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What to Do After a Car Accident in a Parking Lot

Most people think that once they turn off a busy street and into a parking lot their odds of an accident drop. Actually parking lots tend to be just as dangerous as a street. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety roughly 20 percent of all car accidents happen in parking lots. While the majority of these accidents are low-speed and rarely life threatening they can still be frustrating, time-consuming and can cost you plenty. Here are a few tips on how to avoid getting into a car accident in a parking lot and what to do if you are.

Drive Slower

There are plenty of hazards in parking lots but other drivers not paying attention is often the biggest obstacle. Other drivers may be going too fast, ignoring signs and even cutting across rows. Before you know it you are in an accident. The slower you drive the more time you have to react which can help prevent an accident. This is especially true if you are backing up or going around a corner.

Watch for Pedestrians

Many pedestrians just assume cars will give them the right of way and many are not looking out for traffic as well as they should. Keep your eyes peeled for pedestrians headed your way and always yield to them. When you are entering a high foot traffic area, like the entrance or exit of a store it is a good idea to let off the gas and be prepared to brake. Keep an eye out for children, they may dart out into the street or be hidden behind a shopping cart.

 Keep Your Distance

Door dings and scratches are common occurrences in parking lots and while they are certainly not life threatening they are annoying and can raise your insurance rates if you make a claim. Park away from other cars, while you may have to walk further it will be well worth it if you can keep your car doors looking clean and new.

 What to Do if an Accident Happens

While most insurance companies will not require a police report for a simple fender bender in a parking lot, you should make and effort to get one. Call the police and report the accident. There is a good chance that the cops will tell you to simply exchange information on your own. If that is the case follow their advice but let your insurer know that you made an effort to get a report. If they do show up submit a copy of the report with your claim.

When exchanging information with the other parties be sure to get a name, address, phone number and their insurance company. If there are any witnesses you should also get their information if possible.  Jot down notes regarding the time, weather conditions and the state of the parking lot. Take photos if possible and call your insurer as soon as possible.

Never admit blame, even if you hit a parked car. There are no standard laws when it comes to parking lots so fault can be a tricky thing to determine. If you hit an improperly parked vehicle it is possible the parked car owner will be found at fault.

If you hit an unoccupied car be sure to leave a note. In most states you are required by law to leave a note. Leave your name and phone number so the victim can contact you. You should also notify your insurance company and tell them what happened. Your liability coverage will cover the damage to the other person’s car.

If there is a dispute about what happened it is best to let the insurance companies work it out, don’t get into an argument in the parking lot. 

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