Q: Who is at fault in a parking lot accident in Georgia?
Who is at fault in a parking lot accident depends on the details of the situation and contributing factors, including who had the right-of-way at the time of the accident. Unlike car accidents that occur on public thoroughfares, however, law enforcement officers typically do not issue citations or help make determinations of fault on private property like parking lots. Instead, Georgia negligence laws guide the determination of fault and liability for injuries and damage.
If the damage is significant, or if injuries occur, the police will take statements from the parties involved and provide an accident report. It is then up to the parties and their insurance companies to establish fault and, if applicable, provide compensation for damages.
What are the most common scenarios for parking lot accidents?
Two-Vehicle Collision, One in Motion
If a moving car strikes a stopped or parked vehicle, the driver in motion is most often at fault for the collision. If your car was legally stopped or parked at the time of the incident, the other driver is typically at fault. If you were stopped or parked illegally, or if the circumstances are unclear, you may have some percentage of fault.
Two-Vehicle Collision, Both in Motion
When two moving vehicles collide in a parking structure or lot, the determination of fault rests primarily on who had the right-of-way at the time. If you are proceeding legally through the lot or garage and another vehicle backs out into you, the other driver would typically be at fault because you had the right-of-way. If you and another driver both back out of your respective spaces at the same time, colliding with each other, each of you may be at fault for your own damages.
Single-vehicle parking garage or lot collisions occur when a moving car hits a stationary object, such as a sign, concrete board, or structure. Although liability would typically fall on the vehicle’s driver, property owner negligence can contribute significantly to some single-vehicle parking lot accidents.
Many parking lot-related injuries involve pedestrians hit by a moving vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 926 fatalities in non-traffic accidents involving backing vehicles between 2008 and 2011 (the last years for which data is available). Although rearview cameras and backup sensors can help reduce these accidents, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that crash-avoidance technology only prevents one in six such accidents.
How is fault determined in a parking lot accident?
Fault in any accident, whether in a parking structure or on a public street, is based on negligence. Proving negligence requires demonstrating four key elements:
- Duty of care: the other party owed a duty to you (the victim). All drivers owe others on the road a duty of care, including other drivers and pedestrians in parking lots.
- Negligence: the other party neglected to uphold that duty to you, e.g., a driver fails to look before backing out of a parking space.
- Causation: you suffered injuries and/or damage because of the other party’s negligence, e.g., the negligent driver backs into you as you are walking to your vehicle.
- Damages: the injuries and/or damage you suffered were actual (quantifiable), e.g., you now have medical bills, missed time at work, and experience pain and suffering because of the broken bones caused by the negligent driver.
Can third-party negligence contribute to parking lot collisions?
Although the determination of fault typically involves only the parties directly involved in the accident, other parties may sometimes contribute to the damage. For example, the owner of the property on which a collision took place may have some fault for the accident. If the property owner is aware of hazardous conditions that are present, or if a reasonable person would have been aware, that party may be liable. Some examples include the failure to properly maintain the premises and failure to post appropriate signage or parking lot markings.
How do I prove negligence in a parking lot accident?
Proving negligence in a parking lot collision may be more difficult than proving negligence for an accident on the roadways. Although the same Georgia negligence statutes govern both scenarios, the absence of a police-issued citation creates a more pressing challenge for determining fault.
It is important to file a report with law enforcement, and to get a copy. You must also exchange information with the other party and report the incident to your insurance carrier. Further, take photographs of the scene and ask for eyewitnesses’ contact details so they can provide a statement later.
The insurance companies may attempt to negotiate fault directly with the claimant. However, accident victims should seek the representation of a personal injury attorney to help them obtain compensation for their injuries, or limit their liability.
Can I seek compensation for accident injury or damages?
Under Georgia law, the individual determined to be at fault must provide compensation to the other party for damages incurred in an accident. The liable party usually pays for damages via his/her liability insurance policy. If you can prove negligence and establish fault, you may be entitled to compensation. However, if you are determined to be at fault, you will be responsible for compensation to the injured party.
Should I contact an attorney after a parking lot collision?
If you were the victim of a parking lot accident, it is important to discuss the case with a Georgia car accident attorney as quickly as possible. An attorney can help you protect your rights under the law so you receive the compensation you deserve. In Peachtree City, the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz P.C. provides compassionate representation for our clients.
Contact us today at 404-474-0804 to schedule your complimentary consultation to discuss your parking lot accident.