What to Do If You Get Into a Parking Lot Accident

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Updated June 16, 2022

Parking lot accident: sad, little boy in his toy car

Parking lots are the Wild West when it comes to car accidents. For starters, most lots are private property, so the standard rules of the road don’t always apply. This makes determining fault and liability extremely difficult when a parking lot accident occurs.

Parking lot accidents are more frequent than you might think, with tens of thousands happening each year. It makes sense to have a plan in place should a parking lot mishap happen to you.

Of course, having a good car insurance policy can save you a lot of stress if you get into a parking lot accident. Enter your ZIP code to find the best rates:

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Let’s cover the critical steps to take to handle parking lot accidents safely, efficiently, and lawfully.

Practice Parking Lot Safety

Let’s start here because you can avert many parking lot accidents by following a few simple safety suggestions. First, look for parking spaces that allow you to pull through, so you can avoid backing into vehicles that zip in and out of your blind spot while exiting a parking spot.

The primary cause of parking lot car accidents is one driver backing into another because they didn’t see the vehicle behind them or the other driver was moving too fast. Backup cameras can help, but they don’t eliminate the risk entirely.

Likewise, avoid dimly lit areas and any parking spots near the entrance or exit of a parking lot, as these are the most highly trafficked.

What to Do First in a Parking Lot Accident

While a few hundred deaths each year are attributed to pedestrians struck in parking lots, when it comes to two cars colliding — or a vehicle hitting another object — the low speeds involved usually mean that the cars’ occupants are safe.

After ensuring all parties are OK, you’ll want to take two steps. First, take pictures of the scene, including close-ups of any damage and shots from a distance to provide context of the accident scene.

Police may not respond to a parking lot accident, so assume you’re responsible for collecting evidence and taking notes. Do this before moving your car, unless you or other motorists are in the middle of a thoroughfare or crosswalk.

The next step is to gather details from the other driver. Be sure to get their contact information, vehicle information (make, model, and license plate number), and whether or not they have a car insurance policy. The person driving the car may not be the car’s owner, so the more information you can get, the easier it will be to clarify the situation.

When volunteering your own details, you should only supply your name, phone number, and auto insurance info to the other driver.

Scammers have been known to stage fake car accidents in order to collect personal information from unsuspecting drivers or make fraudulent insurance claims.

In addition to your name and phone number, they might ask for your driver’s license number, Social Security number, and other information that isn’t helpful or necessary during an accident — but is valuable to identity thieves.

Not every accident is a scam, of course, but it’s always a good idea to be cautious and avoid revealing too much information to other drivers.

Decide Whether or Not to Report the Accident

Woman texting while walking

Who do you need to tell if you’ve gotten into a minor parking lot accident? Do you have a legal duty to report it to the parking lot owner or the police? That depends.

Unlike major motor vehicle accidents, which nearly always involve a lot of paperwork, there are different perspectives regarding calling the police and filing a claim with your insurance company for a parking lot accident.

On the one hand, if the damage is truly minor and there are no serious injuries, you and the other driver may choose to handle it without getting your insurance involved. But there are a few considerations to keep in mind.

First, if you’re at fault and worried about your auto insurance rate rising, know that most insurers have a minimum monetary threshold of damage to hit — for example, $1,000 — before your rate is impacted. Be sure to ask your insurance company what the threshold is for a chargeable loss. 

Also, even if you’re at fault, you’ll likely avoid paying for any damages out of pocket because there are no deductibles on third-party claims. In other words, think twice before handling the accident fallout independently.

How to Report a Parking Lot Accident

Even if you’ve only gotten into a minor fender bender, making an insurance claim may be in your best interest for several reasons.

First, unless you’re an auto mechanic, it can be hard to tell superficial damage from more expensive repairs. Your insurance agent can be a critical resource in guiding you through all the necessary post-accident protocols.

Second, even if all parties agree that you’ll handle a claim outside of insurance, this may not stop another party from submitting a police report or filing a personal injury claim. In some cases, they may even lie or distort the facts.

If the police aren’t at the scene of your parking lot accident, consider stopping by the station to submit a report anyway, just in case someone tries to take advantage of the situation later.

If you hit a parked car and can’t find the driver, leave a note with your information. Many parking lots these days have surveillance cameras, and the last thing you want is to be charged with a hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident.

If the object you hit wasn’t another car, but a wall or lamppost, be sure to contact the property owner if there’s any noticeable property damage. Some insurance policies cover property damage, so you may not be on the hook for any repairs.

Call a Law Firm if Necessary

Just because parking lot accidents are common doesn’t mean that they aren’t stressful or complicated. Multiple parties are often deemed to have some level of fault in these types of accidents.

Although parking lot accidents are less likely to result in wrongful death suits, they’re the most common type of auto accident to trigger civil lawsuits and trials overall.

If the accident is more serious — the other driver ran a stop sign or didn’t have the right of way — you can contact a personal injury attorney or law firm for a free consultation. Even if some parking lots are considered private property, that doesn’t mean they don’t have speed limits and right-of-way rules.

Legal advice can ensure you know the facts and respond responsibly. Whether you’re at fault, an innocent victim, or simply a witness, you’re more likely to achieve a smooth resolution — and chalk the event up to another speed bump on the road of life.

Choose the Right Insurance Policy

Parking lot accident: person locking his car

The best way to protect yourself in the event of a parking lot accident is to carry good car insurance coverage. Not only will your car insurance company protect your wallet, but they’ll walk you through the process of filing an insurance claim.

Some types of coverage, such as comprehensive coverage, will even cover you for other kinds of parking lot incidents, such as theft or natural disasters.

If you’re shopping around for car insurance, it’s a good idea to get multiple quotes to find the best policy. You’ll also want to review your policy from time to time since some insurers may raise your rates after you get into an accident.

You can enter your ZIP code here to compare multiple quotes side-by-side:

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