What’s Your Liability for Parking Lot Fender Benders?

Parking lot fender benders are all too common, making up nearly one in five car accidents. While traffic moves slower and more deliberately in parking lots, there is still a very serious risk of accidents and injuries.

After a parking lot fender bender, you may be wondering who is technically liable for damages. The truth is, it depends on a wide range of factors and the layout of the parking lot itself. Here is a quick look at liability issues for different types of parking lot accidents:

  • Two drivers backing into each other: When both drivers are moving, both drivers are responsible for their own actions. In this instance, neither driver would have the right of way, meaning both of them are responsible for avoiding an accident. Therefore, both drivers would be at fault for the accident. In a comparative negligence state like New Jersey, a degree of fault is assigned to each driver (in terms of a percentage) for the purpose of calculating damages; for example, if one driver was 60% at fault, the other driver could sue for damages, but he or she would only be eligible to win up to 60% of the total amount of damages. If both drivers are equally negligent, the most likely resolution is to have each person receive payment from their own insurance company.
  • Two drivers collide while trying for the same spot: This is another example of two drivers being somewhat equal in levels of fault. Chances are that both drivers saw the other one coming and chose to keep trying for the parking spot; therefore, both drivers would be at fault for the fender bender. However, it is important to note who had to cross the “stream of traffic” in order to get into the spot. For example, if one driver had to turn left to get into the spot and one had to turn right, the car turning left would be more at fault in the accident. It is also important to consider the point of impact for the vehicles; this can give a lawyer or insurance adjuster a better idea of who was where and which driver was more into the parking space at the time of the accident.
  • One driver pulls out of a parking space into traffic: In this case, the car backing out is almost always at fault. It is the backing-up driver’s responsibility to look out for other cars—even if they can’t see around the cars next to them. The cars that are already moving (i.e. not backing out) have the right of way. Therefore, the driver backing up would be liable for any injuries or damage caused.

One driver rear-ends another at the stop sign: Many drivers tend to disregard stop signs in parking lots or treat them as friendly suggestions; unfortunately, this leads to a large number of rear-end accidents in parking lots every year. Just like in traffic, the car in back is always at fault for a rear-end accident (barring any extreme circumstances).