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What you should know about parking lot accidents

April 19th, 2022  |  Auto

Did you know that one in five accidents happen in a parking lot?

It is not surprising. There is a lot going on in a parking lot, especially at large shopping malls or grocery stores. Drivers are trying to scope out a spot, there are cyclists, medians, shopping carts, pedestrians, and tight parking. It can all be a recipe for disaster. However, while most parking lot accidents are minor and involve low speeds, they can still result in serious damage and injury.

They can also have an impact on your auto insurance – a big reason why many go unreported, and hit-and-runs are common.

One myth associated with parking lot accidents is the 50/50 rule. This misconception is that if two vehicles are involved in an accident that takes place inside a parking lot, both drivers are equally at fault. This is false.

Some drivers also think parking lot accidents are treated differently because they take place on private property. Again, not true. Such accidents should be treated the same as any other.

Parking lot incidents commonly occur when:

  • A car hits a pedestrian or cyclist
  • A moving car hits a stationary vehicle
  • A vehicle hits a stationary object
  • Two vehicles backing up at the same time hit each other
  • A vehicle backs out of a parking space into another parked or moving vehicle
  • Two cars competing for the same spot collide
  • A vehicle rear-ends another at a stop sign

That is why a motorist must really pay attention to their surroundings and drive at a low speed.

What to do if you are in an accident

Similar to other accidents, the first things to do are:

  • Check to see if anyone is injured. If they require medical attention call emergency services immediately.
  • Approach the other driver to make sure they and their passengers are OK.
  • Move your vehicle out of the way of traffic if it is safe to do so.
  • Exchange information with all parties involved. This includes insurance information, licence plate, names, address, phone numbers, and emails. Take pictures of any damage caused.
  • Tell your insurance provider. Even if you choose to pay for the damage out of pocket, you are still required to notify your insurer about the accident.

In Ontario, if the damage is more than $2,000, you must call the police and file an accident report.

Drivers involved in a parking lot accident may be tempted to enter into a verbal agreement with the other driver or to take a monetary settlement at the scene. Doing so, however, may limit your options in the future if you discover additional damage to your vehicle or a personal injury after leaving the scene, say legal experts.

A word about Hit-And-Runs

Doors get dented and bumpers scratched all the time. Often, vehicles get hit but the driver does not stick around or leave any information.

If you hit another vehicle and leave the scene, you could be charged if identified on security footage. Failure to remain at the scene of an accident carries a fine between $400-$2,000, seven demerit points, licence suspension, and a significant increase to your car insurance rates. If you cannot locate the driver, leave a note on the other vehicle’s windshield with contact information.

If your vehicle has been hit by another but the driver has left the scene without leaving a note, you will not be found at fault. In this case, call the police and file a report. They may be able to track down the driver. You can also see if there are any witnesses and find out if there is any security footage. Always take pictures of the damage.

For a hit-and-run in Ontario, where you cannot identify the driver, it falls to your collision insurance. If you have it, you will have to pay a deductible – usually between $500 to $1,000 before your insurer pays the rest. If the damage is worth less than the deductible, there is no sense in making a claim, and you will be out of pocket.

Who's At-fault?

Parking lot accident fault is commonly misinterpreted. Just like any other auto accident, the fault is determined on a case-by-case basis.

In general, the car that is moving is at fault, especially if the other vehicle is stationary. If both vehicles are moving, it comes down to which driver has the right of way.

If you collide with a legally parked vehicle, you are to blame. Anyone leaving a parking spot must yield to the vehicle driving. If you disobey a traffic sign and it results in an accident, you will most likely be found to be at fault. These fault determinations are applicable in Ontario, Alberta, and most other Canadian provinces.

If you are backing up into a main or feeder lane and hit a vehicle, you will be at fault.

While parking lot accidents are not covered under the Highway Traffic Act, there are certain rules that apply including:

  • Drivers must obey traffic signs.
  • Drivers must yield to traffic when exiting a spot.
  • Drivers in the main lane entering the parking lot have the right of way.
  • If you hit a legally parked car, you are at fault.
  • If you hit an illegally parked vehicle, the illegally parked vehicle is commonly at-fault.
  • If you open your car door and hit another vehicle, you are at fault.

Does A Parking Lot Accident Go on Your Driving Record?

Yes. If reported, it will go on your driving record, and it could impact your insurance premium. That is why many drivers do not report them.

Parking lots are busy places. You always need to pay attention to avoid accidents. If you are backing up, triple-check your mirrors and do not blindly trust your backup camera. Be extra vigilant when opening your door and give the vehicle beside you enough room to avoid dents. You can also try to park in more open areas away from most cars.

The bottom line? Slow down and be cautious.

RELATED READING:Is it OK to go around my insurance after an accident?

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