrokerLink to learn more about what to do if you hit a car without knowing

If you still have questions about what to do if you hit a car without knowing, including whether it counts as a hit and run or if your insurance covers you, reach out to BrokerLink today. Any one of our fully licensed insurance brokers would be pleased to answer your questions, as well as provide ample information on how accidents, such as hit-and-run accidents, impact car insurance rates.

We can also take a look at your policy to make sure that you are getting the best coverage at the most affordable rate. We can shop around and compare rates from other providers, as well as recommend coverages that make sense for your needs. A few of the types of auto insurance we can help you find are:

If you’re ready to learn more about car insurance, contact BrokerLink today. We can give you a free car insurance quote in as little as five minutes. Reach out to us by phone, online, or in person at any one of our 200+ locations across Canada.

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