Parking lot accidents are often simple fender benders, but they happen fairly frequently. Many drivers are confused when it comes to an accident in a parking lot and how the insurance company will handle it; this confusion is often due to the fact that a parking lot is private property and is viewed as having a unique set of right-of-way guidelines.
Does Insurance Cover You in a Parking Lot?
Your insurance policy may cover you for an accident occurring in a parking lot as long as you have the appropriate coverage. If you don’t carry collision insurance, for example, you may not have coverage for damage to your own vehicle if you are found to be at fault in the accident.
Insurance applies equally to an accident on private property such as a parking lot and on public streets. Your insurance company will handle the claim in much the same way; investigating what happened, determining who was at fault, and paying out damages accordingly.
How Is Fault Determined in a Parking Lot?
As with any other situation, there is a set of rules that are applied to determining fault when an accident occurs in a parking lot. Some of the rules are similar to those you would expect anywhere else – if you strike another vehicle from the rear, for example, you will likely be found at fault.
Some of the rules however, are unique to parking lots. There are few other locations where cars are likely to back into each other. The aisles of a parking lot may or may not have stop signs, and may also be one-way or two way. Some are considered to be the main thoroughfares of the parking lot, and cars entering these larger paths from feeder lanes are expected to give up right of way to cars already travelling through them. Even if no stop sign exists, vehicles are expected to stop before proceeding from one aisle to another.
Additionally, parking lots are often busy with pedestrians, and contain other hazards such as shopping carts. As in any other driving situation, you are always responsible to be on the lookout for pedestrians. You can read more about parking lot fault determination here.
Note that you are required to report parking lot accidents to your insurance company as you would any other type of accident. In Ontario, for example, parking lots are considered private property, but Ontario auto insurance policies require drivers to report the incident regardless of where it happened.
Does a Parking Lot Accident Affect Your Rates?
Like an accident anywhere else, if you are found to be at fault in a parking lot accident, you can usually expect your rates to go up. Insurance companies do not make a distinction between an accident that takes place on private property and one in a public street when it comes to calculating rates.
An at-fault accident in a parking lot is treated in much the same way as any other accident and is likely to have an impact on your rates, unless you are carrying an accident forgiveness clause on your policy and it applies to the accident in question.
It’s also important to note that while parking lots may be private property, legal ramifications to any accident that occurs there can still exist. If you are found to be driving under the influence in a parking lot, for example, you can be charged with a DUI in much the same manner as you would if it occurred on the street. Demerit points to your license may also apply.
Single-Car Parking Lot Accidents and Hit-and-Run Accidents
Damage to cars in parking lots frequently occurs when no other car is involved or the other car does not remain at the scene. This can be a result of a single-car accident in which the driver strikes an object such as a shopping cart, or a situation where another driver opens a car door and strikes the vehicle next to them.
If you are responsible for the damage due to having struck an object, your claim will be processed under your collision coverage, and you will be found at fault in the accident. This can result in a rate increase. In some cases, it makes more sense to have the repair done without an insurance claim, depending on the extent of the damage. Learn more about when you should report an accident here.
If the damage was done when you were not present, and no note was left, your insurance company will treat it as a hit-and-run accident. In this case if you have collision coverage you may not be held at fault, but you should report the damage to the policy and obtain a report. You will likely be required to pay a deductible to have the damage repaired.
Driving with extra caution and avoiding parking in spots that are too cramped can help to avoid such damage.