Bumped into car in parking lot

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Bumped into car in parking lot

I bumped into a car in my apt’s parking lot, left a few scratches on the bumper
of the other car. The other car’s wheel is on the lane could this possibly be
the owner’s problem. The scratches are small and unnoticeable but I felt bad
for the other owner and since the owner is my neighbor so I left a note with my
name, contacts saying that I had caused the accident. I thought I will probably
just give the owner a couple hundred dollars for repairs. Now the other owner
comes back at me with a 1,500 bill from an auto-shop. I told the owner that I
will be unable to provide such amount right away. The owner says she will file
police reports and file claim against me if I do not pay since the apology
note I left basically admitted my fault. My insurance deductible is 1,000. No
matter I use the insurance or not, it will give me a hard time as such amount
is hard to come by. I don’t think the bill is reasonable either as it might be
from an expensive body shop. I was just trying to do the right thing now it all
hits back at me. What should I do now? Should I just file a claim with my
insurance? I took pictures of the scratches and stuff but I was dumb and did
not take any pictures of her licence plate or VIN, now her car has been gone
from the lot for two days

Asked on September 15, 2017 under Accident Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You are liable for  the full cost to repair all damage you caused by hitting her stationary vehicle: it is negligent, or unreasonably careless, to hit an unmoving object, so it is clear that you are at fault, and your fault makes you liable. 
If you believe this is too expensive, ask her to get another quote or two, including from a shop your recommend; tell you are willing to pay, but want to confirm the price with additional estimates. If she is unwilling to do that, you can refuse to pay and let her take whatever actions she deems are appropriate (e.g. suing you for the money); at some point, she will have to prove (e.g. in court) the cost of the damage to collect it from you if you do not voluntarily pay. 
Note that she does have the right to be paid right away--if you owe money, you owe it; the person who owes cannot determine when it will be paid--but it's in her interest to work it out voluntarily with you rather than go through legal process: if you can or do agree on price, try very hard to work out a payment plan you both agree to.
With a $1,000 deductible, it's not clear that reporting to the insurer is in your best interest--it seems like doing so will only save you around $500 or so. That, however is a cost-benefit decision you have to make; we can only advise that you consider whether you will save enough to make bringing insurance into it worthwhile.
For whatever it is worth, her price may be reasonable: I recently got a quote to repair some scratches left on my car by someone who hit it while parked. The only large scratch is inside the wheel well; the scratches on the outside are small and faint. It was still a $1,200 estimate, and this from a reputable body shop I have used before and been happy with.

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