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What If an Accident Occurs in a Parking Lot?

By Norman Younker on March 03, 2015


A rear-end collision while parkingIn most auto accidents, fault can be established fairly easily. Right-of-way is one of the first lessons taught while learning to drive, and drivers involved in accidents can usually identify who had the right-of-way - even if they don’t want to admit it. When it comes to parking lots, however, right-of-way can become a bit ambiguous. Navigating parking lots and parking spaces is often a matter of simply being aware of your surroundings and being courteous to nearby drivers. But even in the absence of signs and dividing lines, a few basic rules can still be applied to determine fault.

Rather than engaging in a long and inconclusive battle with the opposing driver, let the facts speak for themselves. If you have been involved in a parking lot accident, seek the advice of an expert personal injury attorney; our Utah law firm is eager to help you prove your case.  

Legal Fault in Parking Lots

The common elements that direct traffic on public roads are often absent from parking lots, making right-of-way difficult to determine. Unless a lot has dividing lines, arrows, stop signs, and/or yield signs to establish traffic flow, most drivers will simply follow their gut. And since most parking lots are privately owned, they may not even be subject to certain traffic laws that normally apply to public roads.

This can lead to vehicles driving in a relatively chaotic manner, and fault can be difficult to determine in subsequent accidents.

Of course, this does not mean that every parking lot is a free-for-all wherein drivers are blameless for their actions. For instance, vehicles backing out from a space must exhibit reasonable caution for any vehicles that may be approaching from their sides or behind. Similarly, all vehicles should be wary of pedestrians attempting to cross the parking lot. Many accidents, though, must be examined relative to the lot in which they took place.

Common Parking Lot Accidents

Here are a few examples of accidents that may occur in a parking lot, and who is most likely at fault in each scenario:

  • Backing out of a parking space: If an accident occurs between a car that is backing out and a car driving down the lane, it is almost always the fault of the car backing out.
  • Rear-end collision: If a driver stops suddenly and is rear-ended, it is most likely the fault of the driver who did not stop in time and rear-ended the car in front. This would most likely be recorded on a police report as “following too closely.”
  • T-bone collision while parking: If a car turns left to park and is hit from the side by oncoming traffic, the driver attempting to make the turn is most likely at fault. When turning left, it is that driver’s responsibility to wait for oncoming traffic to pass.
  • Two cars back into each other: If two cars are both backing out of a spot and rear-end one another, they would most likely both be considered at fault. In such a case, it is rare for one driver to compensate the other for damages.

What to Do after an Accident

Parking lot accidents can easily lead to arguments, which in turn discourage people from thinking clearly and calmly. Nevertheless, drivers should follow a few basic steps if they are to increase their chances of being compensated for damages:

  • Exchange information: Insurance companies will need to know the other driver’s name, phone number, address, and insurance information. Make sure to exchange these basic pieces of information so that any future arbitration can get off the ground.
  • Call the police: It is unlikely that a ticket will be issued to either driver if the accident occurred in a parking lot. However, a police report can still be filed, which is a vital record that shows the damage incurred as well as basic facts that should not be left to memory (e.g., the exact time and location of the accident).
  • Collect evidence: Take pictures of the accident, including the damage to both vehicles and, if possible, the position in which they collided. It is also worth checking to see if any nearby buildings have security cameras that may have captured the accident on video. If any witnesses were around to see the accident, politely ask for their contact information for future reference.
  • Call an attorney: Because of the ambiguous nature of fault in parking lot accidents, a specialized lawyer can be an invaluable asset. You can learn whether your case lends itself to pursuing compensation from the other driver, and if so, what steps you can take to prove fault.

In the event anyone has sustained injuries in the accident, always call for medical help first. If you are unable to personally take the above actions due to injury, one of our attorneys will be happy to represent you and gather evidence at the site of the accident, as soon as possible.

Contact Us Today

After an accident, few things are more important than timeliness. The sooner we can obtain records of your injuries and property damage, speak with witnesses, and collect all relevant evidence, the better we can represent you. Contact us with any questions or concerns immediately following your accident, and we can begin working for you immediately. 

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