With the holidays in full swing, chances are you'll find yourself in crowded parking lots of various malls and stores. With an increase of shoppers, leads to an increase in the possibility of a car crash or a fender bender. If you hit, scrape or otherwise damage a parked car - or if you're the victim of an accident, don't panic. Here are some steps you will need to take:
If you're doing the driving:
- Don’t drive away—if another customer or a surveillance camera identifies you, you could be punished for a hit-and-run.
- Track down the other car’s owner. Head into the store and speak to someone at the customer service desk. Describe the car to the employee, and have them announce it over the store’s loudspeaker.
- Leave a note. If you’re unable to find the other driver, jot down basic information—your name, phone number and a brief explanation of the accident—and place it in a secure spot on the car. Write down the license plate number and take a photo of the damage if you have a camera with you.
- Call the police. Depending on how extensive the damage is, you may want to involve the police. They’ll document the accident and they can help you find the other car’s owner.
If you're the victim:
- Contact your insurance agent or an attorney. Let him or her know what happened as soon as possible. These professionals can help you determine the next steps.
- Record evidence. Take pictures of the damage with your phone or a camera, if you have one on hand. Try to do this before the cars are moved, to show the impact positions. This is important.
- Take thorough notes. If the adverse driver is still around, jot down his or her name, address, phone number, driver’s license number and insurance company. Gather as much information as possible.
- Talk to other people in the area. Ask if they witnessed anything. Also head back into the store and find out if they have security camera footage you can check.
If you're a witness:
Provide assistance. If the offending driver is gone, help the other driver document the damage. Give the driver your contact information, in case his or her insurance agent or the police need to contact you for further comment. Or, go into the store, tell a manager what you saw and give your name and contact information.
Whether you are involved or not, you can make the right decisions and help this process.
This is the heavy shopping season. Let’s be careful out there.