What happens if you’re in a parking lot accident?
While the majority of parking lot accidents tend to be minor, they can be every bit as significant to your driving and insurance records. They can affect your car insurance premium just as much as any accident on the street or highway.
Who’s at fault in a parking lot accident?
It’s not always easily to determine who is at fault in a parking lot accident since the rules at play while you’re in a parking lot are not generally as well-known as the rules of the road. And, if there are no witnesses, it often comes down to one driver’s word against the other.
Drivers who are in lane that directly exits onto a road or highway (known as the throughfare lane) have the right of way over a driver in a feeder lane. A feeder lane is a lane in a parking lot that does not directly exit onto a road or highway, such as the lane between two rows of parked cars. So, if you are in a feeder lane and turning into the lane that leads directly to the parking lot exit, traffic in the throughfare lane has the right of way.
Drivers leaving a parking space must yield to any other traffic in the lane. You must wait for all traffic to pass before pulling out of your parking spot.
If you’re driving and hit a legally parked car, you’re automatically at fault. No matter the circumstance, if you hit a legally parked vehicle, you are at fault.
Even though it’s private property, you’re legally obligated to obey all traffic signs while in a parking lot. You will be found automatically at fault if you’re in an accident after failing to follow the direction of a traffic sign in the parking lot, such as a stop or yield sign, or if you fail to follow the direction of a police officer.
And just like on the street, if you open your car door and hit another vehicle, you are automatically at fault for any damage.
What should you do after a parking lot accident?
A parking lot accident should be handled the same as any other accident and should be reported to the police if damage exceeds the provincial limit. In Ontario, the limit is $2,000.
Some people choose to pay for the minor accidents out of pocket without informing their insurance company. But this approach can backfire. You’re required to report all collisions to your auto insurance carrier. If you don’t report it, the other driver could contact their insurance provider to make a claim – even if you already paid for the damages yourself. If it’s determined that you were wholly or even partially at fault for the accident, your rate may end up increasing as a result.
If you cause damage to another vehicle and the other driver is not present, leave a note on their windshield with your contact information to avoid a potential hit-and-run claim against you. If your vehicle was damaged when you were not present, and no note was left with the other driver’s contact information, while it’s unlikely you will be held at fault (unless you were parked illegally), you will likely be required to pay the deductible.
All of the same procedures following an accident on the road are still good guidelines to follow if you are involved in a parking lot accident.
- Move your vehicle out of the way of traffic if it is safe to do so.
- Make sure no one in your vehicle is injured. If there are any medical emergencies, you need to deal with these as quickly as possible. If anyone is in serious condition or unconscious, call 911 immediately.
- If you feel it is safe to do so, approach the other driver to see if they are OK. Use your judgement to determine if it seems safe to approach the other driver. Ask if they require any medical assistance.
- Get as much information as you can. Your auto insurance company will need to know the time, date, and location of the accident, as well as licence plate and make and model of the other driver’s car. Get as much contact information as you can from the other driver, including their insurance company and policy number, along with their name, address, and phone number. If there are witnesses, collect contact information from them as well.
- Report the accident to the police if the damage exceeds the provincial limit. If you’re in doubt about whether you should report the accident, call the police using your local non-emergency number and ask for instructions.
- Call your insurance company to report the accident. Your insurance company needs to know about the accident as soon as possible. They can help with the arrangements to get your car repaired and get your claim started as soon as possible to get you the assistance you need.