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  • Who Is Liable for a Parking Lot Accident?

    parking lot accident

    Car accidents in parking lots are quite common. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that over 50,000 car accidents per year happen in parking lots, injuring over 60,000 people and leading to more than 500 deaths. Drivers often have a false sense of safety in parking lots due to slow speeds and wider areas to move. Consequently, drivers are not as alert as they might be on a highway while in a parking lot. Parking lots are often crowded environments, with many vehicles and pedestrians, requiring just as much focus and caution than highways.

    Fault in parking lot accidents usually depends on which driver had the right-of-way and whether both vehicles were moving simultaneously. Responsibility generally falls to the driver of the moving vehicle if only one was moving at the time of the accident. Typically, the driver who had the right-of-way is not responsible for the accident unless they were engaging in an illegal activity at the time, such as speeding. Drivers in the parking lot thoroughfare have the right-of-way. Drivers moving through the aisles must yield or stop to motorists in the thoroughfare. 

    What Types of Accidents Are Common in Parking Lots?

    Accidents frequently happen in parking lots. Some of the most common accidents include:

    • Two vehicles backing out: When two drivers parked opposite of one another back out of the spaces at the same time, it often results in a collision. This type of accident is one of the most common and happens when drivers do not look before reversing out of a spot. 
    • One vehicle pulling into traffic: This type of accident happens when drivers who fail to look for oncoming traffic either back out or pull forward out of a space and crash into a moving oncoming vehicle.
    • Two vehicles in one parking space: When drivers spot an open parking space, they instinctively move toward it, often without noticing other drivers. This type of crash happens when two drivers spot the same space and both attempt to pull in at the same time.
    • Auto and pedestrian accidents: Visibility can be extremely difficult in parking lots, particularly crowded ones. Drivers have a hard time seeing pedestrians moving among the cars, especially small children, or walking down the aisle behind the parked vehicles. Pedestrians are often struck by drivers unable to see them in a blind spot and backing out of a parking space. Likewise, pedestrians often have a difficult time seeing a moving car amongst the many in the lot. 

    Can Parking Lot Accidents Cause Serious Injuries?

    There is a common misconception that parking lot accidents do not result in serious injuries because speeds are considerably lower in parking areas. While it is true that speeds are often much lower, car accidents in parking lots can still result in serious injuries.

    The potential for serious injury is made worse by the fact that many people do not fasten their seat belt until they have backed out of a parking space and are moving. Seat belts can be confining and often make it difficult for a driver to turn around and look in all directions before backing out of a parking space, so it is quite common for drivers in parking lots to be unfastened. 

    If a collision occurs as an unbuckled driver is pulling out of a parking space, serious injuries can result, particularly to the head, neck, or spine. However, those facing the most serious injuries in a parking lot accident are often not inside the vehicle.

    Parking lots are generally teeming with pedestrians. Injuries can be severe, regardless of the speed and location of the accident. Parking lots are very dangerous places for pedestrians who can be struck, run over, and pinned between vehicles or other obstructions. Seniors and small children are particularly vulnerable in parking lots.

    Common injuries to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians may include:

    • Brain injuries.
    • Back and spinal cord injuries.
    • Broken bones.
    • Crushed limbs.
    • Internal organ damage.
    • Whiplash.
    • Nerve injuries.
    • Cuts and lacerations.
    • Severe bruising.
    • Paralysis.
    • Death.

    If you are involved in a parking lot car accident, call 911. Keep in mind that not all injuries are apparent at the time they occur. Some injuries may not present symptoms for hours or days but can be life-threatening if not treated. Regardless of whether you feel injured or not, it is a good idea to seek medical evaluation to determine whether you suffered any internal injuries.

    Why Are There so Many Accidents in Parking Lots?

    Parking lots are challenging to navigate. In contrast to roads, vehicles are moving in multiple different directions at once, visibility is limited, and pedestrians are everywhere. Parking lots rarely have posted traffic signs to follow, so some drivers make their own. Common causes of parking lot accidents include:

    Distracted Driving

    In parking lots, people tend to drive while distracted and are more focused on what they need to get from the store than driving. CBS News reported that:

    • Sixty-six percent of drivers report feeling safe and more comfortable in a parking lot to make cellphone calls.
    • Over 50 percent said they text during this time.
    • Approximately 50 percent stated they use their cellphones for other activities, such as watching videos, video chatting, and sending emails. 

    According to the NSC, drivers should not assume that lower speeds in parking lots does not lower the risk of an accident. Distracted driving is dangerous at any speed.

    Parking Space Fixation

    As drivers move about parking lots, many often become fixated on a particular spot they want or see and head immediately in that direction. Laser-focused on the spot, even if it is on the opposite end, causes drivers to forget checking for moving traffic and pedestrians, which can lead to accidents.

    No Traffic Laws

    In parking lots, traffic laws are unenforceable as the property is typically privately owned, not under police authority like roadways and highways. Reckless drivers often favor parking lots for car racing, spinning out, and more. Even drivers not actively participating in such activities tend to be more reckless in parking lots. Some drivers will travel through the lot across aisles and parking spaces rather than following the designated roads and often at higher rates of speed. Like parking space fixation, these drivers tend to be more focused on the exit they are trying to reach, not noticing cars pulling in or out or moving through the aisles.

    Crowded Lots

    Parking lots generally accommodate hundreds to thousands of cars, depending on the size. Crowded lots lower visibility, making it difficult to see pedestrians and other moving vehicles. Young children are particularly vulnerable as they cannot be seen behind or between cars.

    What Are Some Tips to Avoid a Parking Lot Accident?

    Some tips to safeguard you in a parking lot include:

    • Slow down while driving through the lot. Under 15 miles per hour is the general rule.
    • Minimize your blind spots by setting your side mirrors for the best visibility.
    • Utilize the vehicle’s back-up technology when reversing.
    • Use your turn signals to indicate your movements to others.
    • Before backing out of a parking space, double-check your surroundings before moving. Use the vehicle’s technology if applicable, and ask passengers to look as well, as their vantage of the rear of the car may be better than yours.
    • Follow and obey all posted parking lot signs.

    Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Represent Clients Involved in Parking Lot Collisions

    Establishing fault in car accidents that occur in parking lots can be challenging and involve many factors. If you have been involved in a severe accident in a parking lot, our experienced Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC are ready to help. Call us at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.