Who Is at Fault in a Parking Lot Accident?

Car accidents occur in parking lots every day. Most parking lot accidents happen at low speeds and typically don’t cause significant damages. However, determining fault for these incidents can be very tricky. In many parking lots, it can be difficult for drivers to tell who has the right of way, and this is an important factor in determining liability.

What Is “Right of Way” and Why Does It Matter?

Traffic signals like stop signs, traffic lights, one-way signs, and other signs all help drivers anticipate the actions of other drivers. The “right of way” applies to the driver who expedites the flow of traffic the most. For example, imagine an intersection with two lanes in each direction, and the left lanes are for turning. When the drivers in the turning lanes have a green arrow, they have the right of way to turn. When the arrow turns yellow and then disappears, the drivers traveling straight have the right-of-way, and a driver who wants to turn must wait until the way is clear as long as there are no other signs that prohibit turning at the time.

At a four-way stop sign, most drivers generally follow a “first come, first served” rule; the first driver to stop at the intersection goes first, followed by the next driver to stop, and so on. If a driver “rolls through” a stop sign by failing to come to a complete stop it can disrupt the flow of traffic through the intersection and cause an accident.

The problem with parking lot accidents is that most do not have traffic signals beyond a few stop signs and designated turning lanes. Generally, vehicles in through lanes have the right of way. If a driver pulls out of a parking space and into a through lane and collides with a driver in the through lane, the driver who left the parking space will likely absorb fault for the accident.

Accidents While Parking

Many parking lot accidents occur because drivers do not exercise reasonable care when pulling into parking spaces. If a driver pulls into a space too quickly without being able to fully see the space, it’s possible he or she could crash into a motorcycle, Smart Car, or other compact vehicle. When a driver backs out of a parking space, any drivers nearby passing or waiting for the space to open need to provide room for the reversing driver to safely maneuver.

It’s also possible for two vehicles to collide when both drivers attempt to back out of their spaces at the same time. Drivers in nearby spaces may crash if they reverse in opposite directions, or a crash could happen when drivers on opposite sides of the through lane back up at the same time. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and wait if you notice another nearby driver backing out of a space when you intend to leave.

The Role of Fault in a Parking Lot Accident Case

Fault can play a crucial role in any parking lot accident, and determining fault may require looking at security footage from the parking lot, dash cam data, or reviewing witness statements. An at-fault driver is responsible for the damages his or her behavior causes. Luckily, most parking lot accidents only equate to minor fender-benders, but this isn’t always the case. Even a mild impact can cause an injury or aggravate a preexisting medical condition for some drivers.

If you or someone you know recently experienced a car accident in a parking lot and you do not know who is at fault, a reliable Nassau County car accident lawyer may be able to offer guidance and your chances of succeeding with a lawsuit for your damages.