Accidents in a parking lot tend to be fairly minor, since the cars are generally moving at low speeds, but it’s still a good idea to contact your insurance provider if you are involved in an accident in a parking lot.
While we’re all familiar with the rules of the road as they normally apply to moving traffic out on the streets, the rules in parking lots might be a little less clear, but they’re really not that different.
Some parking lots (especially the larger ones) include traffic signs, such as stop and yield signs, which must be obeyed just like traffic signs at street intersections. If you fail to follow one of these signs (or a traffic cop) the fault of the accident will fall squarely on your shoulders.
Cars in thoroughfares (a lane that exits directly onto a street) always have right of way over cars in feeder lanes (lanes that do not exit directly onto a street, such as the lanes between rows of parking spaces). Likewise, any time a car is moving out of a parking lot onto a street, that driver must always yield to oncoming traffic on the street.
When moving out of a parking space, drivers must always yield to moving traffic, including cars, bikes, motorcycles, pedestrians, etc.
If you hit a car that is legally parked in a parking lot, you are automatically at fault, no matter the circumstances. On the other hand, if the car was illegally parked, the owner of that car might be liable for any damages. Likewise, if you hit another car while opening your car door in a parking lot, you will also be held liable for any damages that may result.
If someone else hits your car while it is legally parked, they are automatically responsible for any damages.
If an accident occurs, it should be reported to the police and to each party’s insurance company if the damage exceeds the province’s limit. Limits vary, so be sure to check your local traffic accident laws to see what the limit is. Of course, you won’t know the exact cost of the damage until you get an estimate from an auto repair shop, but you and the other driver can make an educated guess before deciding whether to notify the authorities.
Some people choose to pay for the damages out of their own pocket to avoid having their insurance company increase their insurance premiums, but beware of this option. The other party might still contact their insurance company and file a claim against you, even after you’ve already paid for the damages. That way they get paid twice and your insurance premiums still go up, even though you’ve already paid for the damages on your own. If that happens, you have no recourse.
If you hit a parked car and the driver of the other car is not present, leave a note on their windshield with your contact and/or insurance information. Not only is this common courtesy, but failing to do so can land you with a hit-and-run violation, which is not something you want on your record.
If your parked car was hit and you were not present and no note was left, you can ask the owner of the parking lot if they have surveillance cameras so you can try to identify the other driver and file a report against them, but it’s most likely you’ll have to pay for the damages out of your own deductible, even though you were not at fault.
But if both drivers are present, the procedure is very similar to being involved in an accident on the road: move your vehicle out of traffic if possible; make sure no one is injured; get as much information as you can (date, time, location, other car’s license plate, etc.); report the accident to the authorities (if the damage exceeds the local limit); and call your own insurance company to make a report.
St. Louis Personal Injury Attorney