The Problem with Parking Lot Accidents

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Parking lot accidents can often be more serious and occur more frequently than expected. They are often the result of speeding and/or distracted driving. These incidents put both drivers and pedestrians at risk. The problem with parking lot accidents is determining who is at fault.

Determining fault in a parking lot collision depends on which car was moving at the time of the incident. Since drivers are expected to maintain control of the vehicle at all times, drivers who hit a stopped or parked vehicle will generally be assumed at fault for the incident.

If both cars are in motion, both drivers can be found legally liable, even for just a portion of the incident. The factors considered to determine fault in these situations include speed. With these general rules in mind, below is a description of the five most common parking lot accidents.

The Most Common Parking Lot accidents:

  1. Two drivers back into each other.

Since both cars are moving, both drivers are responsible for the collision. In this situation, neither driver has the right of way. Both drivers have the responsibility to check the conditions are safe before backing up. In these situations, both drivers likely share fault for the incident.

  1. A driver pulls out of their space and into a traffic lane.

In a parking lot, drivers in the traffic lane have the right of way. Even though both cars are moving and therefore share responsibility, the driver pulling the vehicle out of the space is likely going to take the majority of liability in the incident.

  1. A driver backs out of a space, into an oncoming car.

As mentioned above, when both vehicles are moving, both drivers share responsibility. However, the driver in the traffic lane has the right of way. The driver who wants to back the vehicle out of the space has the responsibility to check conditions for safety before backing the car out of the spot. Thus, the driver backing out of the spot is likely going to be found at fault in this scenario.

  1. Two cars jostling for the same spot collide.

Again, when both vehicles are moving, both drivers share the responsibility. The question is which driver has the right of way. Drivers making a turn across the traffic must yield to oncoming traffic. Thus, a driver turning left into a parking spot will likely be deemed primarily at fault in this scenario. There are other factors that could affect this, however. These factors include point(s) of impact on both vehicles indicating which vehicle accelerated prematurely, how close each vehicle was to entering the space, and again the speed of the vehicles prior to impact. All of these factors can affect who is found liable in this incident.

  1. A car rear-ends another at a stop sign.

Only one vehicle is typically moving. In this incident, the vehicle moving is usually found at fault, in a parking lot or on a roadway. Even when the car in front stops suddenly, the driver in the second vehicle is likely to be found at fault. The principle behind this is that drivers have an expectation to provide enough space between their own car and the vehicle in front to avoid any potential rear-end collisions.

parking lot accidents

What to do if you damage a car in a parking lot…

  • Remain calm and remain at the scene. Don’t drive away, regardless of how minor the incident may seem. Witnesses or surveillance videos may spot you and you may face criminal punishment such as hit-and-run charges.
  • Attempt to locate the other vehicle’s owner. Enter the store the parking lot belongs to and ask a customer service representative or manager to announce the vehicle’s make, model, and license plate over the store’s loudspeaker.
  • Leave a note. If the vehicle owner/drive is unable to be located, leave a note with your basic information. Make sure to include your name, phone number, an explanation of the incident. Leave the notice in a visible but secure spot on the other vehicle.
  • Document. Take photos of both vehicles and the scene as well as their license plate number.
  • Call the police. Parking lot incidents generally will not involve a police report. However, if there was major damage, a police officer can document the incident and help find the vehicle owner.

What to do if your car has been damaged in a parking lot…

  • Document. Taking pictures of the damage can be used as evidence.
  • Contact your insurance company. Recount the incident to an agent. The agent will help you determine the best next steps.
  • Take notes. If the other driver is still at the scene, take down the name, address, phone number, driver’s license number (photo of if possible), and insurance information. Gathering as much information as possible will be extremely useful when it comes time to file a claim.
  • Talk to bystanders. Ask other people in the parking lot if they could recount what they had seen. Take down their contact information as well. Additionally, you may ask the manager of the store the parking lot belongs to if there is any security camera footage you might be able to get access to should you need it later on.

What to do if you witness an accident in a parking lot…

  • Provide assistance. If the offending driver is gone, help the incident victim through the above steps.
  • Document the incident. Give notes on what you witnessed. You may also find it useful to take notes on your phone about what you saw, just in case you are asked later on by the victim or by their insurance agent.
  • Give out your personal information. Giving out your contact information can help the incident victim through their claim process later on. You may be contacted by an insurance agent and asked to give a statement.

Parking Lot Accident FAQs

Does a parking lot accident go on your record?

Parking lot incidents are treated the same as incidents that occur elsewhere. If reported, the incident will go on your driving record. This could impact your insurance rates. Some people elect not to report parking lot incidents because of this, but keep in mind that if the incident is not reported and there is major damage, you will not get the financial coverage you may need.

Is liability for a parking lot accident 50/50?

The difficulty with parking lot incidents is that if there is no surveillance or witnesses, the case comes down to one person’s word against another’s. To avoid arguments about liability, insurance companies may split the fault on a 50/50 basis. In this case, each driver would pay his own deductible. No points would be assigned.

Is my employer liable for damage to my car in a parking lot?

An employer is typically covered through commercial liability insurance for incidents that occur on company policy. If, for example, an object falls from the company’s building onto your vehicle resulting in damage, your employer would be responsible for the damage. These cases are evaluated situation by situation. However, if another driver backs into your vehicle in your company’s parking lot, the other driver would be liable or an insurance company would split the fault 50/50 between drivers.

If you were in a parking lot accident, contact an experienced auto accident lawyer. Whether you ultimately require an attorney or not, it will benefit you to discuss your rights and liability questions.

Contact the team at Batta Fulkerson Law Group today to schedule a FREE one-hour consultation to review your case and available options.

What to expect in your Consultation Meeting:

  • Collection of information about you to help assist you better
  • Review of any court documents
  • Review of what happened in your claim
  • Explanation of court processes, fees, and what we can do to help your case.

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