Who is at Fault in a Parking Lot Accident?

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Fact: every car accident is unique. Ask any personal injury attorney and they will tell you the same thing! Parking lot accidents are also unique which is why each victim should contact a lawyer to review the case as soon as possible. 

That being said, there are common legal precedents that establish a principle or rule that can be used to ensure the injured parties are awarded the compensation they deserve.  

There are more than 50,000 car accidents in parking lots every year all over the U.S, which leave just over 60,000 people injured.

Some of these accidents are the result of distracted driving. A National Safety Council poll found that 66% of drivers in the U.S. said they would make phone calls while driving through parking lots [1]. Distracted driving is common in parking lots as the temptation to rush or drive distracted is higher… and so the number of collisions increases as a result.

How do you determine fault in a parking lot accident? To understand who is at fault, it’s important to understand the road laws that govern parking lots. Be sure to speak to a Nashville car accident lawyer , West Palm Beach car accident lawyers, or Tampa car accident lawyers to learn more about your case.

So, what makes parking lot laws different from any other road laws?

 

parking lot accident

 

Parking Lot Laws Are Not the Same as Road Laws

Most standard or well-known road laws do not apply in private parking lots (however, handicapped spaces, fire zones, and reckless driving and DUI still apply in private parking lots).

The reason is simple: most parking lots are located on private property; owned by the stores or the landlords of that property. And because parking lots are private property, these areas are not subject to all the laws that define our public roadways.

 

Right of Way

As a rule of thumb in both Tennessee and Florida, the cars in the parking lot through lane (those driving around looking for exits or for parking spots) have the right of way. Those in the parking spots must yield to the cars in the through lane.

That is why it’s vital for anyone who is backing out of a parking lot to keep an eye out for passing cars. You don’t have right of way, the drivers in the through lane have the right of way [2].

 

If a car backs out and collides with a car in the through lane, the car that was backing out will almost always be held responsible for the accident. That party is considered at-fault. However, there are exceptions.

 

Backing Up Into Each Other

What happens if two vehicles are backing out of parking spots and collide end to end? This is far more common than you may think. In fact, parking lot end to end collisions (accidents caused by two car backing out into each other) happen often.

In this circumstance, it can be difficult for a police officer to determine fault. The doctrine of negligence requires that both drivers obey a duty of care to ensure they are responsibly operating their vehicle safely and with full awareness of the parking lot around them.

In this case, the driver that begins backing out last, is the driver that is held at-fault [4]. While the driver who backed out first will not be at-fault.

If it is unclear which car began backing out first, then the police officer on the scene will have to determine who is at-fault based on the context of the events and eyewitness accounts. If fault cannot be determined, then the accident may be considered no-fault – though this is a very uncommon determination.  

 

DO THIS – No Matter Who Is At-Fault!

No matter if you are at-fault for the accident or not at-fault, you must collect as much information about the accident as possible. Some evidence may help your case later.

If you do find yourself in a parking lot accident where you were deemed at-fault, be sure to get any eye witness accounts that could help your case. If the other diver was speeding, missed a posted yield or stop sign, or was texting, be sure to ask eyewitnesses to give testimony to the police and save their contact information.

Take pictures of the car accident and the surrounding area.

 

How to Avoid Parking Lot Accidents

There are a number of common pitfalls that lead to car accidents in parking lots. We find that these accidents can be avoided by following a few safety protocols:

  • Find parking spots that are well lit.
  • Put any store purchases in the trunk and avoid placing purchases anywhere that could distract you or hinder your ability to safely operate the vehicle.
  • Make sure you are ready to drive before you start moving – don’t begin fastening your seat belt while driving, do it before you start moving!
  • Take your time, do not speed in parking lots. 
  • Back out slowly – remember that cars in the parking lot through lane have right of way.

If you find yourself in a car accident in a parking lot, be sure to contact a lawyer as soon as you can.


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Sources:

[1]: ‘Tis the Season for Parking Lot Injuries

[2]: 316.195 Additional parking regulations

[3]: Who Is at Fault For a Parking Lot Car Accident?