What to Know About Parking Lot Accidents in Washington

How to Handle Parking Lot Car Accidents

A parking lot car accident can be tricky. Know how to protect yourself and your case.

Many of us assume that parking lots are safer than roadways, since most vehicles are operating at low speeds. According to the National Safety Council, however, parking lot crashes result in thousands of serious injuries, and even fatalities, every year. Know how to protect yourself, and your case, if you’re injured in a parking lot.

We spend plenty of time in parking lots, yet people seem to forget that the rules of the road do not necessarily apply in a parking lot car accident. Indeed, the Revised Code of Washington Section 46.61, et seq. (titled “Rules of the Road”) states that the chapter specifically applies “exclusively to the operation of vehicles on highways.” However, that does not mean that police are helpless when it comes to parking lot crashes.

Many injury cases may be prevented by heeding some of the basic parking rules of Washington state. For example, it is illegal to double-park a vehicle in any parking lot, for any length of time. In addition, it is illegal to park within 30 feet of a yield sign, stop sign or traffic signal. It is also illegal to park within 20 feet of a pedestrian safety zone. Knowing these laws may prevent accidents from occurring in the first place.

What are the different types of parking lot accidents?

The types of car accidents that occur in a parking lot may range from a simple fender bender involving minor property damage, to collisions causing serious injuries. Police are allowed to enforce the laws regarding reckless driving, negligent driving, vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, and hit and run in a parking lot car accident.

Many accidents are caused by people generally being distracted or unaware of their surroundings. The most common causes of parking lot accidents are related to drivers making phone calls, taking photos, texting, reading emails, putting on makeup or any number of other tasks while driving through a parking area. Distractions can lead to drivers not heeding stop signs or other important signage. Especially during busy times like the holiday season, drivers may drive erratically in order to lay claim to that perfect parking space. Accidents may occur in a feeder lane, parking lane, or in the parking spot itself.

Often times, police may be unlikely to respond to a parking lot accident because it occurred on private property. That means it is up to you to take the proper steps following a parking lot car accident if you want to get the best result possible for your personal injury claim.

What should you do after a parking lot accident?

The first 72 hours are critical after a car accident or injury, so be sure to seek medical care as soon as possible, and follow up with all treatment recommendations. If you are injured in a parking lot collision, you should always seek medical assistance, even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms.  Often the adrenaline, shock or trauma of a car accident can be overwhelming or confusing, masking the true nature of a person’s injuries.  Taking careful notes on your treatment plan, documenting doctor visits and keeping medical bills and receipts are always a good idea.

How to file a car accident report after a parking lot accident

You will need to contact the manager of the store you were visiting and file an official accident report with them.  It is also critical to obtain any insurance information from the driver who ran into you and/or your vehicle, make note of their phone number and other contact information, their license plate number, and take photos of the damage done in the auto accident.  Whether or not an officer arrives on site after the accident to complete a police report, be sure to complete a car accident report online within four days of the collision.

Who is at fault in a parking lot accident?

Determining fault in a parking lot accident is key to the outcome of your insurance claim and very likely, the financial result of your personal injury claim. Insurance company adjusters will almost always try to argue that the collision was your fault, at least partially. In certain circumstances, it may also be possible to hold the owner of the parking lot liable for your injuries – otherwise known as premises liability cases.

In all situations, it is critical that you obtain any and all video footage from security cameras so you can have verifiable proof of how and where the auto accident occurred. Getting video proof should happen relatively quickly because not every store keeps security footage for very long. Sometimes the footage is deleted that day. Contact the store’s manager or security officer to get the help you need.

If your serious injuries are preventing you from contacting the store and obtaining the footage, call Abeyta Nelson Injury Law so we can take care of this for you.

What can drivers do to protect themselves in a parking lot?

It goes without saying that any driver on the road should purchase an auto insurance policy that covers themselves and other drivers if they are in a collision. But even the best car insurance policy can’t help drivers who don’t help themselves. In parking lots, drivers should drive at low speeds. They should anticipate the actions of others, especially parents walking with small children, those in strollers and anyone with mobility or accessibility issues. Stay in your lane, use directional signals and always give people on foot the right of way.

What can pedestrians do to protect themselves in a parking lot?

Stay alert, and stay off your phone, even if you’re walking through a parking lot. While exiting a store or business into a parking lot, it is always smart to stay on sidewalks and stick to the painted walkways when returning to your parked car. That way, if you are hit by a moving vehicle while on foot and crossing the parking lot, you can show that you were rightfully in the walkway, and not walking in a thoroughfare. If you are hit while in the marked pedestrian crosswalk, you have a strong argument that you were following the right of way rules.

In general, don’t assume that other cars are aware of your presence, especially after dark, in inclement weather, or when cars are backing up. Whenever possible, make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you and therefore reduce your chances of being hit.

Why should I hire a car accident attorney to handle my case?

Being involved in an auto accident takes a mental, physical and financial toll. Add to that the stress of dealing with insurance companies – both yours and the company representing the other driver – and it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

Liability for parking lot collisions may be a bit harder to prove because the “rules of the road” do not apply, or there may be a lack of police investigation in most cases. Additionally, insurance companies are notorious for pressuring clients to quickly accept a much lower settlement than they need or deserve. For these reasons, it’s best to hire a negotiator who works regularly with insurance companies, and a legal advocate who knows the complex area of personal injury law – specifically, parking lot accidents.

The personal injury attorneys at Abeyta Nelson Injury Law have a combined 100 years handling all types of parking lot car accidents, including pedestrian accidents.

If you or a family member have been injured in a parking lot car accident, it’s imperative to contact an experienced car accident lawyer. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Abeyta Nelson Injury Law. Our law firm provides free consultation to review your case, and you don’t pay attorney’s fees unless you win your case.

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