Parking Lot Accident Danger Zones

5 Common Types of Parking Lot Accidents

Back up. Pull in. Turn out. Parking lots are home to lots of activity in a relatively small amount of space. Add unique layouts, traffic patterns that vary by parking lot, bikers and pedestrians, and it's easy to see why accidents happen in parking lots.

Who's at fault in a parking lot accident?

When an accident happens, you can generally use one or two factors to determine who was at fault in a parking lot accident:

  1. Was the car moving? If only one car is moving, the driver of a moving vehicle is generally the majority at fault in an accident. For example, if your car is legally parked and someone hits it, the other driver is generally at fault.
  2. Which driver had the right of way? If both cars are moving, one car typically has the right of way, based on the pattern or lane of traffic. Of course, if a driver is going too fast or fails to yield that driver may be at fault.

To see these criteria in action, let's analyze five common types of parking lot accidents.

  1. Two drivers back up into each other – Both cars are moving, so both drivers are responsible for that movement. Neither driver has the right of way. Each is responsible for checking to be sure it is safe to back up before doing so. In this parking lot accident, who is at fault? It is likely both drivers will share fault for the accident.
  2. A driver pulls forward out of a space, into the lane of traffic – Both cars are moving so both drivers are responsible. In a parking lot, drivers in the traffic lane have the right of way, so the driver who pulled out of the space is likely the majority at fault in the accident.
  3. A driver backs out of a space, into an oncoming car – Because both vehicles are moving, each driver may hold some responsibility. But, the driver in the traffic lane has the right of way. The driver who is backing out is responsible for waiting until it is safe to back out. The driver backing out is likely to be deemed primarily at fault in this parking lot accident.
  4. Two cars vying for the same space collide – While rushing to get a parking space, one car collides with another. Both vehicles were moving, so both drivers have responsibility. Which driver has the right of way? As on a roadway, the driver making a turn across traffic must yield to oncoming traffic. The driver turning left into the parking space is likely the majority at fault in this accident. Of course other factors such as the points of impact on the vehicles, how far each vehicle was into the parking space when the collision occurred, and the speed of the vehicle prior to impact will also affect who is assigned responsibility for the accident.
  5. A car rear-ends another at a stop sign – In this case, only one vehicle is moving. The moving vehicle is generally at fault in this type of accident, whether it occurs in a parking lot or on the roadway. Even if the car in front stops suddenly at a stop sign, the driver in the second car is likely to be at fault. Drivers are expected to provide enough distance between their car and the vehicle in front of them to avoid a rear-end collision.

Parking lot accidents generally will not involve a police report. If you are involved in a parking lot accident, exchange insurance information with the driver of the other vehicle. If possible, gather contact information from others who witnessed the accident. Take photos of the accident. Call your insurance company to report the accident as soon as it is safe to do so. Taking these steps can help determine who's at fault in a parking lot accident.