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Recently I've been the victim of a hit and run. My car was legally parked parallel to the street next to an garage entrance, another car was parked behind mine. Behind them also a garage entrance with ample space between both garage entrances to fit two cars without them sitting bumper to bumper. Party C, a vehicle yet to be identified, hit my car in the front and managed to push it back, resulting in a collision with the car of party B.

As party C is still unidentified, the owner of car B now goes after me for the damages to the car. I only had my car in gear and they claim that, had I pulled the e-brake, the collision could have been avoided.
I was on vacation when the incident happened, so I only have the scene report documented by the police. The report states that my car most was likely hit from the front, evident by some debris.

Is it legal / possible to go after me for these damages? And if so, what are my options? My reasoning would be:

  1. It is not mandatory to pull the e-brake for parking, just secure against unwanted rolling away, so me just putting it in gear should not make me obligated to cover the damages. Each insurance would be handling their damages until party C is found.
  2. From the looks on my car the damage to my front was substantial, so I highly doubt that pulling the e-brake would have been sufficient to hold my car in place. A collision would have been inevitable.
  3. This might be hard to prove though since I have no pictures of the situation before the incident, but from the scene the police documented and my memory, my car hasn't moved a lot from the space I parked it in, believing me to think party B parked their car way to close to mine. Had they left the necessary distance, this could also have been avoided.

Can I "force" my insurance to investigate the claim based on my points or can they refuse and just compensate party B and raise my rates?

My location is Germany.

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    In German traffic courts, damages can be awarded percentage-wise. Any traffic participant has to exercise due caution and failure to do so could leave him or her liable for part of the damages. My guess is that you should talk to a lawyer.
    – o.m.
    Aug 4 at 19:01
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    This is deep into lawyer territory – but fortunately, your insurance has lawyers and they have an interest in resolving this in the most cost-effective way. As far as possible, they'll try to deflect any liability and/or recoup the costs from Party C (once they are identified). But as soon as your insurance starts to act, I doubt that this wouldn't affect your rates since you would be involved with an accident. The only alternative would be to pay for your and B's repairs out of pocket, which sounds like a bad idea.
    – amon
    Aug 4 at 19:05
  • "way to close" -> "way too close"
    – Ben Voigt
    Aug 5 at 18:17
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There are two distinct questions here.

First, are you liable?

On the merits, I think that your risk of any liability is low (no litigated issue ever has zero risk, however), the average likely loss is modest (this is just property damages and you are certainly not the sole party at fault), and the maximum exposure if you lose is also modest.

Still, Germany's tort law imposes liability more often than U.S. tort law would under identical facts. It has an effectively lower threshold for liability.

Second:

Can I "force" my insurance to investigate the claim based on my points or can they refuse and just compensate party B and raise my rates?

This is a harder question, and both the insurers of party A and party B and their lawyers play into it.

The insurance company for party B has to pay the something to party B no matter what. It could make the claim under uninsured motorist coverage, pay in full, and not seek to implicate you because the claim is weak. It could pay the claim under standard casualty coverage (except for the deductible), in which case it would have a subrogation claim against the parties at fault up to the amount it paid out.

But, insurance company lawyers hate bringing subrogation claims because the awards are usually small and they are still a lot of work. This is particularly so in this case where the case against you is weak and there is no identified defendant to chase in the form of party C.

On the other hand, insurance companies also hate to waste lots of dead weight litigation costs in small claims like this one. So, they might be inclined to settle the case rather than litigate it, and you have some duty to cooperate with the insurance company. As long as you don't owe anything out of pocket to party B, there isn't that much you can do to complain about it, even though you have a record of an "at fault" accident settlement that might increase your rates but isn't strictly speaking a direct consequence of the settlement which isn't itself producing any out of pocket loss to you. The down side of having this on your record may or may not be significant, depending upon how nuanced there is in the insurance company's underwriting and rate setting system.

I suspect that there is no practical way you can legally insist that they not settle the case and raising your rates other than to try to negotiate with the insurance company directly and ask them not to do that. Usually, insurance companies get in trouble for not settling claims, not for settling them with no out of pocket harm immediately to you.

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In Germany, the car is insured, not you. C is clearly at fault and liable, but he’s not there, so who pays A’s damage? In Germany, every car must legally have third party liability insurance. If the car causes damage, the insurance pays the damaged third party. And then depending on the circumstances, the insurance may try to recover the money from the guilty party. For example if the driver was drunk, didn’t have permission to drive the car, or in this case was completely unrelated the car or it’s owner.

The big question isn’t who was at fault (that is clearly driver C) but which car caused the damage to car A. A and A’s insurance will argue that car B caused the damage which means B’s insurance has to pay. A saying that you are the liable person is most likely wrong but it’s also not relevant; what’s relevant is which car caused the damage. I find it quite likely that B’s insurance will pay for A’s damage because car B caused the damage through no fault of person B. They would normally try to recover the money from C but C is not known.

Where does that leave B: B’s insurance pays A completely, so B will lose some of their no claims rebate. Other than higher insurance premiums, B will not pay anything (no deductible) since the accident is not their fault. Hopefully B has his car insured for the damage caused by another driver, otherwise B will have to pay for their own damage. B could sue C for damage to the car if that is not insured, for any deductible, and for the increased cost of insurance.

So: Are you liable? Very unlikely. Does your insurance pay A’s damage? Quite likely. Will you be out of pocket if C cannot be found? Yes, but not too much. Will you be out of pocket if C is found and insured? No.

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