Parking Lot Accidents: Insurance Claims and Compensation

Don’t settle for less than you deserve after a parking lot car accident. Here’s how to build a strong insurance claim and maximize your compensation.

More than 50,000 accidents happen in parking lots every year, causing more than 500 deaths and 60,000 injuries. ¹

Beginning with Black Friday, the holiday shopping season is the worse time of year for parking lot accidents. Being laid up over the holidays with unexpected medical bills is distressing. The sad fact is, no time is a good time to be injured.

When a negligent driver injures you in an auto accident, you have a right to expect fair compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, property damages, pain, and emotional distress.

Here’s what you need to know to know about covering your losses after a parking lot accident.

Parking Lot Traffic Rules

Most parking lots are private property and not subject to state traffic laws. While that means the police won’t investigate every fender-bender, there are “rules of the road” that will help support your insurance claim.

Parking lots generally have two types of traffic lanes:

Main or access lanes leading in and out of the parking lot. In a large mall or shopping center parking lot, the access lanes may circle the perimeter of the lot.

Feeder lanes connect to the access road. Feeder lanes run up and down the rows of parking spaces.

  • Drivers must obey all Stop and Yield signs in a parking lot, regardless of their lane of travel.
  • Traffic on the access lane has the right-of-way, subject to stop or yield signs.
  • Drivers in the feeder lanes must yield to traffic on the access lane.
  • Drivers in the feeder lanes have the right-of-way over cars leaving a parking space.
  • Cars leaving a parking space must yield to vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the feeder lane.

What to Do 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. Just as important is knowing how to avoid costly mistakes.

Call 911: Always call 911 for an accident. If your injuries incapacitate you, ask someone else to call. Tell the dispatcher you are injured and need help. Be sure to say if you’re an injured pedestrian. 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. Police normally respond to parking lot accidents with reported injuries or when the accident is blocking traffic.

Watch What You Say: 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 crash might be your fault, 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.

Medical Evaluation: 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.

Don’t take no for an answer. If the insurance company denies your claim, contact a personal injury attorney for a free consultation to discuss your options.

Police Report: Police on the scene will coordinate with emergency services, manage traffic, and may conduct a full accident investigation. The investigating officer will file an official police accident report.

Police reports will include the date, time and location of the crash, identification and insurance information from the drivers, vehicle information, 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.

Driver’s Information: You will need the at-fault driver’s name, address, contact information, and insurance information. In most states, drivers are required to show their driver’s license when asked.

We’ve made it easy to collect the information you need with a free Car Accident Information Form. Keep a copy with a pen in the same place you keep your proof of insurance.

Gather Evidence for a Strong Claim

Evidence from the accident scene can be critical to your claim. Be sure to collect the following:

Witness Statements: As in any car accident, witnesses can help in proving the other driver was at fault.  Ask witnesses for their name and contact information. If the 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.

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.

Security Cameras: Many parking lots have surveillance 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, your insurance company or your attorney can take legal steps to obtain security camera films.

Incident Reports: Large shopping centers and malls often hire security personnel to drive around to prevent car break-ins and ensure customer safety, especially during the holiday shopping season.

When security personnel arrives, find out if they will file an incident report with their employer. Ask for the name and contact information of the person who gets the reports.

You can later contact that person to ask for a copy of the report. If the parking lot owner or management company doesn’t give you a copy of the incident report, your insurance company or attorney can make the request through legal channels.

Continue Collecting Evidence to Support Your Injury Claim

Medical Records: The doctor’s notes in your treatment records will tie your injuries directly to the car accident. The cost of your medical treatment will be an important part of your compensation demand.  Ask for copies of your medical records and bills. Keep the receipts for out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as medications and hospital parking fees, and track your mileage to medical appointments.

Lost Wages: Ask your employer for a statement of lost wages, including lost overtime, and how much sick or vacation leave you used because of 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 supporting compensation for 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 your case goes to court, your attorney can issue a subpoena for phone records.

Filing Your Insurance Claim

If you were driving when the accident happened, notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Even if the accident wasn’t your fault, or only caused minor vehicle damage, you must contact your insurer.

If you were hit while walking in a parking lot, learn more about Injury Claims and Compensation for Pedestrian Accidents.

Almost all auto policies have 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 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 the passengers in your car will be covered by your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, up to the stated limits. PIP will not compensate for pain and suffering.

Your Claim Against the At-fault Driver

Whether you were driving or walking, if another driver caused your injuries you’ll file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Before the insurance company pays your claim, you’ll have to prove their insured caused the accident and is responsible for your injuries.

It helps to understand some of the terms used in insurance claims:

Liability means fault or responsibility. The driver is usually liable for the damages you suffered in the accident.

Negligence happens when a driver fails to act responsibly or does something no reasonable driver would do, like texting while driving through a parking lot.

Damages can include property damages to your car, and personal injury damages like medical and therapy costs, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Direct and Proximate Cause is an action that leads to damages which wouldn’t have otherwise happened. You wouldn’t have a broken leg if the negligent driver hadn’t run you over.

Duty of Care means the obligation to be careful and avoid causing harm to others.

Anyone driving through a parking lot has a duty of care to pay attention to where they’re going, watch out for pedestrians, and avoid causing harm to others.

The evidence you gathered from the accident scene, like the police report and witness statements, will prove the driver was careless and negligent. Your evidence can also help refute the other driver’s arguments that you shared negligence in causing the collision.

Your emergency medical records will prove the driver’s negligence was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries, and the rest of your medical records will prove the extent of your injuries.

Once you’ve proven the other driver is liable for your injuries, the insurance company will then compensate you for your damages.

How to Boost Your Compensation

If you have fully recovered from soft-tissue injuries like bruises, small cuts, or muscle and tendon sprains, and only missed a few weeks work, you can probably negotiate a fair injury settlement without the help of an attorney.

Your compensation will include the total of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. If you aren’t filing a no-fault claim, you can add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.

Look like a pro with our sample Personal Injury Demand Letter.

Severe personal injuries require significant compensation. 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 for your claim.

Serious injuries are high-dollar claims. Insurance companies train their employees to protect the company profits.

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 to face the insurance company on your own.

If you’ve been badly injured in a parking lot accident, contact a personal injury attorney today. There’s no obligation, and it costs nothing to find out what a good attorney can do for you.

Parking Lot Accident Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>