By definition, accidents are the disasters that happen when you’re not expecting them. They happen when you are off your guard, when you feel “safe” enough to let your attention wander or think about something beyond your immediate surroundings.
That may be why no place is so ripe for the unexpected to take place as a parking lot.
A False Sense of Safety
Parking lots are those “interim” destinations, the transition points between where we just were and where we want to be. Whether it’s in front of a mall, a grocery store, a movie theatre or an outdoor recreational spot such as a beach or park, the main thought on your mind (and everyone else’s) is where you’re going next. Everyone is in a hurry, and yet everyone is moving slowly, creating a tension that fosters both distraction and a false sense of security. All of these elements create an environment ready for parking lot accidents.
Think back for a moment about all the things you do in a parking lot between leaving your last destination and pulling out to the main road. You might be interacting with friends, dealing with children, sorting through your purchases or fiddling with your car stereo (or perhaps your cellular phone).
Now think about how much of this you’re doing while behind the wheel.
Finally, multiply that by the number of cars that are moving in and out of the parking lot at the same time as you.
When you really consider it, it’s not hard to understand why so many parking lot accidents take place. In fact, it’s estimated that one out of every five motor vehicle accidents take place in a parking lot. Moreover, an average of 206 people (drivers and pedestrians) are killed each year in parking lot accidents.
How to Determine Fault
In many ways, a parking lot accident is more stressful than a run-of-the-mill fender bender, precisely because it can be so hard to pinpoint blame. Was it the parent who chased their child out into the middle of the lane, or the car that swerved to avoid them and caused a T-bone collision with another car just pulling in?
In the case of two cars colliding while backing out from their spaces at the same time, are both equally at fault, or is one more at fault than the other because they were texting on their phone at the time?
Below, we’ve presented several of the standard rules around parking lot accidents. We hope that it’s helpful not only in clearing up your confusion in case you’ve been involved in a parking lot accident, but also in helping you avoid parking lot accidents in the future.
The driver of the moving car is typically found to be at fault.
If only one of the vehicles involved in a parking lot accident was moving at the time, that driver will be usually be the one held responsible. However, if the other vehicle was illegally or improperly parked, that driver may also share liability for the accident.
Obeying signs is key.
Not all parking lots are equipped with stop or yield signs. But when they are, these signs are key in determining liability. If a parking lot accident occurs as a result of a sign not being properly heeded, that driver will be found at fault.
It is possible for both drivers to be found at fault.
In the case of two vehicles backing out simultaneously and colliding from the rear, it is entirely possible for both drivers to be found at fault, since both are responsible for their actions behind the wheel. Other influential factors, such as texting while driving or driving while intoxicating, may also come into play in determining how liability is shared.
Don’t race for the space.
Competing with another vehicle for the same parking space is another way to end up sharing liability in an accident. However, the left-turn rule applies here as in traffic: the driver who had to cross the stream of traffic to take the parking space is the one that’s found to be more at fault, unless a study of the impact reveals that one car was moving much faster than the other.
Hitting a pedestrian is very serious.
The statistics around pedestrian injuries and fatalities in parking lots are truly shocking. It’s estimated that 13% of all parking lot accidents end in pedestrian fatalities. Even worse, 22% of children between the ages of 5 and 9 killed in vehicle accidents were pedestrians hit when a driver backing out of a parking space failed to see the child in their vehicle’s path. Needless to say, drivers who strike a pedestrian in a parking lot have a much higher chance of being found at fault, though in some cases there is shared liability. If the pedestrian was acting recklessly or irresponsibly, they may be found at greater fault.
How to handle a hit-and-run.
As you might imagine, parking lots are prime territory for the hit and run accident, especially in situations where a driver hits a parked car while the owner is somewhere else. If you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run parking lot accident, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney experienced in parking lot accidents to help you submit your claim and ensure that you get the coverage you deserve.
We offer much more information about how to handle parking lot accidents and other kinds of vehicle collisions on our auto accident page. Click here to learn how we can help you.