Determining fault is always the second issue after the safety concerns are taken care of after a car accident. A parking lot presents an interesting dilemma. The police are not involved because it is private property. It is not a city or county matter like it would be if it happened on the city roads. Parking lot accidents are actually quite common. When you pack a large amount of drivers into a small area, and offer them unique traffic rules based on the layout of the lot, accidents are bound to happen. In fact, almost one out of every five car accidents occurs in a parking lot. The good news is that most of these accidents are considered low impact so the odds of expensive bodily injury claims are not as high as they are out on the open road.
When these accidents do occur, determining fault can be a bit more difficult. Unfortunately, they often end up as one driver’s word against the others. Getting a brief witness statement from a bystander can become pivotally important. Fault is based on which party was negligent. In other words, which party failed to operate their vehicle with reasonable care considering the circumstances? As a default rule, if one car was not moving, and the other car was, the moving car is at fault. Although there is a chance that this will not always be true, it typically will be. If both cars were moving, it can get trickier. Was there a stop sign? Was someone traveling too fast? Was visibility a problem? Did one driver fail to keep a proper lookout? Those are all questions that can lead to illustrating which party is at fault.
If you are at fault, insurance companies still recommend reporting every accident. The insurance companies use this information to measure risk and then charge you higher premiums based on your now perceived higher risk after an accident. If you are the victim of an accident, you never want to allow the at-fault party to simply pay you out of pocket. You may have no idea if you are hurt. There is nothing worse than an at-fault party illegally driving without insurance. If the at-fault party tells you that they don’t have insurance, or that they would like to avoid notifying their insurance, call the police immediately and get a picture of the at-fault driver’s license plate. Insurance is there to protect you and it should be involved in your crash.
Although many Utah auto laws do not apply because you are driving on private property, there are some general rules that will give you some guidance as to who is at fault.
- Drivers who are leaving a parking spot must wait and yield to all other drivers. This should go without saying. If you are stopped, and another car is already traveling through a lane, you will be at fault if you pull out and cause an accident.
- Drivers in the busier lane have the right of way. If you are in a thoroughfare lane, meaning that your lane exits onto a street, then you will have a right of way over the smaller crossing lanes in a parking lot.
- All parties should be driving at a low speed, so the car that hits another car is almost always at fault. Especially if the victim car is parked. As a general rule, always be the slower moving car and you should be ok.
Determining fault can be a tricky issue in any accident; parking lots make it even more difficult to figure out. A good auto accident attorney can help you figure out whether or not you were at fault and can counsel you what to do recover your losses from the crash.
This article is offered only for general information and educational purposes. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney.