Is It Legal To Hit An Illegally Parked Vehicle?

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.


    ill be honest, i would be pissed if i was her, as i imagine she backs out of that spot most days when there probably isnt a bike there.

    on the flip side, if i was you, i would be equally pissed if not more (in terms of damages, you definitely got the raw end of the deal). interesting what the lawyers had to say about it. and you are right, there are other options instead of hitting another vehicle.

    hope it all turns out peachy.

      She has every right to be mad, but she really should look before she backs out of her parking spot. Every time. What if there was a small kid there? Situation could have been far worse. :(

        yeah definitely, i dont disagree with you. its crazy how complacent drivers can get when they do the same thing over and over, day in, day out,

        As a fellow biker, I find that there is no excuse for a driver to hit a parked vehicle.

      why would she be pissed, she stuffed up, because something is not normally there doesn't mean you dont have to look every time.
      The bike was stationary, the car was not.
      the car hit the bike, the bike did not throw itself under the car.

        complacency. i mentioned it above.

        Some people are so arrogant they can't conceive that they are at fault. I once had a similar situation where a lady reversed right into my car without looking where she's going. She also failed to give way when she should of. Instead of admitting her own fault or even stopping for a second to think about what she did, she immediately started yelling at me and tried to blame me for the crash. She also made a point of telling me that she's a doctor as if that's supposed to explain why I was wrong to let her crash in to me. All it did was reveal her hubris.

    I'm more interested in the question 'Is it illegal to hit a pedestrian whom is incorrectly crossing the road'. It seems motorists always get punished for blazé pedestrian behaviour.

      Sydney CBD on a weekend... tourists don't seem to understand how pedestrian crossing lights work...

        Any CBD, people run in front of cars all the time.

          Sorry what? I was lo0oking at my phone while crossing the street and didn't notice you.

        Try driving near a university where pedestrians walk out into traffic with all gaze on their phones, or where cyclists are enveloped in the music from headphones.
        My favourite is the quick turn onto the road by a pedestrian who has given no indication they're about to cross.

        Part of the problem is tourists expecting drivers to interact with pedestrians the same way the world over. I learnt very quickly in Spain that pedestrian lights and crossings are completely meaningless decorations to drivers.

          I know right? Spent sometime in Barcelona and crossing the road was a little scary.

          To be fair, their lighting system was different. It seemed that during off-peak times they flashed yellow as a caution to drivers - although none of them stopped for me..

      Yes, it is illegal to hit a pedestrian who is illegally crossing the road. It's one of the questions that you will need to answer correctly to get a learners permit, cars must give way to pedestrians always under any circumstances no matter what.

      Regardless of how enjoyable it may be, hitting idiots with your car is a crime.

        cars must give way to pedestrians always under any circumstances no matter what.
        There are times where pedestrians need to give way to drivers (such as when cars exit a roadabout).

          Pedestrians should give way in all kinds of circumstances, but the law is very clear on the fact that if you have it within your power to avoid hitting a pedestrian, then you ABSOLUTELY MUST DO SO regardless of whether you have right of way or not.

            Actually pedestrians have right of way in a lot of cases. If a car is turning left or right into another street, a pedestrian has right of way (unless there is a red man) except if it is a roundabout. Most drivers don't know that rule though and drive and often almost hit pedestrians who are crossing the street.

        To clarify, it's a crime against Australian law.
        And you really shouldn't do it.
        But it's still an outstanding implementation of Darwinian law! :)

      At bartending training we had some cautionary tales drummed in on what happens if you don't adhere to the RSA. One such example was a car hitting a drunk who staggered out into the street. When it all came out in the wash, responsibility for the accident wasn't put on the driver, or the drunk, but the publican who served the drunk.

      You can never, ever, ever rely on the law to be based on common sense or reason.

        You can't rely on common sense. Everyone's common sense is different. Common sense is a personal opinion on something. Hence why the laws you stated are based on a chain of responsibility gained through recognised training not a personal opinion of the situation.

        Your situation could also fall in to duty of care. You are serving a regulated substance so you have a duty of care it is going to be used in a manner that doesn't bring harm to the customer or others.

        Last edited 12/04/16 12:08 am

        RSA just means, you get abused if you cut them off, you get fined if they get too drunk. Arguably one of the worst ideas ever now that you can blame somebody else for getting drunk and being stupid.

        Before RSA if you had 6 rums, skulled them and went and pissed on a Police car you where an Idiot. Now with RSA if you tell me you're buying a round for your 5 friends, but skull them yourself and take a piss on a Police Car I'm at fault.

        If you're in the Pub, loudly celebrating your 16th Birthday and ask for Drinks and I ask for ID which you don't have. You get your mates to threaten to Bash me, and when Security kicks you all out your Dad tells me he's a Lawyer and I'm going to be sued for Discrimination, right up until I point out that he'll need to prove his arsehole of a son is 18 and was carrying valid ID at the time. I also helpfully pointed out that if he knew his Underage Son was drinking he could be fined.

        And this ruined my dream of owning a Bar, the realisation that Drunk People are mostly Arseholes and that a Bar would be full of them.

      This is really important: If you hit a pedestrian who was j-walking, obviously the police will be on the scene at some point. You NEED to ask the officer to issue the pedestrian a ticket for j-walking, as this establishes the fault of the pedestrian if the matter goes to court. It seems cold, but if someone is reading facebook on their phone and steps out in front of you off the curb, you don't want a nasty lawsuit coming your way for their negligence.

      Source: I used to be involved in a young-driver training program, and the police would always talk about this whenever they came in as guest speakers.

    Working in Car Parks has taught me that people don't look behind them they rely on rear view mirrors and parking sensors rather than turning their head.

    I've also seen that most people won't even begin to turn their steering wheel until they are out of the parking spot. She looks like she back out then turned rather than beginning the turn while backing out.

    I've had people back into me while I'm beeping the horn and flashing my lights at them and still tell me it's my fault for being there. Backed into me 3 times before she looked. Had the whole thing on Camera and got paid out by her insurance company. She kept sending me bills for her repairs for a year. Her Husband the Lawyer said he'd see me in court but I don't think it's going to happen as that was 2013.

    People will blame you if they rear end you at a red light. Nobody takes responsibility for their actions anymore. Or try and put partial blame onto you because the Accident is 40% my fault for stopping at a Red Light next to a turning lane which was moving. The Police interrupted it as being 100% his fault as did the Insurance Companies.

    My Commiserations for the Bike, hopefully it can be repaired so you'd never know it took a hit.

      She kept sending me bills for her repairs for a year. Her Husband the Lawyer said he'd see me in court...

      That's hilariously annoying.

        2 Bills a Month, 11 months worth of it. That's just under $10 worth of stamps. Plus the calls to my Mobile to see if I got the letter, and to tell me she's giving me a chance to avoid court costs.

        But yeah it was funny at first (After my repairs where done) but annoying in the end. I Blocked her number after the Lawyer told me it's going to court.

        Last edited 11/04/16 5:50 pm

          I think they knew full well that they were in the wrong, but were hoping to bully you into paying their repair bills. Good on you for not giving in.

      It's amazing how often people do not bother to use any method of checking behind them before reversing. In my experience the worst offenders are in SUV type vehicles are high above the ground. They don't see my car (mid-sized sedan), can only imagine what would happen if there was a child or animal behind them in a home driveway.

        That might be a case if their car rather than not looking larger vehicles do have bad blind spots. My mates black 300c was reversed into the side of in a car park at night. After the accident and his I couldn't see you. She hopped in his car looked in his rear view. Couldn't see her car either.

    I sometimes wish I could knock over the motorcycle that parks right in front of the fire exit to my apartment building! How's that for illegally parked.

      Or you could take photos and send it to the council.

        If it is a legal fire exit, it would be better to contact the fire department, it would be in violation of building code and fireies can shut down a building if needed, that bike would be towed faster than you can start the engine.

          I know that's true for public places or places open to the public. But I take this is private property.

    Whilst I recognise the woman should have taken more care when reversing, you clearly should not have been so arrogant and lazy to have parked there in the first place. I will say as a general rule motorbike riders are extremely arrogant when it comes to parking. You always see bikes, particularly Harley's, parked up on footpaths and such because they think they have more rights than everyone else or something.
    In a fair insurance world I would like to see, in such situations, a percentage of blame be given to both parties. For example the woman could be given 60% for not taking due care when reversing and you could be given 40% for being a dick and parking where you clearly should not have. So you both go to your respective insurance companies, they work out the total bill for both and hers pays 60% and yours 40%.

      Motorcycles are allowed to park on footpaths as long as they're not blocking access ways and the entire footpath...

      Or you could you know learn the laws that say bikes can park on footpaths if they don't impede pedestrian traffic.

      Do you really take note of all the makes and models that park on footpaths, or are you just assuming it's mainly Harley's? P.S it's entirely legal to park motorcycles on footpaths in many parts of Australia. Perhaps check the facts before being so critical and applying stereotypes.

    Well at least one good thing may come of this, you might be able to upgrade to something bigger. What would you buy if you could?

      Wanted an MT07 but I love my Z300 too much to let it go!

        Why the Mt? What is it about that bike that you like? I like the mt10, it looks cool, great engine, hopefully it will get a lot of optional extras so I can personalise the bike. I understand the attraction you have to your z but that will pass and you'll be glad you traded up.

          I like the look of it and it's well built for a bike that doesn't cost a fortune :)

        MT07 is an awesome LAMS bike, and the non LAMS one would be brilliant!

        Sorry to see your baby hurt. I'd be /PISSED/ if it happened to my bike.

        Stay safe, shiny side up :)

    The fact that the bike was parked illegally shouldn't matter. As the driver of a moving car she should have been paying attention and been aware of everything around her. Judging from the photo, it doesn't look like she would have missed seeing the bike if she had been looking and paying attention. She's lucky that this time it was a bike and not a pedestrian.
    Also, that looks like a needlessly large amount of space used to reverse out of a parking spot, especially considering it's a small car.

      Just because it's small doesn't mean it has a good turning circle. I've got a small car at the moment and it's turning circle is huge. Where as some larger cars. Eg 90's commodores had the smallest turning circle for a large car and smaller than a lot of small cars for the time.

    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.

    Pretty much the crux of it there.

      Is this actually correct? I didnt think you could have someone elses car towed, despite what signs might say at privately owned places.
      For example: There has been an abandoned car parked at my work carpark for at least 3 years now.
      Perhaps this would be a good follow up article?

      Last edited 11/04/16 9:31 pm

        I know first-hand you can have your car towed from driveways in Brisbane. And even if it's too close to a driveway, parked on the side of the road.

          Parked on the side of the road, and/or on the crossover (council land) is very different to being on the private land that potentially was the case here.

        Melbourne here. there was a car towed from near my house for parking half on the footpath all the time. Someone must have rung the council.

        What measures has you're work pursued?

          No clue, but its underground and the car has been there as long as I've been working there (with a matching layer of dust)

    This happened to my first bike once. Difference was that it was a co worker that did it and the bike fell into some bushes instead. No damage, just a sheepish colleague.

    This reminded me of a bus trip home from high school years ago.

    We were just approaching a stop and I could see a car just parked in the bus stop. It was *clearly* visible for a good hundred metres up the highway, so I was sitting there wondering where the hell the bus was going to stop because of this idiot. Apparently the bus was going to stop in the same place it always did and bugger the car :P.

    There was no impact for the passengers just a god awful noise before the bus got to where it wanted to be and stopped :P. Of course then absolutely everyone got out too take a look. The bus was sporting a long and nasty scratch..... The little hatchback on the other hand basically had it's side torn off.

    There's no way in hell the bus driver didn't see the car there, I saw it and the 3 friends with me at the time saw it long before the bus had to steer *into* the car to hit it :P I figured the driver had just had enough that day and cracked it... Can't imagine it went well for him career wise in the long run though...

    Thankfully this was all at my stop, so once my friends and I had gawked a bit we just wandered off home... I imagine it may have been stuck there a while dealing with paperwork and stuff that would have (understandably) shat the other passengers.

    Probably worth noting, while I found all of this extremely amusing at the time I am actually on the authors side on this... Just because something has pissed you off/someone is doing something stupid or wrong, doesn't give you permission to break crap that's not yours...Kinda thought that was something we were all taught in pre-school? ;)

    Last edited 11/04/16 9:20 pm

      I think we've all wanted to be that bus driver at some point in our lives. He is living the commuter's kama dream

      A friend of mine was parked in a legal carpark with about 5mm of his car overhanging a bus stop. A bus sideswiped his car while stopping, and was found at zero fault.

    That is shit! Poor bike. Thankfully you were not on it.
    It shouldn't matter. Bikes are small enough to be parked many places without it being a nuisance to anyone. That is not a free pass to damage any bike parked somewhere someones thinks it shouldn't be.
    Insurance companies will say things like 'never admit fault' but shit, if you reverse into something and destroy it, have the decency to say you fucked up.

    Good luck with the claim

    That's really awful! How badly damaged is the bike, Spandas?

    "All that matters is that my vehicle was hit and damaged, so the woman is liable for damages"

    This is not a surprising response from your insurer, as in my experience, insurance companies do not take contributory negligence into consideration as would be the case in a small claims tribunal. The driver of the car ought to make a claim through their insurer, but withdraw it if the insurer insists the car driver is at fault. Your insurer will then send a letter of demand to the car driver directly. If the car driver does not pay, in NSW it would cost the insurer in the order of $190 to start a case in a small claims tribunal. As Andrew Sawkins of Ligeti Partners points out:

    "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"

    Lets say the your bike requires $2000 worth of repairs. For arguments sake, lets say the magistrate says the car driver is liable for 50% of the damages ($1000). Assume a completely random amount for your insurers legal fees of $1000, and the magistrate awards maximum costs against the car driver ($601.92 in NSW). That would mean that it would cost your insurer $190 (court costs) + $1000 (legal fees) -$601.92 (costs awarded) + $1000 (50% of repair costs) which totals $1588.08, or 79% of the cost of just absorbing the total repair cost of $2000.

    If these figures are in the ball park, I can't imagine your insurer will pursue the car driver for a potential savings of $411.92, which could easily reduce to zero if the legal fees are higher, the magistrate apportions less than 50% of the liability to the car driver, and/or the driver makes a counter claim for damages to their vehicle.

    Oh, but I'd love to see you make the argument to the magistrate that:

    'It was an unmarked spot, yes, but there were no signs that told me I shouldn’t be parked there'

    I'll bet there were no signs in the foyer of the complex telling you you couldn't park your bike there, but you didn't. I wonder why that was?

    Anyone else think that is a weird car park layout? like where the car park are is higher than the concrete area where her bike fell down to, if a car reverse too far and down the ledge, they would've got stuck. But then, only ignorant driver/s wouldn't see that, like how she didn't see the bike parked there.

    As a motorcyclist, I feel your pain - I really do. But behind spots where cars are going to reverse doesn't seem like the best place to park a bike. :(

    I would also dare say that bike will be a repairable write-off. Falling over the kerb like that is particularly nasty, will p;robably be at least ~$5-6k repair.

      Plastics, mirrors, bar ends. Won't be took bad. I had similar on a zx6 was about 3.5k that was with candy apple paint.

    You park your bike across my driveway and it likely to get hit. Depending on my mood, it may also get dragged into the middle of the road and set on fire.

      Don't worry, we wont drag your car out of your garage/carport when we set it on fire and take your house down with it! :D

      Lol, don't block my driveway but I'm happy to block the road.

    If we change the situation, the lady who backed into your motorcycle would look ridiculous.

    Say you are standing on the street. Another person comes up and pushes you to the ground. They cannot use the idea that just because you standing where others a walking, it is ok to be assaulted.

    My thought on this matter, Thank God it was a bike it cold so easily have been a small child, the woman clearly didn't bother to look.

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