Who is at fault for a parking lot accident?
I recently received a call from a woman who was injured when she backed out of a parking spot. She asked whether she or who it at fault for a parking lot accident? The answer is it depends of course. If you were injured in a parking lot accident, call today for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.
The woman who called was driving in a parking lot in Normal, Illinois. She was backing out when a car “came out of nowhere” and crashed into the back of her vehicle. She was thrust side to side in her vehicle suffering significant sprains and strains to her back and neck.
She filed a claim against the defendant’s insurance but her claim was denied. She alleged that the other party was at fault for the parking lot accident. She called asking whether we would represent her for injuries suffered in the accident.
Generally speaking, accidents in parking lots in Illinois generally follow the same rules as all other auto accidents in Illinois. You can recover for your injuries even if you are partially at fault for the accident under the concept of comparative negligence. Specifically, a party can recover for his or her damages if they are not more than fifty percent responsible for the accident.
However, parking lot accidents are unique because unlike most of the accidents I see, one of the parties in a parking lot accident is usually backing out of a parking space when the accident occurs.
When a party is backing out of a spot, again generally speaking, they have to be extremely careful and cede the right of way to the other driver. As a result, in most parking lot cases I’ve seen, the party backing out of the parking spot is primarily responsible for the accident.
And in fact, in the case referenced above, this individual was at fault for the accident and as a result we were unable to represent her.
There are exceptions of course. If you can demonstrate that the other party was speeding or driving recklessly, you could argue that the other party was at least comparatively negligent for the accident.
I was involved in a case where a client was backing out of a parking spot and a driver literally came out of nowhere and hit the client. Our client couldn’t have seen this other driver because the other driver was not driving in the lot’s driving lanes. Rather he was cutting across the lanes unlawfully.
Other factors could come into play as well. For example, if the other party was on their phone or otherwise distracted, they could be determined at least partially at fault for the accident.
How do you prove fault?
How do you prove fault for a parking lot accident? The same Illinois Rules of Evidence apply to parking lot accidents as to any car accident. The direct testimony of the participants to the accident, the testimony of eye witnesses and the physical evidence are all helpful in establishing fault for the accident.
Parking lot accidents often involve another piece of evidence not available to other auto accidents and that is the existence of videotape of the accident. If your accident occurred in a Walmart parking lot for example, there may very well be videotape on Walmart’s security cameras.
The problem is that in most cases, Walmart or Target etc. will not provide you access to the videotape without a subpoena. A subpoena is basically a legal and binding request that the store turn over the video. And you cannot serve a subpoena without having filed a lawsuit first. Most people don’t want to file a lawsuit especially if there are minor damages. So what do you do?
If the police come to the scene of the parking lot accident, I have seen several situations where the police enter the store and personally review the videotape to assist in making a determination of fault for the accident.
A police officer’s determination of fault is not dispositive at trial but it is instructive for an insurance company deciding whether to “accept liability” for an accident.
Police on private property
On a few occasions, I’ve received calls from people involved in accidents in parking lots or on other “private property.” They’ve told stories of how the police either refused to come to the scene of the accident or refused to write a ticket to the responsible party because the accident occurred on private property.
To be honest, I don’t know the answer to this. I’ve seen situations where police have written tickets for violations on private property. Whether the tickets hold up in court is another thing.
If the accident does occur on private property and the damage is moderate, at the very least call 911. That way, the existence of the accident is “on the record.” I’ve written before on this site about how stories seem to change over time. And the driver who was so helpful at the time of the accident will lie to their insurance company about the accident later. If you get the facts of the accident on the record, that is another piece of evidence you can get in front of the insurance adjuster to help him or her make a decision.
The future of parking lot accidents
Most cars today are sold with rearview cameras. In addition, cars have all types of sensors and other safety features built into them. As a result, I have proposed that in the future there may not be a need for personal injury lawyers.
Perhaps the most important safety feature to prevent parking lot accidents is having a rear view camera. Many years ago Congress passed legislation requiring that all cars have them. However, just recently the Department of Transportation dictated that starting this coming year all new cars were required to be built with a rear view camera.
Bottom line is, if you are involved in an auto accident and wondering who is at fault, contact your insurance company or feel free to contact our office for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.
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