Who Is at Fault in a Parking Lot Accident?

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Thousands of car accidents occur in parking lots every year in the United States, causing injuries, property damage, and even death. When you’re involved in a parking lot accident, determining who is at fault can be complicated. You will have to consider a few key issues, such as the primary cause of the crash, who had the right of way, and whether you and the other driver checked for oncoming cars.

Parking Lot Right-Of-Way Rules

The majority of parking lots in California, such as those in shopping centers, are private property. As a result, these lots are not subject to state traffic laws. However, general right-of-way rules do apply. Parking lots typically have two types of traffic lanes:

  • Main lanes that guide cars in and out of the parking lot
  • Feeder lanes that connect cars to the main lanes, running up and down the various rows of parking spaces

Drivers are subject to standard traffic rules while traversing these lanes. If a driver does not honor the right-of-way in these situations and gets into an accident, he or she can be liable for the accident:

  • Cars on the main lane always have the right-of-way, unless stop or yield signs say otherwise.
  • Cars in the feeder lanes must always yield to cars on the main lanes.
  • When a driver is backing out of a parking space, he or she must yield to cars and pedestrians in the feeder lane.
  • Feeder lane drivers have the right-of-way over cars backing out of a parking space.
  • All drivers must obey all traffic signs in the parking lot.

Common Types of Parking Lot Accidents

While traffic patterns vary from parking lot to parking lot, five types of accidents occur at higher rates than others. Each accident type involves different right-of-way laws that can help you determine who was at-fault for the incident, although each instance may differ.

  • Two drivers trying to park in the same space may collide into each other. In these situations, it can be difficult to determine who was at-fault and who had the right to the space. Just like on any other roadway, the driver who is making a turn across traffic must yield. The driver turning left will likely be at-fault for the accident.
  • Two drivers may back into each other while pulling out of a space. In this situation, each driver has the responsibility to check for oncoming traffic. As a result, both drivers may share liability for the accident.
  • One driver may collide into a vehicle stopped at a stop sign. Since the stopped driver is following traffic rules, the driver who crashed into the other vehicle will likely be at-fault for the accident.
  • A driver could back out of a parking space and hit an oncoming car. The driver backing out of the space has a responsibility to check for oncoming traffic. As a result, that driver is responsible for the accident.
  • A driver may pull out of a space and hit an oncoming car in the feeder lane. Drivers in the feeder lane have the right-of-way in these situations, so the driver pulling out will likely be at-fault for the accident.

What to Do After a Parking Lot Accident

After you get into a parking lot accident, it is important that you take the following steps to aid in your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit:

  • Call 911 immediately. If you cannot call due to injury, have someone else call for you. The police will arrive and provide you with a police report.
  • Do not admit fault or apologize.
  • Visit a doctor and receive a medical evaluation.
  • Collect vital information from the scene. Ask the other driver for his or her insurance and contact information. Take pictures of the accident, including both cars and the scene. Ask witnesses in the area for their information for future testimony.

For professional assistance filing your parking lot insurance claim or lawsuit, visit a car accident attorney in Long Beach as soon as possible.