Parking Lot Car Accidents: Common Questions & Answers, Statistics & Research, and Advice

Though not quite as frightening as a highway crash or multi-car pileup, parking lot accidents are something hundreds of people have to deal with on a daily basis. In a crowded parking lot, determining fault can be a complex process. While the normal rules of the road still apply, a number of potentially complicating factors can come up.

How Is Fault Determined in a Parking Lot Accident?

Fault in a parking lot car accident is partly determined by the standard rules of the road and partly by the insurance company’s internal guidelines. In a parking lot accident, you are automatically at fault if:

  • You hit a parked car or pedestrian.
  • You run a clearly marked stop sign, drive the wrong way down a one-way lane or fail to follow any other established rules of the road.
  • You exercise negligence by texting when driving, driving too fast or engaging in any other reckless or distracting behavior.

Why Determining Fault Is Important

Two people trying to determine who is at fault for a parking lot car accident An official determination of fault in a two-car accident is what decides which insurance company is responsible for paying out the damages. Unlike an accident on the road, police rarely respond to incidences in parking lots or on other private property. As a result, insurance companies rely on witness testimony to determine fault. While it may be tempting to handle a minor fender bender out of pocket, this isn’t always the best idea. Even accidents that don’t seem serious at first can cost thousands of dollars to repair properly. When the potential for injury is added on, it makes sense to not only file a claim, but make sure you have the best car accident lawyer defending your rights.

 Other Fault Factors:
Poorly maintained parking lot facilities can be subject to premises liability lawsuits if negligence on the part of the building owner directly led to a car accident. This is more common in single vehicle accidents or comprehensive claims involving parked cars. In these incidences, it’s best to speak with a personal injury lawyer directly to determine the best way forward.

What To Do If Fault Is Contested

No one likes to admit they’re responsible for an accident. Determining fault in a parking lot accident is frequently a contentious issue. If you find yourself this situation, there are a few things you can do to support your case should fault become a problem:

  • Write down everything that happened as soon as possible. This will reduce the possibility of accidentally giving conflicting information to your insurer.
  • Take a picture of the accident scene and the damage to your car. Things like skid marks, paint scrapes and other damage help an adjuster recreate the incident and can provide evidence to support your version of events.
  • Look for witnesses. Be sure to get the contact information of any bystanders who saw the accident.
  • See if you can obtain parking lot footage from the building’s security system.

The most important thing following a parking lot accident is to remain calm and stay civil. Getting angry doesn’t help anyone — take the high road if the other person starts to lose their cool.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What do you do if you hit a car in the parking lot?

A: If no one is there leave a note. If a person is in the car, immediately ask if they are okay. If they are okay photograph the cars as they are at the time of impact. The rules of the road generally apply to parking lots as a matter of common sense. Make sure you exchange name, phone number and insurance information. Finally, get the names and phone numbers to all the witnesses who saw the accident because fault can be difficult to establish in parking lot accidents.

B: Is an accident in a parking lot split 50/50?

A: No, Jury’s tend to hold driver’s in parking lots to the rules of the road. For example, we drive on the right and not the left side of the road. In America you drive on the right side of the road whether you are in a parking lot or not. Generally speaking one should drive consistent with the rules of the road, even in a parking lot.

Q: Does a parking lot accident go on your driving record?

A: It goes on your driving record with your insurance company.

Q: Do you have to signal when reversing out of a parking spot?

A: When we place our vehicle in reverse, our reverse lights should come on automatically.

Q: What happens if you get in an accident in a parking lot?

A: Generally speaking, the standard you are held to in a parking lot is the same standard you would be held to on a roadway. You have a duty to use due care to avoid harm to others.

Q: What do I do if someone backs Into my car in a parking lot?

A: Photograph the vehicles at the position of impact. This will help you to establish you maintained control of the through lane and they failed to yield your right of way when they backed into you.

Q: Who has the right of way when reversing?

A: Generally speaking when no one is speeding, any person with a through lane has a right of way. Any person backing out should make certain the through lane is clear before reversing. Establishing fault on these cases can be difficult.

Q: Is the reversing party always at fault?

A: No, one is not required to foresee the legal acts of another. In other words, if the other person in the through lane is speeding or driving on the wrong side of the lane, that would reduce the fault of the reversing driver.

Q: What do you do if your car is hit while parked?

A: If you have the name of the individual who hit your car while it was parked you should make a claim against their insurance company. If you do not have their name or know who they are, then you have to make the claim with your own insurance company.

Top Reasons for Parking Lot Accidents:

Backing Out of a Parking Space and Got Hit

Backing Out of a Parking Space and Got Hit If you were backing out of a parking space and got hit, you unfortunately will be considered to be at fault 90% of the time. Depending on which state you are in, there might be a little more leniency here, but the driver behind you technically had the right-of-way. You best bet in this situation is to contact your insurance company immediately, and let your insurance company "go to bat" for you with the other drivers insurance company. Now, if this accident resulted in an injury, then you will want to call a personal injury lawyer right away, and give them as many details as possible. Also, if there were any witnesses to the accident, their testimony could be invaluable. Make sure to get their name, phone number, and if possible a video of them describing what they witnessed.

Parking Lot Accident Fault Both Backing Up

Parking Lot Accident Fault Both Backing Up In this situation both drivers are at fault, since both were negligent in checking behind them. However, this will also depend on if you are living in a comparative negligence state. In these states, liability can be divided up according to the "percentage" each driver may have played in causing the incident. Unless this accident resulted in an injury, your best bet is to repair the damage yourself if it is small and easily fixed. Remember, your insurance is there to help cover major losses and damages, not small ones. Claiming little things like this could potentially hurt you as much as claiming a major damage claim. You will have to decide which course of action is best for your personal needs.

Reversing Out of a Parking Space Accident

If you were the driver that was reversing out of the parking space, then the liability for the accident is yours. This is because you did not have the right of way. Whoever is moving out of a parking space must yield to those who are driving through the lane. Just as if you were pulling out of your driveway onto the street, vehicles in a parking space do not have the right-of-way over already moving vehicles.

Hit Another Car While Reversing

Checking to make sure no one is hurt from the accident in the parking lotIf you hit another car while reversing, these are 7 simple steps you need to take immediately:

1. First, Check to See if Anyone Was Hurt: If you see that someone was seriously hurt or injured due to your car reversing into them, you need to call an ambulance immediately, and let them know what happened. If everyone is ok, move on to the next step.

2. Next Call The Police If Necessary: If the accident resulted in anything more than a scratch, do yourself a favor and call 911. They will dispatch an officer out to you right away. It is always good to have the police report on file just in case the other driver attempts to "embellish" details later on. You calling the police is as much for your protection as for anything else. When talking to the police, you want to be honest and stick to the facts. However, choose your words carefully and don’t offer up information that isn’t requested, and don’t give an official statement until you’ve had the opportunity to speak with a personal injury lawyer.

3. Do Not Leave The Scene: This is very important. Remember, getting into an accident is not a crime, but leaving the scene of the accident absolutely is. There are exceptions to this, for instance if you are running to get help, but even then it is better to ask someone else to go for you if possible. You want to reduce the risk of someone saying you were trying to "flee the scene" as much as possible.

4. Next, Check For Witnesses: You don't know if this will turn into a legal case, so your best bet is to check and see if anyone saw what happened. If so, write down their name and phone number, and if they feel comfortable, take a video of them describing exactly what they saw. You want to get their account of the accident as soon as possible, because people forget quickly (especially the small details).

Teenager taking photo of damage from a parking lot accident with woman on phone behind him 5. Next, Take Photos: You want to make sure you take photos of the damage to your car, and the other persons car. Make sure to take photos from multiple angles, along with both close ups and shots a few feet away.

6. Then, Take Video: Make sure to take several videos if possible. While filming you want to walk fully around both cars if possible without stopping the video. So this will be one fluid video, starting with your vehicle, and then moving onto the vehicle you reversed into. Also, make sure to capture any thing on the ground such as broken glass, chipped paint, oil or fluid spill, etc.

7. Call Your Insurance Company: Yes, you want to call your insurance company right away in most cases where an injury is not involved. You are paying for your insurance, and this type of situation is exactly why. Make sure to inform them that you have video, photos, Witness statements on video if available, and a police report. If the accident did result in an injury, you may need to approach it another way. You can read about that more in this article we wrote that will explain what to say to your car insurance company.

Parking Lot Accident Statistics With Sources (Updated 2019)

A.) Distracted driving while in a parking lot: The National Safety Council predicts that 2 out of 3 Drivers May Be Distracted While Driving in Parking Lots.(1)

B.) Deaths in Parking Lots: and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration published in their April 2018 report that 2,115 people were killed, and over 95,000 were injured, in non-traffic motor vehicle accidents, seen most commonly in Parking Lots.(2)

C.) Public Polls: A rather shocking NSC public opinion poll,(3) discovered that 66% of drivers nationwide said they would make phone calls while driving through parking lots. Participants who took this poll also said they would:

  • Program GPS systems (63%)
  • Text (56%)
  • Use social media (52%)
  • Send or receive emails (50%)
  • Take photos or watch videos (49%)

This poll showed the NSC that teenagers were (59%) more likely to engage in personal grooming while driving through a parking lot, as compared to adults who came in at (53%). Surprisingly however, teenagers showed they were (6%) less likely to be on the phone compared to their adult counterparts (Teens: 60% vs. Adults: 66%).

D.) Child Fatality and Injury: A research study was conducted by the NHTSA from 2008-2011, which was the most recent study we could find,(4.) into child fatalities and injuries caused by non-traffic crashes. "These crashes, subsequently referred to as “nontraffic crashes,” are mostly single-vehicle crashes on private roads, two-vehicle crashes in parking facilities, or collisions with pedestrians on drive-ways."

The highly disturbing study found that that during the four-year period from 2008 to 2011, non-traffic motor vehicle crashes killed an estimated:

  • 1,043 children 14 and younger
  • An estimated  30,000 children (14 and younger) were injured in these crashes
  • Non-occupant children such as pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for (85%) of the children killed
  • (47%) were struck by forward-moving vehicles
  • (43%) had been hit by vehicles that were backing up

Sources:

(1.)  National Safety Council | Article: "2 out of 3 Drivers May Be Distracted While Driving in Parking Lots" | https://www.nsc.org/in-the-newsroom/2-out-of-3-drivers-may-be-distracted-while-driving-in-parking-lots
(2.) National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration | Study Published: April, 2018 | Study Title:
Non-Traffic Surveillance: Fatality and Injury Statistics in Non-Traffic Crashes in 2015 | https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812515
(3.) National Safety Council | Distracted Driving Public Opinion Poll (reference page 7) | Poll Published: March, 2016 | https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/DistractedDrivingDocuments/Methodology%20Summary%20-%20All%20Drivers.pdf?ver=2018-03-09-130454-233
(4.) National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration | Study Published: April, 2014 | Study Title:
Not-in-Traffic Surveillance: Child Fatality and Injury in Nontraffic Crashes—2008 to 2011 Statistics | https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/811812