What can I do if my unattended parked car slid down a driveway into another parked car and my auto insurer claims that I am at fault?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What can I do if my unattended parked car slid down a driveway into another parked car and my auto insurer claims that I am at fault?

During a winter snow storm I parked my car at the top of a steep driveway. I used my emergency brake and put the car in park. I then got out of the car and went into a house. At some point later, another car pulled in to the driveway behind me and parked then went into the house. When I left the house within 15 minutes later, my car had slid down the driveway and into the car behind it pushing it down the hill. There is damage to both cars. My insurance company is claiming that I am at fault and responsible to pay the damages to both cars. Their reasoning is that I parked the car on a hill in the snow and took the risk. Isn’t that like saying that if you park under a tree and the tree falls on your

car that you are at fault? This is in a

Asked on March 7, 2018 under Accident Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Based on what you write, you probably do not have good defense. You indicate that during a winter storm, you parked you car "at the top of a steep driveway." That means you did something negligent or unreasonably careless: when it is snowy or icy out, there is a reasonable likelihood that a vehicle stopped at the top of a steep slope will slide. It is careless to park on a slope under those circumstances.
(This what separates this situation from your "tree scenario": the ordinary or average tree does not present an enhanced or reasonably obvious risk. To use a tree example, this would be like parking your car under an obviously dead tree--so one which does present a higher-than-normal risk--and if you did that, you  would most likely be liable.)
Because this accident did not occur while the vehicle was being driven, the normal "no fault" rules do no apply. And since you were, as stated, careless in what you did, fault for the accident may be attributed to you.
It is not the property owner's responsibility because you write that this happened "during a winter storm": there must be a reasonable opportunity and time to salt or take other protective measures, and salting during the storm, as more snow, sleet, ice, etc. is laid down is unreasonable and unproductive; hence, the property owner did not then have to do it.

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