Parking Lot Car Accidents and Fault
Parking lot accidents are common due to tight spaces, possible obstructions in the lanes, and crowded conditions. Also, large vehicles like trucks and SUVs are becoming more popular, making door dings or fender benders almost inevitable.
But what happens when there is a car accident in a parking lot? Who is to blame? Our car accident lawyer team explains.
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Who Is Responsible if You Have an Accident in a Parking Lot?
Fault for accidents that occur in parking lots really depends on the situation. However, it is more than simply blaming one person. There could be several factors that led to the accident, including:
- Distracted driving
- Negligence or recklessness
- Failing to stop or yield
- Hazardous conditions in the lot
- Poor visibility or blind spots
If you were involved in a parking lot crash and suffered property damage or injuries, you may be able to claim compensation from all the parties responsible for the accident. That could be the other driver or even the property owner. Speak with a personal injury attorney to see if you qualify to bring a claim and how much it may be worth.
How Do You Determine Fault for Car Accidents in Parking Lot?
Rules for determining fault for parking lot accidents are similar to the rules of fault for all Nevada car accidents. The general rules of negligence apply. The person who should have been more careful to avoid the crash generally bears liability. Because Nevada is an at-fault state, the responsible party and their insurance company should pay for the damages.
You should look at the actions of each party to determine if anyone violated a traffic control law or posted instructions. Breaking a law or rule is substantial evidence of fault, but it’s not the only question.
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What Are Common Ways Parking Lot Accidents Occur?
There are several ways that car accidents happen in parking lots:
- A driver backs out of a parking space and hits another vehicle that is already in the lane of travel
- Two drivers back out at the same time and strike each other
- A driver pulling out of a space hits a vehicle already in the lane of travel
- One driver turns the wrong way, resulting in an accident
- The driver in front stops suddenly, and the driver behind can’t stop
- A driver cuts off another driver in an attempt to get a parking space
- A driver fails to stop for pedestrians
- The driver misjudges the space and hits a parked car
Is There a Difference Between a Private Parking Lot and a Public One?
When a parking lot is privately owned, it means an individual or company owns the lot or garage, usually for financial profit. The owner or manager of a privately owned lot has a duty to keep the property:
- Safe for use
- Easy to navigate
- Free of hazards or obstructions
In addition, the owner of the lot or garage could be liable if dangerous conditions or negligence led to fender benders on the premises.
If a lot is publicly owned, it may be on land owned by the government, such as local, state, or federal government entities. Depending on state rules, you may still be able to claim compensation for injuries. However, you should consult with a car accident attorney to understand the laws and your options.
Do Police Respond to Parking Lot Accidents?
In general, police do not respond to a parking lot accident unless there are injuries, significant property damage, or the accident is blocking traffic. However, you can contact the police if you’d like to file a report, so there is documentation of the incident. You can also file a report online after the accident if the police cannot make it to the scene.
Are There Traffic Laws in Parking Lots?
In most cases, traffic laws do not apply to privately-owned parking lots. Police do not have jurisdiction and cannot write a ticket for violations if you are in the parking lot. However, police may be able to enforce serious traffic offenses1 in private lots, which may include:
- Reckless driving
- Vehicular aggravated assault
- Fleeing from police by vehicle
- Homicide by vehicle
Stop signs inside parking structures are there to keep drivers and pedestrians safe but are also generally not enforceable by law.
Who Has the Right of Way in a Parking Lot?
Legal experts share the general right of way rules2 in a parking lot as:
- Cars in thoroughfares (lanes that connect to a road) have the right of way
- Vehicles approaching the thoroughfares must yield to drivers in those lanes
- Whenever there is a “stop” or “yield” sign, it gives the right of way to the other driver
- Drivers reversing or leaving a parking space must yield to oncoming traffic in feeder lanes
Also, it’s essential to use common sense while navigating a parking structure. If you see a car is moving and the driver does not see your vehicle, you should exercise caution and yield to the moving vehicle.
What Are the Common Types of Accidents in Parking Lots?
Some common types of parking lot accidents include:
- Fender benders
- Hit-and-run accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
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What Should You Do if Someone Hits Your Car in a Parking Lot?
If you’re in a car accident in a parking lot, here are steps to follow to ensure you get the help you need and you can file a successful claim:
- Seek medical treatment if you or others are injured.
- Call the police.
- Exchange contact information with others involved. If you can’t find the other driver, leave your name and address in a safe place where the other driver can easily find it.
- Contact your auto insurance company.
- Take photos of the scene, damage, and injuries.
- As soon as you can, write out a narrative of what happened. Put in all the details, even if you don’t think they’re significant.
- Work with an attorney to secure surveillance video that may be available and contact witnesses.
What Do You Do When You Hit Someone’s Car in a Parking Lot?
If you hit another car in a parking structure, it’s vital that you take the right steps, especially if the driver of the other vehicle is not present. You should:
- Stay at the scene and do not leave. Even if you think nobody saw the incident, witnesses or surveillance footage could lead to hit-and-run charges.
- Do your best to find the car’s owner. For example, if you’re in a store, let management know the car’s description so they can announce it over the loudspeaker.
- If you can’t find the driver, leave a note that includes your basic contact information and leave it on the care.
- Write down the other car’s license plate number.
- Take pictures of the damage.
- Call the police to document the accident.
What Are Hit-and-Run Laws Regarding Parking Lots?
When you’re in an accident in a parking structure or lot, Nevada law requires3 you to stop your vehicle. You must find the other driver and give them your name and address. If you can’t find the driver, you can leave your information conspicuously in or on their vehicle. You must also call the police.
If you don’t do these things, you’ve committed a hit and run under Nevada law. You face jail time, suspension of your driver’s license, and points on your license. If you later claim the accident isn’t your fault, you’ll have a harder time making your case if you choose to flee the scene of the crash.
Does Insurance Cover Parking Lot Damage?
Parking lot accidents can be serious. Some people speed or drive recklessly when they’re in a parking structure. There are often pedestrians involved who don’t have a vehicle to protect them.
The insurance company might claim your accident can’t be serious because it happened in a parking structure. However, Nevada law requires the insurance company to pay you fairly for the value of your claim under the insurance policies in place at the time of the crash. If the insurance company isn’t eager to pay you what you deserve, an attorney can help you negotiate or bring a formal claim for fair compensation.
Does a Parking Lot Accident Go on Your Driving Record?
All at-fault accidents will go on your driving record. However, not-at-fault accidents generally do not go on your record, depending on your state. This is why it’s so important to determine fault with any accident, including parking structure fender benders.
How Can an Attorney Help With Parking Lot Accidents?
Don’t assume that your parking lot accident isn’t significant enough to pursue. Even an accident in a parking structure may have serious consequences. You deserve fair compensation for your injuries and suffering. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
1Shortell, T. (5 February 2020). Road Warrior: Parking lots are the Wild West of traffic laws. Here’s what cops can enforce there. The Morning Call. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
2Goguen, D. Parking Lot Accident Laws and Liability. Nolo. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
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