California drivers who strike other vehicles must stop no matter how little damage is done. It’s a requirement explained in California vehicle codes. Failure to comply can leave guilty parties facing criminal charges and expensive fines.

Leaving the scene of an accident that injures someone can leave motorists facing felony hit-and-run charges. But if only property damage results, drivers are still legally obligated to accept responsibility and act to make it right.

What To Do After Hitting a Car and Causing Property Damage

Careless drivers on California boulevards and highways can cause devastating accidents. But sometimes a collision will only put a dent in a car door, or smash in a bumper. Drivers may wonder what their duty is to the other driver, especially if the damaged car was parked and unoccupied.

California actually requires motorists to do everything possible to contact the owner of the car and take financial responsibility. There are a few other things expected of drivers as well.

Steps You Must Complete After Hitting a Car in California

California Vehicle Code § 20002 explains the first thing drivers should do when they realize they’ve struck another car.

“(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists. Moving the vehicle in accordance with this subdivision does not affect the question of fault…”

The code goes on to lay out the exact steps drivers should take after striking a car and causing property damage:

  • Pull over at the first safe opportunity to do so
  • Attempt to locate the owner
  • Present driver’s license and other information
  • Leave a note if the driver or owner can’t be located
  • Contact local police and report the collision

What If I Can’t Find the Owner of the Car That I Hit?

After striking a parked car, it may be very hard to determine where the owner is. The person may be in a restaurant or store or in a home nearby.

If, after a reasonable effort to find the driver or owner, they can’t be found, drivers are required to leave notice of what happened.

Vehicle Code § 20002 instructs drivers to take these extra steps:

“Leave in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other property damaged a written notice giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle involved and a statement of the circumstances thereof and shall without unnecessary delay notify the police department of the city wherein the collision occurred or, if the collision occurred in unincorporated territory, the local headquarters of the Department of the California Highway Patrol.”

What Are the Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident

Drivers who strike vehicles to cause property damage can face misdemeanor charges if they don’t follow the required steps to notify victims and police of what happened.

A conviction would mean the possibility of up to 6 months in a county jail or probation. A fine of up to $1,000 could be tacked on. Reimbursement for property damage could also be expected.

A hit-and-run involving a hit-and-run causing injury or death will result in much more serious consequences. Victims convicted of misdemeanor hit-and-run could have to serve up to a year in jail and pay up to $10,000 in penalties. A hit-and-run felony conviction carries up to 4 years in state prison and other penalties.

Contact a Ventura County Car Accident Lawyer

If you are injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver, or you are being blamed for an accident you didn’t cause, reach out to Quirk Law Firm and schedule a free consultation. This is a no-obligation opportunity to discuss your case with a real Ventura County car accident lawyer.

We help injured accident victims demand the support they need to pay medical bills and rebuild their lives. Quirk Law Firm aggressively goes after unhelpful car insurance companies and forces them to provide what’s fair for victims. Our skilled legal team handles every frustrating communication with insurance adjusters so you can focus on getting better.