On the weekend, my motorcycle was knocked over. Over a ledge, actually. The lady that hit my bike claimed that it wasn’t her fault since my motorcycle shouldn’t be parked where it was in the first place. It was an unmarked spot, yes, but there were no signs that told me I shouldn’t be parked there. This leads to a broader question: Is it legal to hit an illegally parked car? Let’s find out.
I was visiting my sister at her apartment complex when I heard a loud crashing noise outside.
‘Please don’t let that be my motorcycle,’ I thought to myself. I ran out onto the balcony to see my beautiful green bike had been toppled over a short ledge with a young woman standing over it. She had backed her car into my bike, which was parked to one side of a tree; a spot that I have seen many motorcycles parked in the past. It was well away from the allotted parking spots for each apartment.
As I ran out to assess the damage on my now mutilated motorcycle, the woman apologised and admitted she couldn’t see my bike (even though it’s bright green…). But then she said: “It’s not my fault. Your bike shouldn’t be parked there”.
I resisted the urge to slap her, exchanged licence details and she drove off as I stood there weeping for my injured baby (yes, I love my motorbike that much). I couldn’t believe it. Surely even if my vehicle was illegally parked (which it wasn’t) that doesn’t give her the right to hit it.
Image: Picture taken right after the accident. Number plate and driver blurred out for obvious reasons.
I spoke to Andrew Sawkins, managing principal at Ligeti Partners, a law firm specialising in insurance and commercial dispute resolution, about this issue. He noted that just because a vehicle is parked illegally, doesn’t mean that the driver of the moving car can get off scot-free.
“There is an obligation for drivers to keep a proper lookout and, from there, the issue of contributory negligence may be raised,” he told Lifehacker Australia.
It depends on how you’ve parked the car and what time of the day the accident occurred. Obviously, if you’ve parked in the middle of a freeway at peak hour, then you’re just asking to be hit. But if it was a Clearway zone, that’s not as dangerous and if the matter does go to court, the presiding judge will take that into consideration.
“There is going to be an obligation for you to be careful when you’re driving. The obligation is on the driver of the moving vehicle,” Sawkins said. “The magistrate will portion liability accordingly based on the evidence at hand.
“With these situations, it’s difficult to say one party is completely at fault but in these situations, most of the time contributory negligence will be taken into consideration.”
The same applies to parked cars on private properties, such as in car parks.
Considering most people with a vehicle is insured in some way, these accidents are usually settled through insurance. If you’re uninsured or want to take matters to court because you think you’re 100 per cent in the right, then you’ll leave the decision of liability to the courts but bear in mind your legal fees might be significantly higher than the excess you’re required to pay for the accident.
As for me, I’ve already lodged my claim with my insurance provider. I’ve been told by the insurance company that it doesn’t matter whether I was at a designated parking spot or not. All that matters is that my vehicle was hit and damaged, so the woman is liable for damages through her insurance provider.
For those who think the woman got the raw end of the deal, consider this: if a vehicle is illegally parked or is parked in a way that obstructs your own vehicle, you can get that car fined or towed. You don’t have the right to hit the car and cause damage to somebody else’s property.
Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.