You just finished your Sunday morning shopping, the parking lot is jam-packed, and after navigating the store that was as equally crowded you are more than ready to get home and finally relax. You carefully back out of your parking space, noticing at the very last second that someone with a grocery cart has suddenly appeared right behind your car. Luckily, you hit the brakes in time and no one is hurt. You are finally on your way out of the parking lot madness when THUD…someone backing out of their space rammed right into the side of your car. The passenger door is seriously dented, your mirror is gone, but you and the other driver are okay.
This scenario plays out in parking lots across Chicago every day and in most cases the damage is minimal and injuries are rare.
In parking lot accidents, the traffic lane (with vehicles that are not parked and driving through the aisles) has the right of the way. Thus if a person was backing out of a parking space when a collision occurred, the driver backing out will most likely be held liable.
However, if both cars were moving, determining who is liable can be become more difficult. Common collisions include two vehicles hitting head-on when going down the same aisle or a rear-ending incident. In the case of vehicles hitting head on, whichever vehicle did not have the right of way will be liable, and like all fender benders the driver of the vehicle who failed to stop in time will be liable.
If both drivers are backing up and collide, they may share the liability. Determining liability can become complicated with parking lot accidents because a police report often is not filed so there is no reliable record of what occurred. It is important to remember to exchange all information at the scene of the collision, take photographs of the damage, report the incident to the appropriate authorities, and contact your insurance agency as soon as possible. Further, if there are any witnesses other than the drivers involved, try to get the names and telephone numbers and/or addresses of those witnesses so they can be contacted at a later time if necessary.
Although most parking lot collisions result in cosmetic scrapes and dents, sometimes serious injuries can occur, especially if a pedestrian is involved. If a parking lot accident involves a vehicle hitting a pedestrian the injuries sustained could be life threatening. Thus it is important to always be aware of your surroundings in a parking lot. When walking through a parking lot always be aware of vehicles backing out, as demonstrated above it is easy for pedestrians to be hidden in blind spots or catch drivers off-guard. Drivers can also be distracted trying to find a parking space and fail to see shoppers crossing. Try and avoid walking too closely to cars when possible. While driving, check you blind spots when backing out, and then check them again! And always follow speed limits.
Pedestrians face a significant risk in parking lot accidents but so do bicyclists and motorcyclists. Just like any crash involving a car or large vehicle, these individuals are at a disadvantage since there is nothing surrounding them to protect them from the impact with a car or from the impact with the ground, if that victim is knocked off her feet. In a large number of parking lot crashes, the victim who is hurt had the right-of-way at the time of the collision but an errant driver failed to yield. If this has happened to you or to someone you love, make sure you understand your legal rights and whether you have the ability to make a claim for your injuries.
Prior Blog Entry:
Bicyclists in Chicago are At Risk for Dooring Accidents, Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, published August 3, 2016.