Parking lot accidents typically don’t cause serious injuries, but they happen frequently and can result in substantial property damage to vehicles. Busy lots can be confusing, with cars headed in various directions, and many drivers are not clear on who has right of way in a parking lot.
Accidents can create even more confusion, since parking lots are private property. If you’re involved in a parking lot accident, you may be unsure who has liability.
Parking Lot Accident Liability
If you’ve been involved in an accident, you may be thinking, “Someone hit my car in a parking lot! Who pays for the damage?”
When accidents occur, parking lot accident liability often can be determined by one of two factors. First, was only one car moving? In almost all cases, the driver of the moving car will be at fault. For instance, if your car is parked legally and it’s hit by another car, that driver probably is at fault.
Second, if both cars were moving, which car had right of way? The right of way in a parking lot can be determined by lanes indicated on pavement, signage, traffic patterns and other factors. If a driver is traveling too fast for the conditions or does not yield, that driver may have liability.
What are some common accident scenarios that happen in parking lots, and who has liability?
- A driver stops suddenly and is rear-ended. In nearly all cases — including in parking lots — a driver who rear-ends another vehicle is at fault. Drivers are always required to leave a safe amount of space behind the car in front of them, and they must stay prepared for drivers ahead of them to make unexpected moves.
- A driver backs out of a spot and hits a car headed through a parking lane. The individual backing up has responsibility for looking in both directions and making sure it’s safe to back out.
- A driver moves forward from a parking spot and hits a moving car. This scenario also typically is the fault of the individual who’s moving forward. In most cases, a car going straight has right of way.
- A driver turns in front of a car to snatch a parking spot. A driver making a sudden left turn across traffic typically will be liable for a resulting collision.
- Two cars back out of parking spots at the same time, resulting in a collision. Both drivers have an obligation to look before they back out, and both may be determined at fault in an accident.
Hit and Run in a Parking Lot
Committing a hit and run can have serious consequences for the perpetrator. In Maryland, a driver who’s involved in an accident resulting in property damage, injury or death must take the following actions:
- Assist anyone who needs medical care by calling 911 or arranging other transportation.
- Give contact information, including vehicle registration information, name and address. The driver also must show his or her driver’s license, if asked, to an injured person, an individual attending to the damaged vehicle, or to a police officer.
- Report the accident to police if the other people involved in the accident are unable to receive the required contact information.
An individual who leaves the scene of an accident in Maryland resulting in property damage can be subject to a penalty of as much as $500, as long as 60 days in jail, or both. However, leaving the scene of an accident in which someone has been seriously injured or killed is a felony and can result in much harsher penalties. If a victim was injured, the penalty for leaving the scene can be up to five years in prison or a fine of as much as $5,000, or both. In the case of a victim’s death, the penalty for leaving the scene can be imprisonment up to 10 years or a fine of as much as $10,000, or both.
In addition, an individual who is hurt in a hit-and-run accident in a parking lot may work with a personal injury lawyer to seek compensation for the injuries, including medical bills and lost wages.
How Can You Stay Safe in Parking Lots?
To avoid an accident in a parking lot, drive defensively and assume that other drivers will make unexpected moves.
- Drive slowly and cautiously.
- Use extra caution if you’re turning or backing up.
- If your vehicle has technology for collision avoidance, such as a backup camera, use it.
- Park away from other vehicles, if possible.
- Watch out for stray shopping carts, which can hit and damage your car.
- Use caution on windy days, when another car door or a shopping cart might blow into your vehicle.
- Make sure your side mirrors are set to allow you to see as much area as possible behind you.
Consult with Experienced Car Accident Attorneys
Even if you’re careful and follow all parking lot driving rules, accidents may happen. If you’ve been involved in a parking lot accident in the Baltimore or Silver Spring areas, work with car accident attorneys who can ensure that your rights are protected. For a free consultation, please contact DuBoff & Associates, Chartered.