Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. Through her years working in th...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

UPDATED: Apr 1, 2022

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Car insurance protects you from lawsuits any time your vehicle injures someone or damages their property. If you choose to purchase full-coverage insurance, it also pays to repair your own vehicle any time it’s damaged as a result of an accident or other covered event.

Many people own car insurance policies for many years without needing to use their coverage. Unfortunately, accidents can happen at any time, and some are unavoidable. Can a handbrake fail? Unfortunately they can, so if you have a handbrake failure insurance is pretty important.

Your car insurance coverage doesn’t just pay for accidents caused while you are driving your vehicle. Car insurance for parked cars is also important. Coverage follows the vehicle itself, so any accident your vehicle is involved in should be covered by insurance unless your company specifically excludes it. This includes accidents that occur when people borrow your vehicle. It also covers accidents when your vehicle is parked and unoccupied.

Do you have insurance to cover an accident caused by a parked car? You can get free quotes from multiple insurers by entering your ZIP code above.

Will car insurance cover an accident caused by a parked car?

As a rule, any time that your vehicle is hit by another car while it’s parked and unoccupied, the accident will be considered the other person’s fault. If it’s a hit-and-run, the damage may be covered under uninsured motorist coverage, but even if it’s handled by collision you will not be held liable for that damage. This is true even if your vehicle is parked illegally.

Unfortunately, the same is not true of vehicles that slip out of gear and hit another car while unoccupied. This can happen for several reasons:

  • A child in the vehicle puts it into gear or removes the parking brake
  • A pet left in the vehicle bumps the gear shift
  • The transmission slips and the car rolls down a hill
  • A car is left in gear rather than park
  • The parking break fails

While this does not happen as often with automatic cars as in those with manual transmissions, it can still occur. If the unoccupied vehicle then collides with a parked car or fixed object, you as the owner will be found at fault for the damage. This is true even if you were not the one that parked the car.

Keep in mind that your rates are going to go up if your car hits a parked vehicle. The table below shows how your rates can change with just one accident on your record.

Average Annual Car Insurance Rates With One Accident
CompaniesAverage Annual Car Insurance Rates with Clean RecordAverage Annual Car Insurance Rates with One Accident
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78
Get Your Rates Quote Now

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In certain cases, if the car is parked by someone else and the accident was caused by negligence, you may be exempt from liability. For example, if a valet parks your car and doesn’t take it out of gear before exiting the vehicle, you may be able to sue the valet company for the damages.

However, there are no guarantees that you would win the case, and so you would still be liable with your insurance company until the claim was settled.

Even if you’re not worried about your own vehicle rolling off, what if it’s hit while you’re parked somewhere? You may go out of your way to pick a space far away from other vehicles, but accidents can still happen. Even if it’s not a hit-and-run, you may have to cover the damages yourself. That’s because one in every eight drivers in the U.S. is driving around uninsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

You are legally required to leave a note on any vehicle your hit if you’re unable to find the owner. For instance, California vehicle code 20002 requires that you leave a note in a conspicuous place with your name and address. You must also note the circumstances and must immediately notify the local police department about the collision.

What happens if you damage someone’s car? Because you would be found at fault for the damages your car causes, any damage sustained to other people’s vehicles or property would be handled under your property damage liability insurance.

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Do you pay a deductible if you hit a parked car?

You would not pay any deductible for the other person’s damage, but your insurance premiums may increase in the future due to the at-fault collision on your record.

If your own vehicle is damaged in the process, repairs would be paid under collision coverage. You would be responsible for paying your collision deductible in this scenario. If you don’t have collision, you would have to cover your own repairs out of pocket. You can lower your car insurance deductible, but then your monthly rate will likely be higher.

Additionally, note that the insurance company would only pay for the damages that were caused by the accident itself. Any mechanical failures that caused the vehicle to slip out of gear would not be covered by insurance. This means that the insurance company may pay to replace a damaged bumper, but they will not cover the cost of a new transmission if the transmission caused the accident in the first place.

Tips for Preventing A Handbrake Failure Car Accident

What happens if your car rolled back and hit another car?

  • For manual transmission cars, always put your vehicle in gear instead of neutral while parked
  • Always use your parking brake
  • Avoid parking on hills during icy weather whenever possible
  • Make sure your vehicle is in park before exiting the car
  • Don’t leave children or pets unattended in a vehicle
  • Always leave ample room between vehicles when parallel parking in case your car rolls back when it settles

Unattended vehicle accidents like this are uncommon, but they do happen. It’s important to pay attention to your vehicle when parking it so that you reduce your chances of the vehicle rolling away and causing damages or injuring someone.

A few moments of attentiveness in checking your gear and setting the brake can help prevent an at-fault collision and save you money on insurance. Take care in keeping up with your vehicle’s maintenance, in order to avoid these situations.

Frequently Asked Questions: Handbrake Failure

Do you still have a few questions about a handbrake accident? We’ve added a couple of FAQs below.

What are some causes of hand brake failure?

There are some common reasons for your hand brake failing. These include:

  • Your brakes are out of adjustment
  • Your adjuster wheel is damaged
  • Your drum is damaged or worn
  • Your brake is not engaging at all

What do you do if your brakes aren’t working?

If you notice any issues with your brakes, make sure to take it to a licensed mechanic immediately.

What do you do if your brakes fail on the highway?

This can be a really scary experience if your brakes fail. First, don’t panic. Next, try the following:

  • Try the brakes again, just in case
  • Engage your emergency brake carefully. Can a car move with the handbrake on? It absolutely can, but it will help you slowly come to a stop.
  • Go to a lower gear
  • Move out of the road, keeping your vehicle on until completely stopped
  • Call for help

And get your brakes inspected by a mechanic as soon as you can.

Above all, don’t panic. Contact your insurance company and law enforcement to begin a police report if necessary when an incident happens, and make sure that you remain calm and collected. Beforehand, double check your insurance policy to make sure you have proper coverage that would help in the event of an accident involving a parked car, or even a hit and run.

Knowing what type of coverage you have can help you stay calm even in the event of a minor accident. Keep up with your brakes, and practice safe driving habits when parking your car.

If you want to make sure you have the best car insurance to cover your parked car, we can help. Enter your ZIP code below to get free quotes from multiple insurers.