Parking collision and hit-and-run – that’s the legal situation

Hit another car in the parking lot in front of the supermarket? Then to drive away, can become expensive and even the driving licence cost.

  1. Hit and run – the most important facts in brief
  2. Hit and run – high number of unreported cases
  3. fine, driving ban, driver’s license withdrawal
  4. A hit-and-run accident is only committed by those who notice the damage
  5. Call the police or wait 30 minutes
  6. Expensive trouble with the insurance
  7. Shopping cart: Does private liability pay??
  8. Animal uber-fahren: No hit-and-run

Hit and run – the most important facts in brief

Late insight. If you hit a stationary car while parking or backing out of a parking space and then drive away, you may avoid a fine. You must report the accident to the police within 24 hours. The court will reduce the penalty or waive it altogether if the damage is less than 1,300 euros.

Strict reproach. If you are accused of hit-and-run driving, it may be worthwhile to call in a lawyer. Perhaps he can achieve the discontinuation of the criminal proceedings.

Holey legal protection. Legal expenses insurance initially covers the costs of defending the case. If you are convicted, however, the insurer will claim back the amount paid out. Differently it looks with an attitude: The insurance pays.

Hit and run – high number of unreported cases

Parking. A little misjudged when reversing or when getting out of the car, the door bumps against the car parked next door – and there are ugly scratches or dents. The impulse to drive away immediately is then great. © Adobe Stock / Marek Brandt

Every year, the police register between 250,000 and 300,000 hit-and-runs. How many exactly, nobody knows. As a rule, it is only minor damage for which the police do not keep any statistics. The Federal Statistical Office only records serious cases and those with personal injury: 40,480 in 2018.

Witnesses often report to the police

The number of unreported cases should therefore be enormous. Many victims do not notice the damage until days later or do not report it at all. But often the police can track down the culprit because witnesses saw the parking bump. "Accidental hit-and-run is an absolute perennial", reports the Berlin specialist lawyer for traffic law Marcus W. Gulpen. Who is caught, must count on drastic punishments.

Fine, driving ban, driver’s license revocation

Hit-and-run is not just a misdemeanor, but a felony. This can be expensive, depending on the damage:

  • Minor damage: The authorities can turn a blind eye to minor incidents. If there is no significant damage, the case is not prosecuted as a hit-and-run accident. Mostly a limit of 20 to 25 euros applies, some courts go even up to 50 euros. But: Even if it is only a bagatelle, one must pay the damage.
  • Property damage under 600 euros: Fine, often several hundred euros or discontinuation of proceedings and payment of a donation for charitable purposes.
  • Material damage of up to 1,300 euros: Fine, usually a maximum of one month’s net salary. In addition two points in Flensburg as well as one to three months driving prohibition. Some courts set the value limit at 1,400 or even 1,600 euros. With expensive passenger car it can lie still more highly.
  • Property damage over 1,300 euros: Fine of more than one month’s salary, three points, usually revocation of driving license.
  • Accidents with injured or killed persons: Prison sentences of several years are possible.
  • Driver’s license newcomers in the probationary period: For them it comes in addition that they must complete a Aufbauseminar and accept an extension of the probationary period.

Only direct consequences of the accident, such as repair costs, towing or loss of value of the car, but not rental cars, expert’s fees or loss of earnings, are counted in the above-mentioned value limits.

A hit-and-run accident is only committed by someone who notices the damage

A hit-and-run is only considered a hit-and-run if the driver also noticed the jostling, as a case of the Regional Court of Lubeck shows (Ref. 4 Qs 164/21). A car driver was driving through Lubeck with a long trailer when she hit a parked vehicle while turning and caused deep scratches and dents on it. The woman drove on until she reached her destination several hundred meters away. According to her information she did not notice the accident. At her destination, she was approached by a cab driver who had overheard the incident. He told her that the police had already been notified. The woman drove back to the scene of the accident. There she met neither police, witnesses nor the owner of the damaged vehicle. A few minutes later she drove home. The regional court found it understandable that she had not noticed the accident in view of the very long trailer.

Damage not recognizable

A driver in Wuppertal checked the car after it had been bumped, but found only a few scratches, which were obviously older. So he drove home. However, the owner of the other car noticed that the front bumper was crushed. 1 406 euros cost the repair. The insurance of the damaging party had to pay the fine. But the Wuppertal Regional Court acquitted him of the charge of hit-and-run driving. The damage to the bumper was not recognizable to laymen. Also the policemen had not seen it with the accident admission. This also shows that hit-and-run accidents are only committed by those who notice the damage (Az. 25 Qs – 722 Js 660/15 – 5/15).

"I didn’t notice anything" is not a good excuse

But simply claiming "I didn’t notice anything" is hardly convincing. This is considered a classic protection claim. Judges then often probe suspiciously, so that laymen inexperienced in court can easily get muddled up. As a rule, an expert is commissioned – often with the result that even a slight collision with another car was felt or heard.

A 76-year-old pensioner had to pay a fine of 750 euros. She had touched another car while backing out of the parking space. The damage amounted to 411 euros. The fact that it had confused the impact with the rattling of the wheelchair in the trunk, the courts did not take it from it.

Get out and have a look

Especially if you got out to have a look, "nothing noticed" is not a good tactic. An Audi driver had hit the neighboring car while parking. She got out, looked and then drove away. The Rheinbach District Court did not believe her explanation that she had not looked for the other car, but had looked for her cell phone and found it next to the other car. Consequence: a fine and two months driving prohibition (Az. 15 Ds 121/18).

One has the right to remain silent

The disadvantage of this excuse can also be that one admits to having been at the wheel. A lawyer might have advised not to make a statement about who was driving. Then the police must find out who did it. Witnesses often only recognize the number plate, not the driver. One has the right to remain silent. Also who assumes not to have caused the scratch or the dent at the strange vehicle, risks a criminal prosecution because of hit-and-run, if it turns out later that he was it nevertheless (regional court Saarbrucken, Az. 13 S 75/10).

Tip: You can find out what you should look out for when talking to the police in our special police check-up.

Independently. Objective. Incorruptible.

Call the police or wait 30 minutes

If a parking accident has occurred, you should call the police or wait on the spot until the injured party arrives. It is not enough to stick a piece of paper with your personal data under the wiper blade. The paper could be blown away by the wind or taken away by a stranger.

Wait at least 30 minutes

Who decides for waiting, must remain as a rule at least about 30 minutes, more surely are 60 minutes. In a supermarket parking lot, for example, it can be assumed that the damaged car owner will return within this time. Only then may you drive away, but you must report the incident to the police immediately, preferably on the spot by cell phone. The waiting period also applies if one is in a hurry because of an important appointment.

When things have to happen quickly, it is best to call the police immediately. The wait may be shorter if it is foreseeable that no one will come anyway, for example at night on a lonely country road. The Dresden Higher Regional Court found five to ten minutes to be sufficient when a man was hit by a car at around 2 a.m. in the morning.30 o’clock had crashed into the central guard rail of the motorway. In snowfall, hail and temperatures just above freezing, he did not have to expose himself to the danger of stopping longer on the hard shoulder of the autobahn (4 U 447/18).

Error: 24 hours period to the Nach-melmelde

It is a widespread misconception that it is sufficient to report the damage within the next 24 hours. Anyone who drives away is committing a hit-and-run offense, even if he reports a few hours later. This is only considered "active remorse", so that the authority can mitigate the penalty or even completely refrain from treating the driving away as a crime.

However, it only does so if the incident happened in stationary traffic, for example a parking bumper, and if it only caused damage of less than 1,300 euros. And: if the police already has knowledge of the incident, the active repentance comes too late.

No hit-and-run in the case of trivialities

Only in the case of minor damage the waiting period does not apply. An 83-year-old woman who had touched a tree and then driven home to call her insurance company from there got justice before the Magdeburg Regional Court: The tree had at most received small scratches on the bark, which are not uncommon on street trees (Ref. 11 O 1063/19).

Similarly, if a driver touches a guardrail and causes only minor scratches that could just as easily have been caused by rolling split (Ober-landes-gericht Hamm, Ref. 20 U 240/15).

But be careful: many things that look like trifles can cause expensive repairs. An Aston Martin driver crashed into the metal parapet of a subway entrance. He thought the damage was a trifle and drove away. The repair, however, cost 21,000 euros (Munich District Court, Az. 343 C 9528/14).

Not everyone has to stay

But not everyone involved in an accident commits hit-and-run when he leaves the scene of the incident. This was the decision of the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court in the case of a driver who had stopped on the road to turn off. His backer braked, another driver rear-ended him. Although the rear accused the front man, he parked and left. Rightly so. He had not caused the accident, but was only the cause of the driving errors of those behind him (Az. 4 Ss 181/03).

Tip: Who wants to avoid trouble, waits also in such cases for the police.

Expensive trouble with the insurance

The car insurance company is less merciful (see Stiftung Warentest’s comparison of car insurance). The insurance contract obliges car drivers to help clarify the facts of the case. A hit-and-run accident is the opposite of this – especially because the insurer can then no longer check whether alcohol-related impaired driving may have been involved, which is hardly verifiable after 24 hours.

Immediately inform the insurer

Even if one turns oneself in to the police the following day in active remorse, the comprehensive insurance may refuse or reduce the payment, decided the Higher Regional Court of Oldenburg (Ref. 3 U 2/03). It clarified: Drivers must report the accident immediately so that the insurer can check whether gross negligence is involved. In the case, the driver had left the road, knocked down a road sign, plowed through a front garden and damaged several trees and bushes. This third-party damage was only 270 euros. The damage to the car was much higher: 9,100 euros. He was left with these costs.

Also in the case of a driver who rammed a garden wall at night, then left the car with all its papers and went home before the police could determine whether he was intoxicated, the comprehensive insurance did not have to pay (Ober-landes-gericht Saarbrucken, Az. 5 U 424/08).

Third-party damage only minimal

The situation is different if the third-party damage is only minimal. The comprehensive insurance of an 83-year-old pensioner who had hit a tree had to reimburse 5,530 euros for the cost of repairing the car, because the tree had only suffered tiny scratches (Magdeburg Regional Court, Ref. 11 O 1063/19).

Motor liability wants up to 5 000 euros recourse

In addition, the own motor vehicle liability insurance makes trouble. The insurance company pays for the damage to the third-party car – in the case of the driver from Oldenburg, 270 euros. But she is allowed to claim recourse from her customer, so that he has to reimburse this amount to the insurance company. The recourse is limited to a maximum of 2,500 euros, in serious cases of hit-and-run to 5,000 euros.

A serious case is, for example, when people were injured or the driver must expect that people were injured (Heidel-berg Regional Court, Az. 3 S 26/13). The same applies if the driver covers traces after the accident or gives false information (Ober-landes-gericht Celle, Az. 8 U 79/09).

Who pays for my damage?

If the damaging party has gone the distance and cannot be identified, the victim is left with the damage. Who has a comprehensive insurance, can take this up. However, it subsequently downgrades the no-claims bonus. This can cost several thousand euros over the next few years. As a rule, victims are left to pay for minor damage caused by parking accidents.

Shopping trolleys: Does private liability pay??

If the shopping cart rolls away in the supermarket parking lot and scratches another car, many courts consider it a hit-and-run if you simply drive away. But this is controversial. It is important to know whether the scratch occurred during the operation of the car. Loading your own car with the groceries can be considered operating the car, but not if the mishap happens on the way from the checkout to the car.

In the first case, there is an accident and the motor liability insurance pays the third-party damage, but then downgrades the no-claims discount. In the second case the own private liability insurance would be responsible. The advantage of this is that there is no downgrade in personal liability insurance (see Stiftung Warentest’s comparison of personal liability insurance).

Running over an animal: No hit-and-run

Running over an animal is bad. But who does not stop, commits no hit and run. In the case of small wild animals such as foxes, hares, rabbits, hedgehogs or pheasants, the ADAC even advises against stopping. That the risk of putting oneself in danger while running around on the street is unnecessary, since the animals hit are usually immediately dead or so badly injured that they can no longer be helped.

It is different with larger animals. Accidents with game like deer or wild boar are reportable in many federal states. Already to spare the animal unnecessary agony, one should check and call the police. You should also check if you have a dog or a cat. Often the owners can be located. If the car has suffered damage in the collision, they may have to pay for it.

Tip: In the special deer accident read how to behave best after.

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waiting 30 minutes is not an alternative to police calls.

@Test-on-the-Leash: The rules outlined in our post above refer explicitly to motorists. But in § 34 Road Traffic Regulations it says:
After a traffic accident, everyone involved has
1. to hold immediately,
2. Secure the traffic and move aside immediately if the damage is minor,
3. Make sure about the consequences of accidents,
4. Helping injured people (Section 323c of the Criminal Code),
5. other parties present at the scene of the accident and injured parties a) to state that he or she was involved in the accident and
b) to give his name and address on request and to show them his driver’s license and vehicle registration and to give information about his liability insurance to the best of his knowledge,
6. a) to remain at the scene of the accident until he has made it possible, for the benefit of the other parties involved and the injured parties, for his person, his vehicle and the nature of his involvement to be established by his presence, or b) to wait a reasonable time under the circumstances and to leave his name and address at the scene of the accident if no one was willing to make the determination,
7. to make the findings immediately after the fact, if he is justified, excused or has left the scene of the accident after the waiting period (number 6 letter b) has expired. To do this, he must at least notify the authorized persons (number 6 letter a) or a nearby police station that he has been involved in the accident, and give his address, whereabouts and the license plate number and location of his vehicle, and keep it available for immediate determination for a time that is reasonable to him.
(2) Anyone whose conduct may have contributed to the accident according to the circumstances is involved in a traffic accident.
(3) Accident traces must not be removed before the necessary findings have been made.
In addition, the penal code takes effect with section 142 para. 1, which defines the hit-and-run: "A person involved in an accident who, after a road traffic accident, leaves the scene of the accident before he has made it possible, for the benefit of the other parties involved in the accident and the injured parties, to establish his person, his vehicle and the nature of his involvement by his presence and by stating that he is involved in the accident, or has waited a reasonable time under the circumstances without anyone being prepared to make the establishments, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or with a fine."
There is no mention in the law of which means of transport you use to get around. So if you are involved in an accident, don’t just walk away, whether you are on foot or in a vehicle. (PH.)

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