Parking lot accidents are quite common, especially in the winter months when the roads are more slippery and visibility decreases. Some drivers may think parking lot accidents are treated differently than common car accidents or hit and run accidents, because they take place on private property, but this is not the case. This article will help debunk some common parking lot myths; break down how fault is determined, and offer some important tips on how to avoid this situation.
Who is at-fault in a parking lot accident?
The most common myth associated with parking lot accidents is known as the 50/50 rule. This misconception states that if two cars are involved in any sort of accident that takes place inside a parking lot, both drivers are equally at fault. This is not true!
Parking lot accidents are treated the same way as any other accident, as they also have right-of-way rules and laws. Insurance companies use fault determination rules to help figure out who will be held accountable for the accident. Just like all other accidents, statements are taken, personal injury and property damages are considered, and fault is determined based on the specifics of the situation.
In some situations, who is at fault will be evident. If a driver has clearly violated a right-of-way law, then the fault will be theirs. The following right-of-way rules will help explain how fault is determined in some situations:
- Drivers in a lane that directly exits onto a main road or highway (also known as a thoroughfare) have the right of way over drivers in a lane that does not exit directly onto a road or highway (also known as a feeder lane). An example of a feeder lane is a lane between two rows of parked cars.
- Any driver pulling or reversing out of a parking space must yield to oncoming traffic.
- Drivers must obey all traffic signs in a parking lot, including yield and stop signs. Failing to do so is a violation of the law, and will put you at fault if you are involved in an accident as a result of your error.
What are some common types of parking lot accidents?
There are many different types of potential parking lot accidents, including these four of the most common.
1. You hit a parked car
In most situations when you hit another vehicle that is stationary and legally parked, you are 100 per cent at fault. This includes scenarios like opening your car door and hitting the door of a parked car, or backing out of a parking space and hitting the car in the space opposite from you. These types of accidents are the most frequent kind of parking lot accident.
2. Two cars leaving their parking spaces hit each other
When two vehicles get into an accident while pulling or reversing out of their respective parking spaces, both drivers will generally share the fault. This is one of the only times that the 50/50 rule will apply. Both drivers will be held accountable for this accident because they are both responsible for their own movement, and neither driver has the right-of-way.
3. You hit a moving car while leaving a parking spot
When leaving a parking space, you must yield to all oncoming traffic, as they have the right-of-way. You are responsible for ensuring that it is safe for you to leave your space. Therefore, in this situation, the fault will most likely fall on you.
4. Two cars collide when competing for a parking space
As both drivers are moving, they will both have some level of fault in this accident. However, the fault may not fall evenly. In a situation like this, different factors will be considered to determine who has more fault. These factors can include which driver (if any) had the right-of-way, points of impact on the vehicles, which direction each driver was turning and how far into the parking space each vehicle was when the collision happened.
What do I do after a parking lot accident?
Parking lot accidents should be handled the same way you would handle any other accident. Follow the steps outlined in the following situations.
Hit and Run
When someone hits your car, let's hope they leave their contact information, but if they don't, here's what you need to do.
- Gather documentation. Take photos of the vehicle, your surroundings, and any visible damage. You can also create a written account of the incident, including how and when you discovered it.
- Call the police. No matter the extent of the damage, it's best to contact the police. You can file a report and possibly get a start on the investigation.
- Investigate. You can also do a bit of sleuthing on your own. Check out nearby establishments and ask if someone saw something or if they have security footage of the event.
- Call your broker or your insurance company.
We may consider most fender benders to be minor, however, you can never be too careful, and it's best to take the following steps.
- Move your car out of the way. Do this only if it is safe to do so.
- Check everyone’s safety. If someone is injured, immediately call for emergency services.
- File an accident report. If you live in Ontario and damages to either or both vehicles exceed more than $2,000, the Ontario Traffic Act requires you to report the collision by filing an accident report with the police.
- Exchange information with any other parties involved. This should include insurance information, contact details (such as your name, phone number, and license plate number). If the owner of the vehicle wasn’t present for the collision (i.e. you hit a parked car), leave them a note with all of the above information. Remember, hit and runs are illegal.
- Document the scene. Take pictures of the accident scene that includes damage to all vehicles involved. These photographs may come in handy when making an insurance claim with your insurance provider or when filing a police report.
What if you are at fault in a parking lot accident?
If only one car is moving in a parking lot accident, that vehicle is usually at fault. If this driver is you, here's what to do:
Wait for the other party
If the owner of the other car isn't around yet, wait for them if you can - it's common courtesy. If you are in a rush, leave your contact information for them.
Once you reach the other person, discuss how to resolve the issue, e.g. give them your contact and insurance information. You should also contact your broker to keep them in the loop.
How can I avoid a parking lot accident?
Driving in parking lots can be stressful. They may be busy, full of pedestrians and hard to manoeuvre in. Practicing cautious and careful driving is the best way to avoid an accident, but here are some additional preventative measures you can take.
- Instead of driving around the parking lot to find a space close to the entrance, opt for a spot in a less busy and congested area. Driving in circles, especially in areas where traffic is heavy, increases your chances of getting into a collision.
- Park fully within your parking space; try your best to not hug either line. If you give your neighbour adequate room, they will be less likely to hit your car accidentally.
- Don’t just rely on your backup camera. Use it as an additional aid, not as your main viewpoint when reversing.
- Check your blind spots often, especially when reversing or turning. Be wary of parking near large trucks. They can often create additional blind spots, so be extra careful if parked beside them.
- Always stay in your lane when driving, just as you would on a regular road. Many drivers tend to cut across parking lots diagonally or cut corners, but doing this increases your chances of getting into a collision.
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The truth about parking lot accidents FAQs
How is fault determined in a parking lot accident?
Authorities usually consider general right-of-way laws, even for parking lot accidents. For example, any driver pulling out of a parking space must yield to oncoming traffic. It's best to document every detail of an accident to help in an investigation.
What happens if you hit a car in a parking lot in Ontario?
If you hit a legally-parked car, you are at fault. Your next action depends on the severity of the damage. In best-case scenarios, you and the other party can arrive at an agreement. If there are any injuries, call emergency services immediately along with the police. You should also report it if the damage exceeds $2,000 in Ontario (check your provincial laws if you live outside of Ontario).