A large number of car accidents occur in parking lots. Accidents that occur parking lots and accidents that occur on public streets, roads and highways are similar in a number of ways. For example, regardless of where a car accident takes place, the primary concern is always your personal safety and the safety of everyone involved. Similarly, the first steps are to notify the police and your insurance company. Lastly, whenever you are involved in a car accident you should never leave the scene without exchanging information with the other driver. Leaving the scene of an accident is generally a crime.
Despite the similarities, accidents in parking lots can be different in a number of ways. You should be aware of these differences so you can handle the unfortunate occurrence of a parking lot accident in the best way possible. The first thing you should know is that most parking lots are private property. When an accident occurs on private property, such as a parking lot, some of the rules change.
Can You Call the Police?
Typically, when there is a car accident on a public road the police will respond, and they will write an accident report. The primary function of the police when they respond to an accident is to ensure the public safety and gather information. Police reports are helpful because they record the most important information about an accident, including the names, vehicle and insurance information of each driver. However, today there is no guarantee that the police will respond to a car accident in a parking lot unless there are serious injuries or public safety concerns. The reason being that most parking lot accidents involve only minor injuries and property damage. These types of accidents occur frequently, pose little danger to public safety and are handled more effectively by insurances companies, making it unnecessary for the police to respond.
What Information Should You Gather?
In general, personally gathering information about a car accident is important, but gathering information about an accident in a parking lot is even more important because there is no guarantee that the police will respond or write a report. In the event of an accident in parking lot, you should do everything that you can to create your own informal version of an accident report. Taking pictures with a camera or smartphone is one of the best ways to document any car accident and can be very helpful for determining who was at fault in the absence of a police report. It is also helpful to look for security personnel who may have been monitoring the parking lot. You should write down as much information as you can, and always get the following information from the other driver:
- Name of the driver and name of the vehicle owner if not the same as the driver;
- Names of any passengers;
- Vehicle make, model and license plate number;
- Insurance information – including the company name, policy number and phone number to call for claims.
Additionally, you should also try to get the contact information of any bystanders that may have witnessed the accident. Make note of how crowded the parking lot was, what type of signs the parking lot had and any other information you think may be important. Again taking pictures is always a good idea. Check for surveillance cameras. Most parking lots and nearby businesses have security cameras in place. If a security camera recorded the accident, this could be very useful for showing that the other driver was at fault. You should know that the video surveillance footage is the private property of its owner. This means that the owner of that footage does not have to give you access to it. However, if fault was disputed and a settlement not reached, an attorney would be able to subpoena (demand) the footage for purposes of litigating your case. For that reason, making note of video cameras is always important.
Who is Liable?
Liability is a legal term for fault. Legal liability means a person or entity (like a business or corporation) is responsible for doing something that resulted in personal injuries or property damage. The main legal principle governing fault in car accidents is negligence. Negligence works on the presumption that all drivers are cautious while driving and obey traffic laws. If a driver is not cautious or violates a traffic law, the driver is said to be negligent.
Generally, when there is a car accident both law enforcement and the insurance companies will play a role in determining who is at fault. However, in a parking lot accident the police may not be involved. In Louisiana, insurance companies and lawyers use a system of comparative fault to determine compensation in personal injury claims. This means they will look at the information gathered from the accident to determine based on the facts who was most responsible for the accident (i.e., how well each driver was using caution and following the law). It may be that one driver is found to be fully at fault and will thus be liable for all damages, or both drivers may be found at fault, and state negligence laws will determine whose insurance pays what.
In most parking lot accidents, no one wants to admit fault. Many drivers often point the finger at each other, each claiming that the other was at fault. It is important to know that admitting or denying fault immediately after the accident is not necessary. As a general rule, stay calm and give information such as your name, driver’s license information, insurance information, and anything that is required by law enforcement or medical professionals. Witnesses, photos, the position of the vehicles, and other factors will help to prove your case. Proving the other driver’s negligence can be tricky in cases where an accident has multiple causative factors. In that circumstance, a police report, if made, will carry a lot of weight.
What is the Parking Lot Owner’s Obligation?
In some cases, the other driver may not be the only party at fault. In addition to the potential liability of both drivers, a third party, such as the parking lot owner or manager could be liable for injuries or damages taking place in their parking lot. Premises lability is a body of law that makes the owner of the premises (places like parking lots) responsible for certain injuries suffered by persons on the premises. This means that in the event of an accident in a parking lot, the owner or manager of the parking lot could potentially be liable for injuries and damages that occurred on his his/her property. Such an owner could liable if a parking lot is poorly designed in way that creates a high risk of accidents. Additionally, the lot owner or manager could be liable for injuries caused by a variety of hazardous conditions, including open or unmarked construction, uneven pavement, standing water, and more.
Will Your Insurance Cover the Accident?
Your insurance policy may cover you for an accident in a parking lot so long as you have the appropriate coverage. All 50 States require drivers to have some type of car insurance. However, the requirements vary from state to state with options to purchase additional coverage. Your policy is based on a variety of factors including the car you drive as well as the type and amount of insurance you chose to buy.
Whether or not your insurance will cover the injuries, damages, or liability in a parking lot accident depends on your individual insurance policy. Car insurance policies are packages of different types of insurance coverage. There are various types of coverage that insurance companies offer. These include: liability, collision, comprehensive, medical, personal injury and more. Each covers a different subject.
- Liability coverage pays for accidental bodily injury and property damages including medical expense, pain and suffering and lost wages. This coverage also pays defense and court costs.
- Collision coverage pays for damages to your vehicle caused by a collision with another vehicle or object.
- Comprehensive coverage pays for loss or damage to the insured vehicle that does not occur in a car accident. For example, weather or fire damage.
- Medical coverage pays medical expenses regardless of fault when those expenses are caused by a car accident.
- Personal injury protection pays medical expenses for the insured driver, regardless of fault, for treatment due to a car accident.
- Other: there are a variety of types of coverage that may be purchased.
Do You Need an Attorney?
After you are involved in an auto accident, it is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible. If a parking lot accident results in only minor property damage to the cars, you may not feel the need to consult an attorney. However, if your property damage is more serious or you require medical treatment, it is highly recommended that you consult an experienced personal injury attorney to be sure that your rights and claim are protected.
Contact an Experienced Attorney Today
If you have been involved in an accident and you are considering filing a claim, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer first. The attorneys at Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC can advise you of your legal rights and work closely with you to develop a strategy for your claim. Our clients benefit from our years of combined experience, and so can you. Schedule a consultation now at 844-943-7626 or fill out our online contact form with your questions.