| Read Time: 3 minutes | Car Accidents

Can you get arrested for accidentally hitting a car in California? This depends on several factors under the state’s strict traffic rules. California maintains strict traffic rules to promote safety and efficiency for motorists and accountability for negligent drivers. Drivers who break California’s traffic safety laws may face serious criminal and civil consequences—however, the repercussions of violating a traffic law hinge on the facts and circumstances of the conduct.

For example, a person may or may not get arrested for accidentally hitting a parked or idled car. The outcome will depend on several factors, including whether the driver has a viable defense. If you have been arrested for a car accident or believe that you may be held liable, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn about your rights.

What to Do If You Hit a Parked Car

California car accident attorney

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles enumerates certain steps drivers must take if they hit a parked or idled vehicle. The most critical steps include:

  • Stopping immediately,
  • Trying to locate the owner of the vehicle and contacting law enforcement,
  • Leave a note with identifying information and
  • Provide identifying information to law enforcement. 

It is important to note that additional rules govern what to do if a driver hits an occupied vehicle or is involved in an accident that results in injuries. 

Penalties and Liability For Accidentally Hitting a Car in California 

Under California’s criminal justice system, in certain situations, a driver who accidentally hits a parked car can face misdemeanor or felony charges. Moreover, drivers may face civil penalties if they hit a parked car. Some consequences of hitting a parked car include the following:

  • Property damage liability,
  • Traffic citations,
  • Increase in insurance rates,
  • License suspension, and 
  • Personal injury liability. 

California drivers may be arrested for hitting a parked car in incidents involving the following:

  • Hit and runs,
  • DUI/DWI, and
  • Reckless driving. 

Although the accidental collision might not lead to an arrest, the surrounding circumstances can affect whether law enforcement will arrest the driver.

Defenses to Accidently Hitting a Parked Car

Various situations can cause a driver to hit a parked car accidentally. The leading causes of these incidents include environmental factors, misjudgments, and distractions. Generally, in California, motorists must avoid collisions with stationary objects, such as parked vehicles. As such, drivers in these situations are usually considered “at fault” for any resulting damages. However, under California’s “pure comparative negligence” framework, liability and compensation are divided relevant to each party’s percentage of fault. For instance, if you hit a parked car that was illegally or dangerously parked, the parked car’s owner may be partially at fault for the incident. 

Other defenses that may limit a driver’s responsibility for hitting a parked car include:

  • Unavoidable circumstances,
  • Vehicle malfunction,
  • Lack of damage, 
  • Emergency situations, or 
  • Impaired visibility.

Regardless, motorists must remain attentive and exercise caution to prevent these types of accidents. 

Potential Liable Parties in Car Accident Case

Drivers who accidentally hit a parked car should work with an attorney to determine whether other parties might be liable for the accident. Some liable parties in these types of cases may include:

  • The owner of the parked car,
  • The manufacturer of your vehicle,
  • The local municipality,
  •  The property owner, or
  • Another third party. 

These cases require a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of California’s complex personal injury laws. An attorney can help you discern whether any other party was responsible for the incident. Additionally, you may be entitled to compensation if you suffered injuries or damages after hitting a parked car.

Establishing Liability of the Owner of Parked Car

Proving that the owner of a parked car was liable for your injuries and damages can be challenging. However, the driver of a parked car may be partially responsible if they dangerously parked their car or parked their vehicle in a way that obstructed the view of moving vehicles. Evaluating the liability of the parked car’s owner is a crucial step that an experienced attorney can help you through.

Speak With One of Our Attorneys Today

If you are wondering, can you get arrested for accidentally hitting a car in California? You could likely use the assistance of an experienced California car accident lawyer. Getting arrested for a car accident is rare, but it does happen, especially in cases of drunk driving or reckless driving. Aside from the criminal liability aspect of the accident, you may also be interested in learning about your civil rights. For example, if another driver was at fault, you can pursue a personal injury lawsuit to help you cover your accident-related expenses. At the Law Offices of Ali Yousefi, we have extensive experience advising accident victims on maximizing their compensation. We provide free consultations, during which we will walk you through the litigation process, answer your questions, and explain how we can help. To learn more and schedule your free consultation today, call the Law Offices of Ali Yousefi. You can also reach us through our secure online contact form.

Author Photo

Attorney Ali Yousefi is the founder of Law Offices of Ali Yousefi, P.C., and has distinguished himself as one of the leading lawyers in California. Ali values that his work allows him to make a direct, positive impact on the lives of people who have experienced stressful or traumatic events.

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