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The truth about parking lot accidents

Jan 7, 2020 6 minute read

The truth about parking lot accidents

Parking lot accidents are a lot more common than you may realize. Especially in the winter months when the roads are more slippery and visibility decreases. Many drivers tend to think that parking lot accidents are treated differently than other accidents because they take place on private property. This is not the case. In this blog, we will debunk some common parking lot myths, break down how fault is determined in these kinds of accidents, and give you some important tips on how to avoid a situation like this in the future.

Who is at-fault in a parking lot accident?

The most common myth that is 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 will be equally at fault. This is a myth, and is not true!

Parking lot accidents are treated the same way as any other accident would be, as parking lots also have right-of-way rules and laws. Insurance companies use a set of rules called fault determination to help them figure out who will be held accountable for the accident. Just like all other accidents, statements will be taken, damages will be considered, and fault will be determined based on the specifics of your individual situation.

In some situations, who is deemed to be at fault will be evident. If a driver has clearly violated a right-of-way law, then the fault will fall on them. The following right-of-way rules will help you to better understand how fault can be 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 who is pulling or reversing out of a parking space must yield to any other oncoming traffic.
  • Drivers must obey all traffic signs while in a parking lot, including stop and yield signs. Failing to do so is a violation of the law, and will put you at fault if in an accident as a result of your error.

What are some common types of parking lot accidents?

Unfortunately, there are many different types of parking lot accidents that could potentially happen. Here are 4 of the most common, and how fault is generally determined in each of these situations.

You are driving and 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 space and hitting the car in the space opposite form you. These types of accidents are the most frequent kind of parking lot accident.

Two cars that are leaving their parking spaces hit each other.

When two vehicle get into an accident while pulling or reversing out of their respective parking spaces, both of the 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.

You hit another 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.

Two cars competing for a parking space collide.

As both drivers are moving, they will both have some level of fault in this accident. However, the fault may not fall evenly on both parties. 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 that you would handle any other accident. If you are involved in any type of collision, remember to do all of the following:

  • Move your car out of the way if it is safe to do so.
  • Check to make sure that all parties involved are safe and unharmed. If someone is injured, immediately call for emergency services.
  • If damages to either or both vehicles exceed more than $2000, 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 information should include insurance info, contact details (such as your name and phone number) and license plate number. If the owner of the vehicle was not 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.
  • Take pictures of any damages to all vehicles involved. These photographs may come in handy when making a claim with your insurance company, or when filing a report with the police.

How can I avoid a parking lot accident?

Driving in parking lots can be stressful. They are incredibly busy, full of pedestrians and hard to manoeuvre. Of course, 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, makes you more likely to get 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 accidentally hit your car.
  • Don’t put 100 per cent of your trust in your backup camera. Use them only as an additional aid, not your main viewpoint when reversing.
  • Make sure to 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 take extra caution 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 makes you a lot more likely to get into a collision.

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FAQ

What do I do if I hit a parked car?

Treat it like any other accident. First, make sure everyone is safe. If anyone needs medical attention, call 911 immediately. Exchange information with the other party involved. If they are not there, leave a note with your contact information. If the damage exceeds $2,000, you will need to report it. To learn more, read our What should you do when you’ve hit a parked car blog post.

Who is at fault in a parking lot accident?

It depends on the situation. Just like any other accident, your insurance company will determine who is at fault.