Parking lots are chaotic. You’ve got people driving around looking for the perfect spot, pedestrians coming and going, and drivers pulling into an empty space or reversing out to leave. There’s a lot going on in a relatively tight space which is why parking lot accidents are so common.
Despite what you may have heard, however, fault for a parking lot accident isn’t always split down the middle. It’s treated in much as the same way as another other motor vehicle collision because just like main streets, parking lots have right-of-way rules too.
Right-Of-Way in a Parking Lot
While navigating a parking lot, some drivers may get confused by who exactly has the right-of-way. The best way to determine this is by considering the type of lane you are in because parking lots have two basic types of roads: thoroughfares and feeder lanes.
A thoroughfare is generally 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 typically begin and end at the thoroughfares.
Drivers in a thoroughfare usually have the right-of-way over those departing feeder lanes. Keep in mind, however, whether you’re driving on a thoroughfare or feeder lane, if you want to turn left or right, you must yield right-of-way to approaching traffic, pedestrians and cyclists.
Similarly, anyone who is moving out of a parking space must yield to those who are driving through the lane. Akin to pulling out of your driveway onto a street, vehicles in a parking space do not have right-of-way over those already on the move.
Finally, all stop and yield signs trump assumed right-of-way. These signs should be observed in a parking lot in the same way as signs on any street. Failure to obey posted signs could result in an accident for which you may be found at fault for having caused.
Common Parking Lot Accidents
One of the most common accidents to occur in a parking lot is one in which a driver is backing (or pulling) out of a space and strikes another vehicle, whether moving or parked. In this scenario, the driver exiting the parking space will usually be found at fault for the collision with one exception: in a case where two cars are backing out at the same time and hit each other, fault is likely to be shared.
Typically, any situation in which you strike a legally parked vehicle will 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 hit a parked car and leave the scene without making an effort to contact the owner of the car, it can also be considered a hit-and-run.
If a collision occurs when both cars are on the move, in general, fault will be determined in a similar manner as if the collision occurred on street. If you rear-end another vehicle, for example, or are driving on the wrong side of the lane to get around a car waiting to park, then you would typically be found at fault for the resulting collision.
How Insurance Companies Determine Fault
Just like any accident on the street, insurance companies will take statements and consider damage to all vehicles involved in a parking lot accident to determine fault. They’ll also rely on the fault determination rules, which are predetermined guidelines by which adjusters can quickly determine fault. When it comes to Ontario auto insurance, for example, these can be found under the Insurance Act.
Cooperating and providing accurate information are the best things you can do to ensure fair fault determination. If you disagree with the determination however, you also have the right to appeal the insurance company’s decision. A third-party mediator can be brought in to make an objective decision on the claim.
Avoiding Parking Lot Accidents
Cautious driving is the best and easiest way to avoid being involved in a collision but there are other preventative measures you can take too:
- Drive slowly and heed the lot’s posted speed limits.
- Don’t cut across the parking lot diagonally.
- Use your turn signal indicator so others know your intentions.
- Instead of circling around looking for a spot closest to the entrance, seek out a spot further away where it may be less congested.
- If possible, back into the parking spot so that it’s easier to leave.
- Park fully within the spot, without hugging any one line. If your vehicle is too far out or to the side, you run the risk of someone clipping you or causing damage when they open their door.
- When reversing out of a spot, do so slowly and watch for pedestrians and cars coming down the lane as well as cars backing out of nearby spots.
- Don’t rely solely on your back-up camera.
- Watch for cars that might be backing out a space with blind spots (like if there’s a large vehicle next to them). Allow the driver to continue out of the space until they make eye contact with you. While they might be at fault in an accident, it’s up to all drivers to avoid preventable accidents.
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Article updated to ensure relevancy.
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