Parking Lot Accidents: Fault and Liability

Auto accidents that happen in parking lots are a common occurrence. Collisions will usually occur at a low rate of speed although the consequences can vary. Regardless of whether your accident is a minor “fender bender” or a pedestrian being struck by a motor vehicle, the first step is to determine who may be at fault and liable for damages.

Understanding Negligence Law

In the majority of auto accident lawsuits, claims of negligence are made and its presence is used to determine fault and liability. A person’s conduct must resemble how an ordinary and reasonable person would act under similar circumstances. A failure to do so may make that person or party responsible for causing an accident and liable to pay money damages to those who acted with proper care.

Driver Distraction and Lack of Attention

In a parking lot, drivers may be distracted from looking directly in front of their vehicle as they search for open parking spots, signs and store locations. Despite this being expected conduct, it does not absolve a driver from the responsibility to drive carefully. A driver may be found guilty of negligence if their vehicle strikes an innocent pedestrian or another vehicle. It is important for pedestrians to note that they must also act prudently and pay attention to their surroundings. A failure to do so would result in a finding that the pedestrian negligently placed themselves in a position of danger.

At times drivers will back out of a parking space either too quickly or without appropriately looking in all directions for moving cars. It is not proper to assume that other drivers in a parking lot will see someone moving out of a parking spot and take caution. In some cases, both drivers can be liable for causing an accident.

Parking Lot Maintenance & Owner Liability

A parking lot accident can also result from inappropriate signage or when no sign exists in a dangerous and unmarked area. The owner and operator of the parking lot bear the responsibility for making sure that the lot is properly marked and regularly maintained to ensure safe operation. Proper signage such as stop signs, turning indicators and other hazard warnings are mandatory. Crosswalks must be appropriately marked and easily identifiable by pedestrians. If a parking lot accident occurs in an unmarked area that the owner should have known required signage, the owner could be found liable for an incident that results.

When weather conditions such as snow or rain make a parking lot challenging to navigate or to use, the owner of the lot is required to have personnel on hand to ensure safety. Walking and driving surfaces must be cleared of snow, ice or other substance in a timely fashion. Flooding may result and water must be drained. Pot holes in the road must be marked quickly after being noticed or reported so that drivers can avoid them. If an area of the lot is in an unsafe condition, the owner is responsible to block passage and make it inaccessible to cars and pedestrians. Warning signs may also be prudent. An owner is required to engage in regular inspections of a parking lot they own to ensure that hazards do not exist that could affect safety and cause accidents.

Legal Help After a Parking Lot Accident

One of the best ways you can help preserve a potential injury lawsuit is to have a camera available to you. A cell phone camera is usually sufficient, provided that you can take pictures with reasonable clarity. Taking photographs of the area, dangerous conditions and any damages that may have occurred can frequently help your case. And in most instances, it is advisable to speak to an experienced accident attorney at your earliest convenience.

Michael M Wechsler, Esq.

Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com and former SVP of Zedge.net. He has published hundreds of articles online covering a variety of legal topics and regularly provides free legal advice at The Law Forums.

Michael M Wechsler, Esq. – has written posts on TheLaw.com Guide.