Parking lots are often busy with pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles all moving in nearly every direction. Considering the high volume of traffic and distractions, even the best drivers can be the victim of a parking lot accident. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that about 20% of car accidents that cause damage take place in a parking lot.
When it comes to motor vehicle collisions, parking lots can be a gray area. It’s not really a roadway and most people find it hard to determine who has the right of way. There is also a common misconception that insurance companies split liability 50/50 by default in parking lot accidents. Drivers are usually shocked to learn that these collisions are treated the same way as any other accident. It’s important to be aware of how fault is addressed in a parking lot accident to ensure you recover the compensation owed by your insurer.
Common Parking Lot Accidents
All drivers owe a duty of care to follow traffic laws and be reasonably aware of their surroundings. When a driver fails to use reasonable care and this results in harm, this conduct constitutes negligence. These negligent actions can result in the driver (and their insurance provider) being held financially liable for the other person’s injuries or losses (also known as damages).
Negligence comes into play any time fault for a motor vehicle accident is in dispute as part of the insurance claim process or in court. Some people may think parking lot accidents are treated differently than typical car accidents or hit and run accidents because they happen on private property. While fault in parking lot accidents can be difficult to determine due to the variety of factors involved, the claims process is relatively similar to any other accident.
A Moving Vehicle Hits a Parked Car
This is the most common parking lot accident. In most cases, if you hit a legally parked car, you will be considered 100% at fault by your insurance company. This includes hitting a parked car while backing out of a parking spot or opening your car door.
Two Vehicles Back Into Each Other
When two cars hit each other when pulling out of a parking space, both drivers will typically share fault for the parking lot accident. The percentage of fault assigned to each driver will depend on legal parking or if one of the drivers could have reasonably avoided the collision.
A Vehicle Hits a Pedestrian or Cyclist
Pedestrians and cyclists can come out of nowhere when exiting stores, crossing parking spaces, and getting out of their vehicles. In pedestrian accidents, the driver of the motor vehicle is presumed to be responsible for the accident unless proven otherwise.
A Vehicle Hits a Stationary Object
It is not uncommon to hit stationary objects in parking lots like a curb, median, shopping cart, traffic signs, or a light post. In most insurance claims for single-car parking lot accidents involving stationary objects, the driver will be 100% at fault.
A Vehicle Rear Ends Another Vehicle at a Stop Sign
If you rear end a car at a stop sign, or other areas in a parking lot, you may be at fault for the accident. Rear end collisions can cause serious head and neck injuries for one or both drivers, resulting in extensive medical costs for treatment and recovery.
Multiple Car Accident in a Parking Lot
There are countless scenarios that can lead to a three-car accident. A rear end collision could force one or both vehicles to hit another car, or a driver might hit a car while trying to avoid an accident. Fault will be determined based on the circumstances of the parking lot accident.
Fault Determination in a Parking Lot Collision
In Nova Scotia, insurance companies use Fault Determination Rules under the Nova Scotia Insurance Act and the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act to determine who is responsible for the parking lot collision. These rules include diagrams of more than 40 scenarios that can be applied to nearly every type of car collision scenario. In parking lot accidents, there are two things that drivers should remember:
- Drivers travelling on main roads have the right of way over other drivers travelling in the parking lot (feeder lanes).
- Drivers leaving a parking space must yield to oncoming traffic that has the right of way.
In a motor vehicle collision involving two or more cars, an insurance adjuster will assign a percentage of fault to each driver involved in the parking lot accident that will range from 0% to 100%. If one or multiple parties are responsible for causing damages or losses, the compensation a driver can recover is directly proportionate to their assigned percentage of fault for the accident. In common law, this is referred to as contributory negligence.
For example, let’s say two cars crash into each other while pulling into the same parking spot. Depending on the circumstances, 25% fault may be assigned to Vehicle A and 75% may be assigned to Vehicle B. Damages awarded to each driver will be reduced be the degree of responsibility. If both drivers are awarded $100,000, Vehicle A will receive $75,000 and Vehicle B will receive $25,000.
What Happens if Someone Hits Your Car and Leaves?
Despite the risks and consequences of a hit and run, some people flee the scene of an accident in a parking lot without leaving their contact information. Even though it is common for parking lots to have video surveillance, this does not guarantee there will be footage of the accident or at-fault driver. In Nova Scotia, Section D of your auto insurance policy steps in to act as the unidentified driver to pay for your damages or losses. Some drivers also equip their vehicles with dash cams that use motion sensors to start recording when they detect movement nearby. In the event that your vehicle is damaged in a hit and run, video evidence recorded on your dash cam may help track down the at-fault party.
How Does a Parking Lot Accident Affect Car Insurance?
Anytime you are involved in a collision, even a minor fender-bender, it can impact your auto insurance and driving record. This includes parking lot accidents. If you are found at fault in a parking lot collision, your premiums may increase unless your policy includes an accident forgiveness clause. If your policy doesn’t include collision coverage, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for any vehicle or property damage you are responsible for. If there are more serious charges involved like careless, impaired, or reckless driving, the person responsible for causing the accident may face demerit points, fines, or even imprisonment.
What Happens if You’re Involved in a Parking Lot Accident?
It’s estimated that one in five traffic collisions in Canada take place in parking lots. Despite the low speeds, parking lot accidents can result in serious injuries, including whiplash, concussions, and broken bones. In any type of motor vehicle collision, the first step is to check all parties involved for injuries. Subsequent steps in parking lots accidents should be handled in the same way you would any other accident.
Call 911 as soon as possible to request emergency assistance at the scene of an accident. Any injuries should be examined by a medical professional. Remember to ask for a copy of your medical report to include in an auto insurance claim.
Exchange Insurance Information
Exchange information with the other driver, including your insurer’s name, phone number, and policy number. You will also need to collect the name, contact information, and driver’s license number from all parties involved.
Document the Scene
Take pictures of the accident, vehicle damage, and your injuries. It’s also a good idea to take note of the road conditions and the date, time, and location of the parking lot accident.
File a Police Report
If no one is injured, some drivers choose to not call the police and pay out of pocket for minor damages. In Nova Scotia, a police report is required by law if the property damage to either vehicle exceeds $2,000.
File an Insurance Claim
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to explain what happened. Typically, you need to notify your car insurance within seven days of when the parking lot accident occurred.
Contact an Insurance Lawyer
Following a parking lot accident, you may not know the extent of your injuries. In some cases, injuries may not be discovered for weeks or months after the incident. A car accident lawyer will review your medical records and advise you on what information to disclose to your insurance company to ensure you receive the best medical treatment available.
How to Avoid Parking Lot Accidents
With pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles, parking lots can be challenging to maneuver around. Practicing cautious and responsible driving is the best way to avoid collisions, but sometimes parking lot accidents happen no matter how careful you are. There’s no way to accident-proof yourself completely when on the road, but there are some things you can do to reduce the odds of getting in a parking lot accident.
- Obey traffic signs and speed limits
- Yield to oncoming traffic
- Use turn signals
- Give the right of way to drivers that are already in the roadway before exiting your spot
- Check surroundings when reversing your vehicle and opening your doors
- Avoid using your mobile phone while driving
- Reverse into a parking spot to make it easier to see oncoming traffic when exiting
- Follow the directional arrows painted on the lot
- Check your blind spots often
If your vehicle has sensors that detect when other vehicles are close to your vehicle, use this technology to your advantage. If possible, park further away from other cars to reduce the chance of a parking lot accident. Remember that after you park your car, you’re now a pedestrian and you need to be responsible and pay attention to your surroundings. If you have children, hold their hands and talk to them about parking lot safety.
Your Parking Lot Accident Lawyers
If you or a loved one were injured in a parking lot accident, then you may have grounds to file a car accident claim. The best way to find out if your case has merit is to book a free consultation with one of our insurance lawyers. They will review the facts of your case and provide legal guidance on the compensation you may be entitled to recover, including:
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Ongoing medical care
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Adjusted living expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
If you choose to pursue legal action against the driver responsible for causing the parking lot accident, be sure to act quickly because you only have a limited amount of time to file a claim. The limitation period to file a car accident claim in Nova Scotia is two years from the date the accident occurred. There are some exceptions to this deadline, but it’s recommended to have an insurance lawyer review your potential claim as soon as possible following the incident.