Car Accidents: Determining Liability in a Parking Lot

If two cars collide in a parking lot, how do you prove fault?

By , Attorney

Although drivers are usually driving quite slowly in parking lots, many car accidents occur in parking lots because cars are going in multiple directions in a relatively cramped space. And the parking lots themselves rarely have marked driving lanes, so it can feel like a free-for-all.

If two cars collide in a parking lot, how do you prove fault? Let's look at some of the different types of parking lot collisions.

Driver Backs Out of Parking Space, Collides With Car Driving Down Parking Lane

This is an easy one. People who are backing out of a parking space have the obligation to look carefully in both directions to make sure that the coast is clear before backing fully out.

Just like we were taught in driving school, a driver backing out of a parking space should pull out a little bit, just far enough to be able to see in both directions. Only after determining that no one is coming should the driver pull all the way out.

If a collision occurs between a driver backing out of a parking space and someone driving down the parking lane, the driver backing out will almost always be found at fault for the collision, unless the other driver was recklessly speeding or committing some other traffic violation.

Driver Pulls Forward Out Of Parking Space And Collides With A Car Driving Down The Parking Lane

The driver pulling out of the parking space will also usually be found at fault for this type of collision.

The reason for this is that the rules of the road generally give the car that is going straight the right to continue doing that. A car that is doing something other than going straight has to defer (yield) to the car that is going straight. A car that is pulling out of a parking spot must generally wait for the car that is going straight down the parking lane to pass by.

Driver in Parking Lane Stops Suddenly, Gets Rear-Ended

A rear-end collision is almost always the fault of the driver who does the rear-ending, and rear-end collisions in parking lots are no exception to that rule.

Drivers must follow the car in front at a safe distance and must always be ready for the car in front to do something unusual. Drivers in parking lots must be even more aware of the other drivers and even more prepared for the other drivers to stop or turn suddenly.

Driver Turns Suddenly in Front of Oncoming Car to Get Parking Space

The general rule is that a driver should not make a left turn across oncoming traffic. The driver who wants to turn should wait until the traffic has passed. Once again, the rule applies equally in parking lots.

If a driver makes a sudden left turn into a parking spot and collides with a car coming from the opposite direction, the parking car will usually be found at fault for the collision.

Even if parking drivers say that they had enough time to make the turn and try to blame the oncoming drivers for the collision, insurers and juries will usually reject this argument. Insurers and juries will generally assume that the parking driver was so excited by seeing an open parking space that that driver forgot all about oncoming traffic.

Two Cars Back Out Of Opposite Parking Spaces and Collide

In this common type of collision, both drivers are making the same maneuver and so are under the same obligation. They both are supposed to look carefully before backing out to make sure that the coast is clear. This type of accident happens because each driver looks to make sure that no cars are coming down the parking lane, but they do not think about the possibility that someone is backing out right behind them. In this case, both drivers are likely to be deemed equally at fault. (Learn more about shared fault for car accidents.)

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