When thinking about car accidents, most people probably picture collisions on highways. However, a great number of car accidents happen on private property every day, particularly in parking lots. Additionally, proving responsibility is more difficult when the accident takes place on private property. Any property not owned by the government is generally considered private property and can consist of parking lots, buildings, real estate, and more.
Much of the process for reporting and filing a claim is the same no matter where the accident takes place. However, the standard rules and regulations may not apply on private property, and establishing negligence can be more difficult. Determining who will be liable for damages requires identifying the negligent actions of the driver or property owner. This is crucial if the accident caused injuries, damage, or loss of property.
Although you cannot file a claim against the state if you are in an accident on a public road, in some cases, the owner of the private property may bear responsibility for an accident. The owner may be liable if the property is not maintained for safety, if there is poor visibility, and if there are no signs or lighting.
What Causes Accidents on Private Property?
Many different types of car accidents happen on private property, most commonly, taking place in parking lots, where drivers face numerous challenges and distractions. Some accidents on private property are caused by the following:
- Distracted driving: One of the leading causes of accidents in any location is distracted driving, which has increased dramatically in recent years due to cellphone use. Texting or reading emails while driving, eating, putting on makeup, playing with a pet, arguing with children, or fiddling with the radio are all distractions that can cause accidents.
- Impaired driving: Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have deadly consequences. Despite the punishments for impaired driving, it is still a leading cause of car accidents each year.
- Weather conditions: Wet, snowy, and icy surfaces are dangerous no matter where you are driving. Private property that has not been cleared of snow and ice is hazardous.
- Reckless driving: Drivers who dart in and out of traffic, do not signal lane changes, race through parking lots, or tailgate can cause a car accident.
- Insufficient signs: Private property with insufficient signs can be confusing for drivers, especially at intersections and other places that have heavy traffic.
What Should I Do if I am in a Car Accident on Private Property?
A car accident on private property involves many factors, and drivers refusing to acknowledge fault is commonplace in these situations. However, that does not mean you are out of legal options or that you cannot file a personal injury claim. You should take charge and complete the following steps after the accident.
Stay at the Scene
The most common type of private property collisions are hit-and-run accidents. After any type of accident, you should remain at the scene. If you are able and your vehicle is in the way of traffic, then you can move it out of the way.
Call the Police or Emergency Responders
As with any accident, it is a good idea to call the police and emergency responders if there are injuries involved. However, unless there are injuries, keep in mind that the police may not respond. When accidents occur on private property, the police do not have jurisdiction to write a report.
Seek Medical Attention
Some car accident injuries do not show up until days or weeks later, such as whiplash. Therefore, it is always recommended that you be medically evaluated after any type of accident, whether you feel injured or not, and not doing so can hurt your claim later. If your injuries do not require immediate medical attention, it is best to seek an evaluation within the next day to 48 hours following the accident.
Contact the Property Owner
Regardless of whether property owner could be responsible, you should contact them as soon as possible to inform them of the accident. The owner can also be of assistance in obtaining security footage. Also, they may have witnessed the accident and can provide a statement, which carries weight with insurance companies when establishing fault for your claim. In some circumstances, the property owner may be responsible for the accident, especially if the property does not have adequate signage or lighting.
The police do not have jurisdiction over private property, which means they are not obligated to create and file a police report. In certain circumstances, officers may take down information for an incident report, but it is not required in most localities.
If police arrive and there are disputes between you and the other driver as to what happened, it is always a good idea to ask the officer to make an incident report. In most cases, you will need to gather evidence and information yourself.
Accurate and detailed records are vital when accidents occur on private property. You should take photographs and videos of the scene showing what caused the accident and other factors, such as injuries, damage to the vehicles or property, lack of signage, road markings, and the condition of the road. Note whether there are traffic or security cameras, and request footage of the event. You should also document weather conditions and time of day.
It is important to exchange insurance, driver’s license, and contact information with the other driver. You can also gather statements and contact information from any witnesses.
Contact the Insurance Company
Regardless of whether the accident was your fault or not, contact your insurance company as soon as possible to inform them of the incident.
Consult a Lawyer
If you are not at fault for the accident, speaking to a lawyer as soon as possible is a good idea, and it is even more essential if the accident occurred on private property. Insurance companies do not want to pay claims unless they have to, and decisions are based on the reports, evidence and statements, and their own investigation.
Should the other driver dispute your claim, the insurance company may be more inclined to believe their client due to no police report and little evidence. Consulting with an experienced car accident lawyer is important because they will help you with gathering evidence and filing your claim. They will represent you in legal proceedings if necessary, and they will protect your rights throughout the entire process.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Fight for Those Involved in Car Accidents on Private Property
A car accident that happens on private property presents many challenges. If you have been involved in an accident on private property, our skilled Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC are here to help you with your claim. Call us at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and to learn more today. We are located in Virginia Beach, and 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.