Because of the low speeds, many drivers and pedestrians are lulled into a false sense of security while in a parking lot. However, twenty percent of all auto accidents occur in commercial parking lots.
A brief moment of inattention by either the driver or pedestrian can lead to a parking lot mishap. Most parking lot accidents involve only minor property damage. “Backing-over” accidents can cause much more serious injuries, including whiplash, broken bones and even death.
What If You Are in a Parking Lot Accident?
You can handle parking lot accidents much like you would handle an accident on the road. Keep in mind that parking lot mishaps can be misleading as the damage may seem quite minor at first glance. Do not leave the accident scene without exchanging insurance information.
Also, do not pay the other driver at the time to keep the insurance companies out of it. There are untrustworthy people out there who will gladly accept your money and then file a personal injury or property claim later. And your payment can then be used as evidence that you admit fault.
When Should I Call the Police?
Police rarely respond to parking lot accidents unless the accident is blocking the flow of traffic or there are bodily injuries. If the police do come, they will first check for injuries and summon any rescue personnel if necessary. Then they will compile information for an accident report.
An accident report lists the names of the drivers, passengers and witnesses. It also includes insurance information and may contain a diagram of the accident scene. Accident reports can be picked up a few days after the accident at the police station for a small fee.
If the police do not respond, you can look for mall security, or other security personnel, to put together a management incident report. The incident report contains much of the same information as the accident report. Because the incident report is put together by a private company, you do not have a legal right a copy. If you cannot obtain a copy on your own, your attorney can subpoena a copy if you need it.
Admitting Fault at the Scene
In most cases, neither party will admit fault. In fact, some parties may become very argumentative. Do not bother discussing who was at fault, simply exchange names, contact and insurance information.
It is not important at this point to come to an agreement with the other person. Give yourself time to get you thoughts together. An accident is a stressful event, you don’t want to make any rash decisions that point to yourself as being at fault.
If your vehicle is not driveable, call a tow truck. There is no reason to linger at the scene.
Although you don’t want to argue fault with the other party, you may want to gather evidence that can help to clear you of fault in the future. Here are some simple steps you can follow to gather the necessary evidence.
1. Look for witnesses
If there are any witnesses gathered who can help prove the other driver was at fault, ask them what they saw and if you can collect a brief statement from them. Collect their name, address, phone number and brief description of what they saw. Inform them that your insurance company may contact them.
2. Document the accident scene
If you have a camera or cell phone, take pictures of the accident scene before moving the vehicles. You can also take a brief video of the scene. Focus on the point of impact and the surrounding area. The photos and videos can act as impartial witnesses.
3. Look for surveillance cameras
You may be in a parking lot with surveillance cameras. If so, the cameras may have recorded the entire incident. Though parking lot management is not legally obligated to release the video to you, an attorney can subpoena a copy if needed for your lawsuit.
About Insurance Claims
Whether you have no-fault or a traditional liability doesn’t matter when you are dealing with property damage. Typically no-fault insurance policies do not cover property damage. When informing your insurance company about the accident, also file a property damage claim with the other driver if you believe they were at fault.
When Should I Call an Attorney?
Parking lot accidents that only cause minor property damage probably do not require the services of an attorney. In addition, soft tissue injuries also can usually be settled on your own. The other driver’s insurance company will contact you about a settlement.
More serious injuries such as head trauma, broken bones, organ damage or anything that requires an extended hospital stay would be best served by an experienced personal injury attorney. A personal injury attorney can help you recover damages including the cost of your medical bills, as well as out-of-pocket expenses such as medications, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Approximately one-fifth of all accidents occur in parking lots. There are many people in tight spaces who are easily distracted and prone to a false sense of security because of the slow speeds and lack of traffic signs. If you find yourself in a parking lot accident, you should remain calm, collect the other driver’s contact and insurance information and gather evidence at the scene. Your insurance company will settle any minor damage. You should contact a personal injury attorney if any more serious injuries or damage were sustained.