Parking Lot Hit-and-Run


Last week, a fellow member of the human race decided to nail my car in the parking lot and flee like the little…all right, I promised myself I wouldn’t rant. We’ll keep it PG.

All things considered, this wasn’t a bad introduction to the “system” (police, insurance, repair shops, etc.), as I’ve never had an accident before. I would imagine it’s probably nothing compared to hitting something/someone on the open road.

Nevertheless, the coward (oops, there I go again) that did over $1K in damage to my ride and got away with it is somewhere out there with really bad karma due up. Good riddance.

My emotional range that day went something like this:

  • Shock. What the heck?
  • Anger. Who the heck?
  • Frustration. There’s nothing I can do?
  • Acceptance. Oh, well, let’s write some blog posts.

The first important thing I did was try to figure out where the damage happened and who could have done it (though I have to say that jumping to conclusions prematurely isn’t good either—my initial hunch was wrong).

The second thing I did was call the police to get a report put together, mostly because of the hit-and-run nature of the incident. I didn’t want to run up against time limits for reporting the crash in case I found the culprit later.

Finally, I had to figure out whether to involve insurance in the claim. FMF hit the nail on the head the other day in his recent series:

“We buy insurance to cover potentially catastrophic problems and we make claims only as a last resort.”

To help out with the decision, I got an estimate from the local body shop. With the work coming in at $1,200 and a deductible of $1,000, it’s almost a no-brainer to pay out of pocket, since my premiums are likely to go up after any kind of claim.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are a few tips for dealing with a hit-and-run in the parking lot:

  1. Get someone else involved. You honestly need an objective person to keep you level-headed through this. You’re already angry or upset, and trying to decide what to do can be challenging.
  2. Act quickly. I’ve since heard stories from friends where 10 minutes made the difference between catching who did it and not. Even if you never do, be mindful of the “promptness” required for reporting things to police, insurance companies, etc. if you expect to make a claim.
  3. Get a quick estimate. Drive over to a body shop as soon as practical and figure out how much the damage will cost you. Since insurance companies require you to tell them about an accident “promptly,” waiting several days might result in a lost claim.
  4. Think twice about claiming. Or even calling your insurance company to ask, which can still go on your record. Any claims are likely to increase your insurance premiums, so consider your deductibles and other downsides before making the decision.
  5. Get over it quickly. Seriously, I know it sucks and you want to strangle the jerk who did it, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever find him/her. Forgive, forget, and accept it as a bad part of car ownership. Plus, karma will come around. 😉
  6. Sit on the repair for a few days, if you can. Sometimes, the car is simply not drivable, but if it is, try to wait. Trust me, the damage always looks better on the second day, and like no big deal on the third. Don’t let emotions push you to accept the first repair offer you get just because you want to get it fixed. You’re more likely to make a good choice from a more relaxed state.

Above all, cherish the fact that no one got hurt and you’re still alive to get mad about it. 🙂 Best of luck if you have to deal with this!

Photo by Dr. Keats

14 thoughts on “Parking Lot Hit-and-Run

  1. Sorry to hear about the accident, Wojo. As a one-time hit and run victim (the front of my car was hit and the light shattered and hung out from its casing) I feel your pain.

    A side note about karma: my wife accidentally side-swiped a parked car one day. She wasn’t happy, obviously. But rather than go about her way, she left a note for the car and promptly paid the repair cost when she spoke to the car’s owner.

    A few weeks later, we were at a casino and she managed to win back the cost she paid for the repairs … and then some.

    That Christmas time, the car owner sent her a candy basket for being so honest.

    It’s tough to make the right decision in stressful times (especially when you are to blame), but the right decision is always the one to make.

  2. Ugh, that’s awful. I was involved in a hit and run on the road, so I’m familiar with those same emotions. That person will get his/her due, eventually.

    Great tips. I wouldn’t have even thought of not making a claim, but that makes sense based on your deductible.

  3. Sorry to hear this. First, most insurance companies don’t count accidents against you, unless the damage exceeded 1,200 net to insurer. Check with your agent.

    Second, this brings a point about auto insurance. You can save a lot of money by checking less known insurers. Each state’s insurance regulator compiles a list of prices for a hypothetical 45 yo male. From that list you can see that there are many more insurers besides big 7 that heavily advertise. For example, my parents in law just got insurance from Erie at about 30% below the market and 25% below geico. Your mileage may very….

    Finally, returning back to deductible issue. Check with your insurer, you may be surprised just how little extra it costs to switch from 1000 deductible to 100 or even 0 for some companies.

    Hope these tips will help you recover some money on future insurance savings.

    PS: always have your homeowners policy and auto with the same insurer. Besides savings, if both policies at play(eg you back into your house) only the largest deductible will apply….

    1. Thanks for the tips! We definitely evaluated all the deductible options but maybe need to re-visit that.

  4. 1) One more tip might be to add your insurance company’s app to your smartphone. When we were sideswiped recently, having it at the ready made things so much easier.

    and 2) I sure as heck hope that the car in the photo isn’t your car! ;-P

    1. 1) If I still had my smartphone, I definitely would! Alas, it was $100 a month I didn’t need to spend.
      2) No. 🙂

  5. I would like to comment on emotions in emergencies. While I waited for a light, a terrible accident occurred, the car came at my head on, and missed me by inches. I was falling to pieces as I tried to describe things to the police. Now, I tell myself get the story calmly to the proper people, then have the meltdown, and ice cream if needed.

  6. Parking lot hit and runs happen a lot because people think that they can get away easily by doing this, but most of the time they get caught

  7. I was told that if it is not your fault your premium and the monthly payments would not go high.

    Isn’t that true?


    1. As far as I know, that’s true. However in this case, this would likely come out of either my comprehensive coverage or my uninsured motorist coverage, and I didn’t want to chance the increase just to save a few hundred bucks.

  8. I am on the other side in a similar situation and it would be great if I get any pointers from you about what I should do next.

    While backing out of an open parking lot in a snowstorm on a Friday, I thought that I ran into a mound of snow. I did feel a little bump at that time, but nothing big. I looked outside and could not see anything because it was 5:30 in the evening and the snow was coming down really hard. So I drove off to the airport that was an hour away. After coming back home, I noticed that the corner of my rear bumper was cracked. So the next morning I first called the parking lot authorities who said that nobody reported any damage. Then I called the local police department to find out if any reports were filed and the police told me that a person had reported damage to his car’s mirror at the same parking lot. The police took my name and number and said that they would pass it on to the other party. Since I did not receive a call from the other party that day, I called the PD again the next day (Sunday) and got the party’s name and number and called them 8 times over the next two days to offer my financial help in solving this. I left 3 voice-mails as well. However, the other party never responded back. What should I do ? I am extremely worried that this will become a case of hit-and-run. I drove away because I could not feel any noticeable bump or anything when driving over 9 inches of snow and I had to get to the airport to pick up my wife. What is the best course of action for me now ?

    1. It sounds like you’re definitely trying your best to make things right, which is great. Why not contact your insurance provider and give them the name of the other party so they can start a claim with the other person’s insurance? That could be one way to do it.

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