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Injured in a parking lot accident? Your rights, options, and what to do next

  1. Injured in a parking lot accident? Your rights, options, and what to do next
  2. Determining fault in a parking lot crash can be complicated
  3. What should you do if you’re in a car accident in a parking lot or garage?
  4. An attorney can help you explore your options and build your case after a parking lot accident
  5. Zach Herschensohn: Ready to fight for you

Injured in a parking lot accident? Your rights, options, and what to do next

parking lot accident

Parking lot accidents are more common than you might think. According to the National Safety Council, around one out of every five car accidents occurs in a parking lot. While most are thankfully of the minor fender-bender variety, there are still more than enough crashes to injure tens of thousands of Americans per year.

Are you one of them? If so, it’s time to get serious about knowing your rights and fighting for the compensation you deserve.

Parking lot crashes may seem minor or simple, but the unfortunate truth is that injury sufferers can often face frustrating and unexpected challenges in obtaining fair settlements to cover their injuries, lost wages, and other associated costs.

In this post, let’s take a closer look at why parking lots pose such a big challenge for personal injury cases, and what you can do about it.

parking lot accident

Determining fault in a parking lot crash can be complicated

parking lot accident

In any car accident case, figuring out who caused the crash—and the degree to which they are at fault—is often one of the biggest hold-ups to getting fair compensation. If the insurance company has any wiggle room to argue that the other driver isn’t responsible, or isn’t fully responsible, they’ll take it and try to lowball you.

Unfortunately, fault for a parking lot car accident can be notoriously tricky to pin down, for several reasons. Here are a few.

Distracted driving is usually a factor

Parking lots are dangerous. You already know this. Your parents probably told you a million times when you were first learning to drive.

Yet despite this, it’s still all too easy to let your guard down when you’re navigating a parking lot. According to a 2016 National Safety Commission public safety poll, two thirds of respondents said they would make phone calls and more than half (56%) said they would send texts while driving in a parking lot. Not “while stopped” in a parking lot. “Driving.”

The truth is, most people are far more likely to be checking their phone, fiddling with the radio, doing their hair, or just not paying attention to their driving when navigating a parking lot. Low speed driving instills a false sense of security that often leads to risky behaviors, and ultimately crashes. But if the distracted driver doesn’t admit their guilt, proving it can be a challenge, especially if you don’t have an attorney.

Right of way rules aren’t always clear

In general, a moving vehicle heading down a row of parking spots has the right of way over vehicles leaving those spots. The driver backing out (or pulling out) of the space is responsible for making sure the coast is clear of oncoming traffic—not always an easy task if you’re positioned between a pair of giant SUVs.

But what happens if two cars are leaving at the same time and back into each other? Did you know which driver started to back out of their parking space first? What if it’s the last Saturday before Christmas and two cars are competing for the same parking spot, and neither backs off?

Often, fault for these types or parking lot accidents is either shared or disputed by the involved drivers, and you need someone with experience and understanding of Washington law to figure out the truth.

There may be additional responsible parties

Unlike accidents that happen on the road, an accident in a parking lot or garage typically occurs on private property. In some cases, you might be able to claim that the owner or operator of the lot was at least partly to blame, if you can show that they failed in their duty of care to you—for example, if poorly maintained pavement, lack of signage, insufficient lighting, or unmarked wheel stops contributed to the crash.

parking lot accident

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What should you do if you're in a car accident in a parking lot or garage?

car accident in parking lot

Really, you should take a lot of the same steps you would take for any other type of car accident, including:

  • Checking for injuries
  • Not admitting fault to anyone before you get legal advice
  • Calling the police
  • Taking pictures of the crash scene, injuries, and anything else related to the accident
  • Swapping contact and insurance information from the other driver
  • Getting contact information or statements from any witnesses
  • Seeking medical attention as soon as possible for any symptoms you experience (even if they are minor)
  • Contacting a car accident attorney as soon as possible

RELATED: The three biggest mistakes people make after a car accident

Pro tip 1: Don’t forget to gather evidence yourself

One thing to note for car accidents that occur in parking lots, is that the police may not necessarily write an official police report or attempt to determine fault. If there are no apparent injuries and only minor damage, they may not even respond at all.

You absolutely should still call them (and according to Washington law, you must if there are any injuries or property damage north of $700). But since the accident occurred on private property, the normal “rules of the road” don’t really apply.

That’s why it’s especially important that you gather as much evidence as possible yourself, including photos, witness statements, even a diagram of how you believe the accident occurred.

Don’t get us wrong: just because standard traffic laws aren’t always enforceable in parking lots doesn’t mean negligent drivers get a free pass when their reckless driving hurts others. You are still entitled to fair compensation. But unfortunately, it often does make proving the other driver’s negligence more complicated.

Pro tip 2: Don’t skip the doctor visit

Lots of folks shrug off minor aches and pains after a parking lot fender bender. After all, it was a low-speed collision. How bad could it possibly be?

It turns out the answer can be “pretty bad indeed.” Sometimes it takes a few days, or even weeks, for the true severity of your injuries to become apparent. The longer you wait to seek medical treatment, the worse those injuries can get—and the more likely the insurance company will argue that you’re just faking it, or that your injuries were caused by something else. Getting a doctor’s opinion right away protects you in more ways than one.

car accident in parking lot

An attorney can help you explore your options and build your case after a parking lot accident

car accident in parking lot

We hope by now you’ve realized that parking lot accidents are both common and complicated. One of the best ways you can protect your legal rights and keep your options open is by connecting with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after the incident.

Some ways a lawyer can help include:

Making sure critical evidence is gathered and preserved

Evidence disappears if steps aren’t taken to gather it. A lawyer can help you talk to eyewitnesses, get expert testimony from a crash reconstructionist, or even ensure that any security camera footage that might have been taken is identified and protected against routine deletion.

Protecting you from the insurance company’s dirty tricks

The insurance adjuster is there to save the insurance company money—not to get you a fair payout. In murky scenarios like parking lot accidents, you can bet they’ll try to get you to twist your story, give an official statement when you don’t have to, or admit fault when you really shouldn’t. You can also bet that their initial settlement offer will be less than fair. Hiring an attorney to handle the negotiation protects you from accidentally harming your own case.

Accurately calculating your damages

Do you know how much your case is truly worth? If you aren’t a personal injury lawyer, the answer is “probably not.” (The insurance company knows that, too, which is why you’re especially likely to get lowballed if you aren’t represented.)

Accurately and fully claiming all of your damages, including current and future medical bills, lost wages (and reduced future earning potential), and fairly valuing your pain and suffering is not simple work. An experienced attorney can help ensure you aren’t leaving money on the table.

RELATED: How does my attorney determine the value of my car accident claim?

Providing a fair assessment of your legal options

The simple fact of the matter is that it isn’t always easy to know what to do after a parking lot accident. Often, there are a lot of options and no easy answers:

  • Is there enough evidence to support your version of events?
  • How much can you realistically claim in damages, and is it enough to be worth filing a claim or going to court over it?
  • Should you just sue the other driver, or do you have a case against the parking lot owner and or operator as well?

A car accident attorney is there to talk you through the options and provide their unbiased opinion about what your next steps should be. Unlike the insurance claims adjuster, they are sworn to put your needs first and act in your best interest.

car accident in parking lot

Zach Herschensohn: Ready to fight for you

Yes, parking lot accidents can be tricky. But that doesn’t mean you should back down and give up when the insurer won’t give you a fair deal. What you need is an attorney that won’t shy away from the tough cases and will work hard to ensure the at-fault parties are held responsible.

Attorney Zach Herschensohn has been standing up for the injured for years. Initial case evaluations are always free, and we never get paid unless we win for you. If you’re confused about what to do next after getting hurt in a parking lot accident, don’t be shy about giving us a call. There really is no downside, and no good excuse not to at least see us for some solid legal advice—whether you ultimately decide to pursue legal action or not.

To schedule your free case evaluation today, give us a call at at (206) 588-4344 or complete our simple contact form.

References

CBS News (21 November, 2016). Why hundreds are killed in crashes in parking lots and garages every year. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/parking-lot-accidents-distracted-drivers-national-safety-council/

National Safety Council. Parking Lot Injuries Often Result of Distraction. Retrieved from https://www.nsc.org/road/safety-topics/distracted-driving/parking-lot-safety

National Safety Council. (March 2016.) Distracted Driving Public Opinion Poll. Retrieved from https://www.nsc.org/getmedia/f2fdea1c-9063-419e-9ed5-49fb2f3997ad/methodology-summary-all-drivers.pdf.aspx

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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