Parking Lot Accidents : Who is at Fault?

parking lot accidents

Is it estimated that there are around 105 million parking lots and upwards of 2 billion parking spaces in the United States. [1] So it’s not surprise that the number of parking lot accidents would be high.

In fact, studies show that parking lot accidents account for nearly at 20% of all auto accidents! [2].

If you got in an accident in the parking lot then you might be wondering: Who is at fault?

In this article I’ll shed some light on this topic. I’ll cover:

2 Quick Ways to Tell Who is At Fault
Most Common Parking Lot Accidents and Who is at Fault
What You Should do After the Accident

Parking Lot Accidents : 2 Ways to Tell Who is At Fault

So who is at fault when two cars collide in a parking lot? Of course each car accident has it’s unique circumstances but there are two primary factors to consider.

1. Was your car moving?

If your car was stationary and was struck by another car, then fault is pretty obviously with the other party. This is of course if you are parked properly (legally) and there are no other major causative factors that could be pinned on you.

2. Who had the right of way?

If both cars are in motion, figuring out fault gets a little bit trickier. This comes down to who has the right of way. If a parking lot is well laid out it should have markings on the pavement or stop/yield/speed limit signs to establish the rules within the lot.

If one driver fails to adhere to these rules/guidelines then they are at fault. If none exist, it depends more on the context of the accident, potential negligent actions taken and other factors such as speed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Commission has more details on right of way if you are curious.[3]

Common Parking Lot Accident Scenarios and Who is at Fault

With so many accidents in parking lots every year there are sure to be some common scenarios. These include situations such as when..

A car backing out of space is hit by oncoming car. This is one of the most common types of parking lot accidents and determining fault is pretty simple. Just like you were taught in Drivers Ed, before you back out somewhere you need to head check both directions to make sure it’s clear. Failure to do so puts you clearly in the wrong.

A car rear ends another car while stopped. Abrupt stops are all too common in parking lots and unsurprisingly this makes rear end fender benders a dime a dozen. I’ve written a post on rear end accident-specific fault , and a lot of those rules apply here. But most of the time, if you hit someone at a stop sign or while they’ve stopped (blinker on) to get a space, and you’re considered at fault for the accident.

Two cars go for the same space and collide. Often this will be a case of shared fault for the accident. But although that is true in general, the driver who must cross the flow of traffic to make it to the space tends to be held liable. So this one isn’t always as 50/50 as it may seem.

The one advantage about having an accident in a parking lot over in the main street is that if there is any dispute, it is easier to gather the evidence. Most parking garages are monitored via surveillance video. You can get a copy of this video and send it to your insurance company to determine who is at fault in your car accident claim.

What To Do After a Parking Lot Accident?

The response to an accident in a parking lot is no different than any other accident. Make sure no one is hurt, inspect damage and determine whether there is enough to warrant calling the police. Also, be sure to :

1. Get as much information as you can. You’ll obviously want the other driver’s name, car info, insurance policy details – but you’ll also want to make sure you’ve recorded the time, location, weather, witness’s info (if applicable) and any other notes you think of. More information is never bad.

2. Notify your insurance company immediately. Your insurance company needs to know about the accident as soon as possible – this is key to getting a claim quickly processed or getting your vehicle repaired in short order. Know a little about fault in parking lots, and pay attention to these two steps and you should be a good shape.

Bottom Line

Parking lot accidents happen all the time, but there is good news. Figuring out who is at fault is relatively simple compared to other types of accidents, and even more importantly these accidents generally involve fewer injuries and fatalities. Drive safe!


[1] New York Times
[2] My Park Sign
[3] National Hightway Safety

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