Car Parking Accidents, Insurance Nightmares & Driver Tips

Written by Kate Goldstone

You’re headed for Heathrow airport car parking, where you’re planning to leave your vehicle while you’re away. Or maybe one of the many enormous Gatwick car parks. Unlike parking your car on the street where it’s vulnerable to prangs, airport parking tends to be much safer and miles more secure, with security patrols, dogs, high fences and CCTV everywhere. Which is great news for travellers. But ordinary car parking isn’t always as safe. What if you’re parking outside the supermarket or in an NCP?

We thought it’d be useful to look at the high volume of incidents that occur in car parks, the vulnerability of parked cars, how insurance companies deal with claims, what you should do if you hit a parked vehicle or discover your car’s been pranged while parked.

Asda Car Park Crash Wrexham

Asda Car Park Crash Wrexham – from

How safe is parking in ordinary car parks?

According to the Daily Mail, “Prang and run bandits” colliding with other people’s cars when parked are responsible for a shocking £169 million in damage every year, a lot of dosh in anyone’s book. A fifth of the people who hit a parked car scarper without admitting what they’ve done, forcing innocent vehicle owners to foot the bill, and the average repair cost is breathtaking – a whopping £1800.

The insurer Accident Exchange reckons there are around 3.5 million car crashes every year in Britain, about 700,000 of which involve simple prangs to parked cars and half a million taking place when the damaged car’s owner isn’t around.

About 94,000 of the cowardly culprits get away with it, never to be traced. And while the £169 million consumer bill takes your breath away, the cost to insurers is even higher, with parked car prangs alone responsible for an astonishing £1.2 billion in repair bills. Ouch.

Worse still, it appears many of us, rather than trash our precious no claims bonus, would rather just pay for the repairs ourselves than make a claim. This more or less defeats the object of having insurance. Who benefits? The insurers and the prang-and-runners. It really doesn’t seem fair.

To add a layer of particularly nasty-tasting icing to an already nasty cake, uninsured and untraced drivers are responsible for adding an extra £40 a year to everyone’s motor insurance premiums.

Car Park Crash

Car Park Crash – from

Apparently 80% of prangs happen on the street, with just 20% occurring in car parks. And the situation is set to get worse as more and more cars take to the streets and parking spaces, especially in urban and suburban areas, become even harder to find.

Because more than a third of British households have more than one car, inner city off-road parking is already huge issue. Unless we manage to curb our national obsession with multiple car ownership, it’ll only get worse.

Insurers’ “referral fees racket”

Having worked in the insurance industry for many years, I know most of them will do anything they can to wriggle out of paying claims. According to the AA, the average motor insurance premium has increased a disgraceful 89% over the past four years, an increase that leaves inflation rates in the shade.  But insurance companies insist it isn’t their fault. According to them, fraudulent claims for hard-to-disprove injuries like whiplash are to blame, leaving the good guys pick up the tab.

A reporter for The Telegraph wanted to find out more about the way insurers handled claims, so he set up a crash and noted what happened. You can read his story here, but the point we found most interesting was the fact that insurance companies habitually ‘steer’ punters to their own networks of approved repairers, and it isn’t always to car owners’ benefit. Far from it.

If you want to get your prang repaired by your local garage, who you know and trust, you are perfectly entitled to… but your insurer might punish you for it. In some cases, refusing to use the insurer’s recommended body shop can mean you’re charged a ‘non approved repairer excess’ fee. Good grief. If that isn’t totally out of order, we don’t know what is. Even more of a disgrace, very few drivers even realise they have a choice.

Here’s what The Telegraph’s article says:

“If an insurance company can mend your car in one of their approved garages they can control the costs of that repair. This sounds a reasonable proposition – most drivers would want costs to be kept down if it meant their premiums being reduced. However, some body shop owners and car makers are concerned that because insurance companies and their agents are primarily concerned about keeping costs down, the safety of drivers is potentially being compromised.

Body shop owners would speak to us only off the record, but Volvo, on its own website, states: “Insurance companies are reducing costs by having non-genuine parts fitted or panels repaired rather than replaced, which may compromise the car’s safety integrity.”

A spokesman for the ABI strongly denied that drivers’ safety was ever compromised. In contrast, when you are the not-at-fault driver – and the insurance company passes on the bill to a rival firm – costs are driven up unnecessarily, it would appear. Documents submitted by Ford to the Competition Commission, which has started to investigate the industry, suggest that the average price of a repair for a not-at-fault car is £1,530, compared with £1,375 for an at-fault car. Many experts believe that the discrepancy is far wider.”

What should you do if you hit a parked vehicle?

First of all, stop. If you drive off, you’re committing an offence under the Road Traffic Act.

Turn off your engine and switch your hazard lights on. If someone is hurt, call 999.

If the crash isn’t serious or a car is blocking the road, call the police non-emergency number 101. All car accidents should be reported to the police within 24 hours. If you don’t bother you can be fined, given penalty points on your license or even be disqualified altogether.

If you’re involved in a car accident you’re legally obliged to give your name and address to anyone else involved. Don’t take the blame even if you were 100% to blame and don’t have a leg to stand on.

Car Parking Lot Damage

Car Parking Lot Damage – from

Some people say it’s OK to say sorry. After all, you probably are sorry, and the word ‘sorry’ doesn’t mean you’re admitting blame, it’s just a very human reaction. Others recommend you avoid saying sorry altogether, which could be tricky when you’re a born and bred, naturally polite Brit!

If you hit a parked car and the owner isn’t there, it’s your job to leave your contact details – a note under the windscreen wipers should do the trick. You should also gather as much information as possible from the driver themselves, if they’re there, and any witnesses:

  • names
  • addresses
  • contact numbers
  • motor policy details
  • whether they are the car’s ‘registered keeper’ and if not, who is
  • the registration numbers of every car involved
  • every involved vehicle’s colour, make and model
  • the crash time and date

If you can, also do the following:

  • make a simple drawing of the vehicles’ positions after the crash
  • note down the weather conditions and anything unusual about the road the crash happened
  • take a few snaps with your mobile
  • get the names of witnesses
  • get the names of any police on the scene
  • list the damage to all the vehicles involved
  • list any injuries to anyone involved, including passengers and passers by

If someone tries to do a runner without giving their details, call 999.

What should you do if someone else prangs your car while it’s parked?

According to the RAC, insurers usually offer a 50/50 settlement for car park collisions, but it’s up to you to prove who was to blame. If you can prove the pranger is 100% at fault, the RAC  recommends you claim on your insurance. On the other hand, an expert driver in the RAC forum says this:

“Don’t go for 50/50 easily but suggest you each pay your own damage. Claiming from the insurance will cost more in the long term.”

As another RAC forum member says:

“Just back from 4 weeks holiday in Cornwall. During our stay, on one occasion I was driving along a narrow road with passing places. As I approached a passing place, a young female coming towards me ignored the wider section that she was in, tried to pass in the narrow part, and our door mirrors collided. The clear plastic lens for the repeater indicator was broken in my mirror. Her mirror was undamaged.

We exchanged details, but a later phone call from “some unidentified male” claimed that her mirror was damaged and accused me  of speeding. Said he had visited the spot, and that he had found “glass” strewn around which proved I was speeding. This was a blatant lie, since I had picked up the broken lens bits and still have them in my car! He also claimed to have a witness.

It was a country road, and the only “witnesses” were my wife and the woman passenger in the other driver’s car. I called into the local police station, just to check if the driver was insured; which a WPC affirmed that she was insured. The WPC took the view that “he” realised that the insurers would go 50/50, and therefore it would be more economical to simply drop the matter and pay out for the repair; a view which, of course, is quite true.

So, a new lens assembly has cost me just over £25, and a further £41 if I don’t do the job myself. Reporting the matter to the insurer is a definite “no-no”. The total repair would be less than my £100 excess, so I would still have to pay for it, and, at renewal, my premium would suffer a permanent rise for “increased risk”!”

It seems crazy that people are avoiding making insurance claims because it costs them more in the long run. But I guess that’s the crazy world we live in. Until things change, it appears drivers need to think things through very carefully before deciding whether or not to claim for a prang on their motor insurance.

All car parking isn’t as safe and secure as something like official Gatwick airport car parking. So take extra care wherever you park.

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Your car park prang stories

Do you have any car parking prang stories to tell? If so, we’d love to hear them…

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