What do I do if I hit a parked car and don’t know who owns the vehicle? What if I hit someone’s mailbox or other property and it is late at night?
When I recently spoke to a pre-law class, a high school student asked the question, if nobody is looking, can I leave the scene? The answer is no, but you can leave the scene after leaving behind some valuable information. Washington State Law requires the following:
Leave a Note
RCW 46.5.010, titled, Duty on striking unattended car or other property speaks to this exact scenario. The statute discusses the requirements of a driver and the potential penalties. The statute can be read in its entirety here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.52.010
Here are the highlights. If you hit an unattended vehicle you must:
- immediately stop
- shall then and there either locate and notify the operator or owner of such vehicle of the name and address of the operator and owner of the vehicle striking the unattended vehicle, or
- shall leave in a conspicuous place in the vehicle struck a written notice, giving the name and address of the operator and of the owner of the vehicle striking such other vehicle.
In addition, if you strike someone’s property, like a mailbox or fence, you are required to do the following:
- take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of such property of such fact and of the name and address of the operator and owner of the vehicle striking such property, or
- shall leave in a conspicuous place upon the property struck a written notice, giving the name and address of the operator and of the owner of the vehicle so striking the
- such person shall further make a report of such accident as in the case of other accidents upon the public highways of this state.
A failure to adhere to these requirements is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Take a Picture
If you find yourself in this position and you are merely leaving your information in a conspicuous place-I’d highly recommend using a camera phone. Take a picture of your information left in a conspicuous place as proof you followed the law. In Washington, a rainstorm could wash or blow away this information. The last thing you want is to be charged with a misdemeanor for not following the law. The photo could be used as evidence to prove you followed the law.