Protect your interests by knowing what to do after a parking lot car accident. Preserve your right to compensation for damages.
A minor fender-bender caused by someone backing out of a parking space might not seem like a big deal. When you’re already rushed, it’s tempting to shake hands with the other driver and go your separate ways.
What happens a month later, when you get served with a lawsuit summons from the other driver?
The actions you take at the accident scene will protect you from fake injury claims and preserve your right to fair compensation from the other driver’s insurance.
6 Steps After a Parking Lot Accident
What you do and say after a parking lot accident is just as important as if you were in a crash on the highway. Equally important is knowing how to avoid costly mistakes, like apologizing to the other driver. Here are 6 steps to help strengthen your car accident claim.
1. Call 911 to Report the Accident
Always call 911 for an auto accident. If your injuries are serious, ask someone else to call. Be sure to say how badly you’re injured. Describe your location, and advise the dispatcher of dangers like leaking fuel or blocked traffic.
In a busy jurisdiction, police may not be available to respond to minor property damage accidents without reported injuries. Even if you come out to find your parked car was damaged by a hit-and-run driver, call the police so the incident is on record.
2. Watch What You Say at the Scene
Never admit fault or apologize after an accident. Your statements can be used against you as an “admission against interest.”
Even if you think the other driver might have had the right of way, you simply don’t have enough information about all the factors that led to the crash. Don’t agree to pay for damages or make any other arrangements with the other driver.
3. Get the Other Driver’s Information
You will need the at-fault driver’s name, address, contact information, license plate number, and insurance information. In most states, drivers are required to show their driver’s license when asked.
While you’re at it, pay attention to any passengers in the other vehicle. Passengers don’t have to share their names or information with you, but you can jot down a brief description of each person. If there are no other occupants in the other car, make a note of that, too.
We’ve made it easy to collect the information you need with this Car Accident Information Form. Keep a copy with a pen in the same place you keep your proof of insurance.
4. Gather Witness Statements
As in any car accident, witnesses can help prove the other driver was at fault. They may have been waiting for a parking spot when the other driver backed into you, or walking in the parking lane when the other driver rolled through a stop sign.
Ask witnesses for their names and contact information. If a witness writes down what they saw, be sure they sign and date their statement.
Some witnesses will want to help, others won’t want to take the time or get involved. Witnesses are under no obligation to cooperate with you.
5. Take Photographs and Video
If at all possible, don’t move the cars until you take photographs and video of the accident scene. Take pictures from different angles, and get close-up photos or video of the point of impact. Videos of the other driver may capture evidence of intoxication or admissions of fault.
Photographic evidence can help prove the other driver’s fault, and help protect you from false accusations.
6. Seek Prompt Medical Attention
Never refuse medical attention at the scene. Allow paramedics to examine you, and stabilize your back, neck, or limbs as they see fit. Tell paramedics about every symptom, no matter how mild. Shock and distress after being hit by a car can mask serious injuries.
Refusing or delaying treatment after a parking lot accident is a critical mistake that can sink your injury claim. The insurance company will jump at the excuse to deny your claim, arguing that your injuries didn’t happen in the accident.
If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital, have a complete medical evaluation later the same day. See your primary doctor or go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care center. Tell them you were injured in a vehicle accident.
Gathering Evidence for a Strong Liability Claim
Take the time while at the scene to think about what kind of evidence is needed to prove fault in a parking lot accident. Reports from independent parties, like the police, can be critical to proving how the accident happened, and who is liable.
- Police Report: The investigating officer will file an official police accident report. Police reports will include identification and insurance information from the drivers, witness statements, and may include the officer’s opinion of fault. You should be able to request a copy of the report within a week or two of the accident.
- Security Cameras: Many parking lots have cameras for security purposes. The cameras may have recorded the accident as it happened. That’s powerful evidence. However, the business owner or management company is not required to give you a copy of the camera footage. If there are injuries involved, an attorney can subpoena the security video.
- Incident Reports: Large shopping centers and malls often hire security personnel, especially during the holiday shopping season. When security arrives, find out if they will file an incident report. If the parking lot owner or management company won’t give you a copy of the incident report, your attorney can again subpoena the evidence.
Continue Collecting Evidence to Support Your Injury Claim
Gathering evidence will be an ongoing process until your injury claim is resolved. Gather every scrap of available evidence no matter how minor your claim.
- Medical Records: Request copies of your medical records and bills. Your doctor’s notes will tie your injuries directly to the car accident. The cost of your medical treatment will be an important part of your settlement demand. Keep the receipts for out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as medications and hospital parking fees.
- Lost Wages: Ask your employer for a statement of lost wages, including lost overtime and sick or vacation leave you used while recovering from the car accident.
- Your Notes: Keep a diary with notes about how and when the accident happened. Continue writing detailed notes about your injuries, daily pain levels, inability to perform daily activities, interference with family relations, and your emotional distress. Your diary can be strong evidence of your pain and suffering.
- Phone Records: Distracted drivers cause most parking lot accidents, and the number one distraction is cell phone use. If you believe the at-fault driver was using a cell phone when you were hit, be sure to tell the police, your insurance company, and your attorney. If necessary, your attorney can subpoena the phone records.
Notifying Your Own Auto Insurance Company
If you or a family member was driving when the accident happened, notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Even if it wasn’t your fault, or it was only a minor car accident, you must contact your insurer.
Your insurance policy will likely contain a “notification and cooperation” clause that means you agree to tell the insurance company about every accident, and you also agree to cooperate with the insurance company’s investigation of the accident.
The Notification Clause will look something like this:
“Insured (you) agrees to notify the insurer (your insurance company) of any accidents and thereafter comply with all information, assistance, and cooperation which the insurer reasonably requests, and agrees that in the event of a claim the insurer and the insured will do nothing that shall prejudice the insurer’s position…”
Your insurance company will defend you against claims made by occupants of the other car. It’s not uncommon for someone to say they’re fine at the scene, then later file a questionable injury claim.
Depending on your policy, your insurance company may be able to help with your immediate expenses, like medical bills and car repairs.
If you live in a no-fault insurance state, medical costs and lost wages for you and your passengers will be covered by your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, up to the stated limits. PIP will not compensate for pain and suffering.
Property damage claims should be paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance company, even in no-fault states. You may choose to use your own collision coverage and let your insurer seek repayment from the other driver’s carrier.
Things to Consider When Filing a Claim
If you have fully recovered from soft-tissue injuries like bruises, small cuts, or muscle and tendon sprains, and only missed a few days of work, you can probably negotiate a fair car accident settlement without an attorney.
Your personal injury compensation should include the total of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. Add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.
Serious injuries are high-dollar claims. Insurance companies train their employees to protect the company’s profits. If you’ve suffered hard injuries like broken bones, closed head injuries, internal bleeding, spinal cord injuries, or other life-altering injuries, you’ll need an attorney to get adequate compensation.
Don’t be fooled by a sympathetic-sounding adjuster. Claims adjusters are notorious for offering less money to claimants who don’t have an attorney. They know that when they make their “final offer,” you probably won’t have the energy or legal skills to fight for more.
Your attorney will fight for every available penny on your behalf. There’s too much at stake in a severe injury case to face the insurance company on your own.
If you’ve been badly injured in a parking lot accident, contact a personal injury attorney. There’s no obligation, and most accident attorneys offer a free consultation.
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