Just like an accident on the road, parking lot accidents vary greatly as to who will be found at fault. There are a number of factors that can go into who is at fault when an accident takes place in a parking lot, and many drivers find the rules confusing. Just like on the street, parking lots have right-of-way rules, but by their nature the accidents that happen there tend to be a little different.
Right-Of-Way In a Parking Lot
Drivers in parking lots tend to get a bit confused as to who has the right-of-way when traversing the lines of parking spots. A basic rule to follow is to consider what type of lane you are in. Parking lots have two basic types of lanes: thoroughfares and feeder lanes.
A thoroughfare is a lane that exits to a street. These tend to be wider and are the main arteries of the parking lot. Feeder lanes on the other hand are smaller lanes that end and begin at the thoroughfares. Those who are driving in a thoroughfare have the right-of-way over those coming out of feeder lanes. That means that you must stop and allow traffic in the thoroughfare to proceed before moving out of a feeder lane.
Similarly, anyone who is moving out of a parking space must yield to those who are driving through the lane. Just like a car coming out of a driveway onto a street, vehicles in a parking space do not have right-of-way over those already proceeding.
Finally, all stop and yield signs in a parking lot should be observed in the same way as on any street. Failure to obey posted signs can leave you at fault in a resulting accident.
Common Parking Lot Accidents
One of the most common accidents to occur in a parking lot is one in which a driver is backing out of a space and strikes another vehicle, whether moving or parked. A driver backing out of a parking space will usually be found at fault for an accident with one exception. In a case where two cars are backing out at the same time and strike each other, fault in the accident is likely to be shared.
Any situation in which you as a driver strike a legally parked vehicle will typically find you at fault. This includes backing into a parked car, striking a car with your door when opening it, or clipping it in the lot. If you leave the scene of an accident in which you struck a parked car without making an effort to contact the owner of the car, it can be considered a hit-and-run.
Unfortunately, pedestrians are also at risk in parking lots, as they are walking between stores and cars and are present in greater numbers than on the average street. It’s vital that all drivers be aware of the presence of pedestrians when driving in a parking lot.
How Insurance Companies Determine Fault
Just like an accident on the street, insurance companies will determine the fault in an accident based on all of the gathered facts about the incident. They will take statements and consider the damage to the vehicle.
Parking lots are subject to fault determination rules, which are predetermined guidelines by which adjusters can quickly determine fault. Cooperating and providing accurate information are the best things you can do to ensure a fair fault determination.
Just like with any other accident, you have the right to appeal the insurance company’s decision if you do not believe you are at fault. A third party mediator can be brought it to make an objective decision on the claim.
Avoiding Parking Lot Accidents
Cautious driving in a parking lot is the best way to avoid being involved in an at-fault accident – or any accident. Always slow down and drive more carefully in parking lots. There are many cars and pedestrians going in multiple directions in a large and busy lot, and it requires proceeding with extra caution.
Back out very slowly and watch for cars coming down the lane or backing out of other spots, as well as for pedestrians. It can be very difficult to see when backing out of a spot next to a large vehicle such as a van; when proceeding through the lanes watch for people who might be backing out with blind spots, and allow them to continue to back out slowly until they make eye contact with you. While they might be at fault in an accident, it’s up to all drivers to help stop preventable accidents.