Although parking lot accidents rarely occur at high enough speeds to cause serious injury to a vehicle’s occupant, they can cause hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of property damage. If you get into a fender bender in a parking lot, you will likely be left wondering how you will cover the damage done to your car. In this article, we explain some of the basic elements of liability as it relates to parking lot collisions.
How Do Parking Lot Accidents Occur?
Before we get into the specific details about who can be held legally liable for a collision, we wanted to touch upon some of the reasons that an accident might occur in the first place. Although we typically don’t think of parking lots as dangerous places, they do see a fairly significant number of crashes. These collisions may occur due to:
- Distracted or impaired driving
- Poorly marked crosswalks
- Misleading or confusing signage
- Poorly maintained road conditions
- Parking garages that are not adequately lit
- Blind corners
- Multiple drivers attempting to take the same parking space
- Two drivers backing out of parking spaces into each other’s car
Assigning Fault in a Parking Lot Collision
After a parking lot accident, one of the first steps in the legal process is determining who is liable for the collision. In order to do so, Paulson Coletti notes that “a full investigation into the facts must be conducted,” from interviews with witnesses present at the scene to expert crash analysis.
Depending on the severity of the crash and any injuries or damages incurred, it may be wise to seek out an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after the incident. They will have the resources and experience necessary to launch a full investigation of the crash and determine what avenues are available to seek compensation in your case.
Liability in a Rear-End Parking Lot Crash
Similarly to a rear-end crash on a highway or surface street, the tailing driver in a parking lot collision frequently shares some or all of the liability for the accident. The tailing driver has a legal obligation to maintain a proper following distance and do everything within their power to safely avoid a collision. Failure to do so may be considered negligence. You should always have a significant buffer between your vehicle and the car in front of you, in case they need to come to a sudden stop.
Left Turn Crashes in a Parking Lot
A crash may occur when a driver attempts to pull into a parking spot by making a left-hand turn into the space in front of oncoming traffic. In this situation, the driver making the left-hand turn is likely to be found at least partially at fault for the incident. Adhering to right-of-way rules is essential even in a parking lot, as it reduces the risk of unnecessary traffic accidents and injuries.
Pulling In or Out of a Parking Stall
Many incidents occur as drivers are either pulling into or exiting their parking spot. In this situation, it can be particularly difficult to determine fault, as both drivers have a legal obligation to make sure that the lane of travel is clear of danger before entering it. If one vehicle clearly started to back up before it was struck by the second vehicle, it is likely that the driver of the second car will be found liable for the collision. Eyewitness testimony or video surveillance footage can be especially useful in this case, as it can demonstrate which vehicle moved first.
When both vehicles begin moving at the same time and collide in the middle of the lane of travel, it becomes far more difficult to determine liability for the crash. Even if you find yourself involved in a “spontaneous collision” of this nature, you should not assume that the accident is your fault. Tiano O’Dell PLLC recommends speaking to a car accident attorney to discuss the specifics of your case and determine who is likely to be found at fault for the fender bender.
Why is it Important to Determine Fault After a Parking Lot Crash?
Fault determinations play a crucial role in figuring out which driver’s insurance policy will cover any injuries and damages that occurred in the collision. Additionally, it is likely that the liable driver’s insurance premium will increase following the accident. If the liable driver does not have insurance, they may have to pay for damages out-of-pocket or find themselves facing a car accident lawsuit. In some cases, a driver may only have liability coverage, meaning that their policy will pay for the other motorist’s damages but not their own.
Potential Damages After a Parking Lot Accident
Although serious injuries are (luckily) not incredibly common in parking lot accidents, they can occur, particularly when a pedestrian or cyclist is struck by a motor vehicle. If a person is injured in the crash, they may be able to recover damages for:
- Medical bills
- Coverage of required rehabilitation or physical therapy
- Income lost if the victim cannot work while recovering
- Pain and suffering inflicted as a result of the crash
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Of course, damages to the victim’s car and other property are likely to be covered in a settlement or jury verdict as well. To determine whether there is a clear path to compensation after your crash, you should call a car accident attorney with knowledge of your state’s traffic laws at once.