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What Should I Do If I Accidentally Hit or Scratch a Car in a Parking Lot?

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vehicle car dent damage accident scratch fender body

Parking lots are danger zones for potential disasters. From drivers blindly backing up to pedestrians darting among cars to shopping carts on the loose, there’s always something lurking among the parking spaces.

If your bumper accidentally collided with a nearby parked car, or your door damages another, or your shopping cart swipes someone’s side mirror off, the temptation is to drive away and not say/do anything if no one’s around. But if you’re a responsible person, this is how you should handle a parking lot accident.

  1. First of all, don’t flee after the damage has been done. Not only is it unethical (remember the Golden Rvehicle car dent damage accident scratchule), security cameras may have seen you and can lead to a hit-and-run charge.
  2. Start by tracking down the owner of the car you’ve damaged. Wait a couple minutes to see if the owner leaves the store and approaches the vehicle. If no one appears, enter the store and speak to an employee–preferably with customer service–and have the vehicle’s information (make/model and color) paged over the speakers.
  3. If you are unable to locate the damaged vehicle’s owner, obtain a pen and paper to write a note containing an apology, your name, your phone number, and an explanation of what happened. Don’t provide any sensitive personal information that may be stolen by a passerby. Then, stick the note somewhere secure where it won’t blow away or get wet. Depending on the weather, most people put it under a windshield wiper, through a gap in the window, in the door handle, or taped to the car.
  4. Before you leave, take pictures of both vehicles and note the damaged car’s information (license plate number, make/model, unique characteristics, etc). You need to protect yourself in case the car’s owner decides to purposefully cause more damage to their vehicle in hopes of milking you for more money.
  5. Based on what you discuss with the other party, you can mutually decide if involving your insurance companies is the best solution (depending on the severity of the damage). Some insurance companies may require you to report any damage or collisions no matter how severe.
  6. If it’s more than a scratch, you should probably file a police report. While most law enforcement won’t actually come to the scene physically, they may still take your information for an accident report. You can also find a security guard that patrols the parking lot and have them write up an incident report.

Sources: State Farm, Injury Claim Coach