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What to do when you are in a parking lot accident

In most parking lots there are many distractions.  From cars, pedestrians, and shopping carts are moving in every direction.  Drivers may be distracted by a variety of things, including stressful errands, noisy children, or their cell phones.

Most parking lot accidents happen at low speeds.  Collisions between two vehicles at low speeds are not likely to cause serious injury.  However, accidents are much more serious when pedestrians are involved, which is common in parking lots.

From a legal standpoint, most parking lots are private property.  You still have a legal duty to drive safely.  Fault will be determined according to the same general rules as it would in any other car accident.  Police may not respond to an accident on private property, which means you will not have a police report to file with your insurance claim.  This makes gathering evidence is that much more important: take photographs and gather witness info.

Determining Fault

Determining fault in a parking lot accident is more complex to determine than in ordinary roadway accidents.  Due to the complex nature of parking lot accidents, both parties may share fault.

In a parking lot crash, there are a few rules of thumb in determining fault:

  • If one car rear-ends another, then the car in the rear will generally be at fault.
  • If one car hits another while making a left turn into a parking space, the car which made a left turn will be at fault.
  • If a car backing out of a parking space hits a car driving straight in a lane, the driver backing out of the parking space will be at fault.
  • If two cars backing out of opposing parking spaces collide, both will generally be at fault.
  • If two cars collide while trying to take the same parking space, fault may be shared, but the driver who was turning right into the parking space has priority over the driver who was turning left.
  • There are two kinds of lanes in parking lots: thoroughfares (larger and lead out to the street) and feeder lanes (smaller and lead to other thoroughfare lanes). Drivers in thoroughfare lanes have right-of-way over drivers in feeder lanes.
  • If a driver violates a stop or yield sign, he or she will likely be found at fault.

Of course, there are many factors to consider that will determine fault. For example, if a car was speeding, the driver may be found partly or wholly at fault, even if s/he had right of way.

What to do

If you find yourself in a parking lot accident, you should take the same steps as you would take if you were in any other accident.

  • Tend to the injured
  • Exchange insurance information with the other driver
  • Report the accident to your insurance
  • Report the accident to police
  • Gather evidence (photos, witnesses)
  • Notify the property owner of the accident

How to prevent

To help prevent being involved in a parking lot accident, there are a few steps you can follow while driving in a parking lot:

  • Drive slowly and cautiously
  • Obey the directional arrows painted on the lot
  • Don’t park in a compact space if you don’t have a compact car
  • Park between the lines of your spot – never take up two or more spots
  • Look in both directions when backing up in addition to using your mirrors or rearview camera
  • Park in a spot where you can pull forward instead of backing out if possible

In a situation that you may need a lawyer to ensure that your role in the accident is assessed fairly, Know who to call.  Call Tad Morlan 417-865-4400

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