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Car accident in the parking lot

Parking Lot Accidents: Who's At Fault?

Law Office of Alex Hernandez Feb. 29, 2024

Parking lot accidents can happen to anyone. Despite their low-speed nature, parking lot accidents can be difficult to deal with when it comes to determining who's at fault.

Challenges in visibility, the interplay of some traffic rules, and the typical lack of formal traffic guidance like signs or signals can contribute to accidents even at slow speeds. Understanding the common causes—such as distraction, failure to yield, or misjudgment of space—can be key in both preventing accidents and establishing fault when they do occur. 

At the Law Office of Alex Hernandez, located in Clearwater, Florida, I've seen parking lot accidents countless times. These types of accidents are common, but they come with their own unique set of issues.  

What's Different About Parking Lot Accidents? 

Unlike auto accidents on the open road, parking lot accidents occur on private property. That means the rules of the road don't necessarily apply in the same way. It’s not always immediately clear who's at fault, and this can make resolving these incidents a bit tricky.  

Who's At Fault in Parking Lot Accidents? 

Determining who's at fault in parking lot accidents involves examining several factors and potential culprits. Often, the driver who is moving is typically considered to be more at fault than one who is stationary. Actions such as distracted driving or pulling out of a parking spot without checking for pedestrians or oncoming traffic are common causes of culpability.  

However, both parties can be at fault in some scenarios. For instance, if two drivers back out of their parking spaces simultaneously and collide, they may share responsibility. Similarly, if one vehicle is speeding through the parking lot and another is making a turn without signaling, a shared fault determination can occur. 

To ascertain fault, it's essential to gather evidence from the accident scene, including surveillance footage, witness statements, and vehicle damage. Additionally, understanding the right-of-way rules in parking lots, such as those giving priority to vehicles driving through the main thoroughfare over cars exiting parking spaces, is crucial.

As an experienced attorney, I can help you navigate these complex scenarios, assess the evidence, and advocate on your behalf. 

Understanding Right-of-Way in Parking Lots 

It is essential to understand the right-of-way rules in parking as they often dictate the movement of vehicles and can impact the determination of fault in the event of an accident.  

In most situations, vehicles moving along the main lanes of the parking lot have the right-of-way over those entering or exiting parking spaces. This means that drivers pulling out of spaces should wait for a clear path before proceeding. Additionally, pedestrians in parking lots are typically given the right-of-way, and all drivers must yield to them whether they are walking within marked crosswalks or moving across parking lanes.  

Understanding and adhering to these basic guidelines can significantly reduce the risk of collisions and increase the overall safety for both drivers and pedestrians in parking lot areas. 

What to Do If You're in a Parking Lot Accident

If you find yourself involved in a parking lot accident, there are specific steps you should take to ensure everyone's safety and properly document the incident: 

  1. Check for Injuries: The first priority is to check if anyone involved in the accident is injured. If there are injuries, call 911 immediately. 

  1. Move to a Safe Area: If the vehicles are causing an obstruction and can be moved safely, relocate to a nearby spot out of the flow of traffic to avoid further accidents. 

  1. Exchange Information: Gather the name, contact information, insurance details, and vehicle information from the other driver(s) involved in the accident. 

  1. Document the Scene: Take photos of the accident from various angles, capturing the position of the car(s), any visible damage, and the surrounding area, including parking lot signs and lane markings. 

  1. Look for Witnesses: If any bystanders witnessed the accident, collect their contact information—they could provide valuable statements later on. 

  1. Report the Accident: Even in a parking lot, it's important to report the accident to the police—a formal report can be crucial when filing an insurance claim. 

  1. Contact Your Insurance: Notify your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident to inform them of the incident and begin the claims process. 

  1. Seek Legal Advice: Consider consulting with an attorney, especially if there are injuries or significant damage, or if you believe you were not at fault. 

Remember, remaining calm and proceeding with a clear mind will help you navigate the post-accident process in a parking lot more effectively. 

What to Do If You're in a Parking Lot Hit-and-Run Accident

If someone hit your car in a parking lot and departed without providing their information, there are several steps you can take: 

  1. Assess and Document the Damage: Start by carefully inspecting and photographing the damage to your vehicle from different angles, including the surrounding area, which could indicate the collision's point of impact. 

  1. Look for Witnesses: Immediately check to see if any witnesses to the accident might be able to describe the other vehicle or the direction it went. If you find any, be sure to get their contact information. 

  1. Search for Surveillance Cameras: Many parking lots have surveillance cameras. Locate the property owner or manager and inquire whether the area is under video surveillance, which might have captured the incident. 

  1. File a Police Report: Even though the other driver left the scene, you should file a police report. This document will be useful when you file an insurance claim, especially if the perpetrator is later identified. 

  1. Notify Your Insurance Company: Report the hit and run to your insurance provider as soon as possible. Depending on your policy, you may be covered under collision, uninsured motorist, or your policy's hit-and-run provisions. 

  1. Follow Up: Stay in touch with the police to see if any additional information has surfaced regarding your case and follow their instructions on any further required steps. 

Although it's frustrating when someone damages your property and irresponsibly leaves the scene, taking these actions can help you address the situation with as much evidence and support as possible. 

How to Deal With Insurance Companies

When dealing with insurance companies after a parking lot accident, it's crucial to be methodical and detailed. Begin by promptly notifying your insurance provider about the incident and providing them with all the relevant details of the accident, including photographs, a written account of what happened, and any police report that was filed.

Be sure to understand the specifics of your policy coverage, including your deductible and the procedure for filing a claim. Keep all communication with insurance representatives clear and documented, and do not admit fault or liability during these exchanges.

Additionally, get the assistance of a legal professional to help you navigate the claim process. An experienced attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the appropriate compensation for any losses or damages incurred. 

Advocating for Your Rights

Parking lot accidents may seem minor, but they can have major implications. It's important to take them seriously and to seek professional legal advice if you find yourself in this situation. At the Law Office of Alex Hernandez, I'm here to help. I am fluent in Spanish and English and proudly serve clients in Clearwater, Florida, and throughout the Tampa Bay and Tri-County Areas.