If you’ve been shopping, out to a restaurant, or almost anywhere in the greater Washington, D.C. area, then you likely know just how hectic parking lots can truly be. If you’re lucky, you might grab a parking spot immediately. Otherwise, you’ll be circling for 10 minutes or longer, searching for parking — all the while watching out for pedestrians, vehicles backing out, and other hazards.
According to the National Safety Council, parking lots can be incredibly dangerous. On average, there are more than 50,000 accidents in parking lots and garages each year. In those crashes, at least 60,000 people are injured and 500 or more people die.
These statistics may seem high, particularly for an area where we typically drive at 5 miles per hour instead of 50 miles per hour. Yet parking lots are full of safety risks for unwary drivers. If you have been hurt in a parking lot accident, a Washington, D.C. car accident attorney can help you recover compensation for your losses.
Common Causes of Parking Lot Collisions
Accidents in parking lots and garages can happen in a number of ways, including:
- Two drivers back up into each other
- A driver drives forward out of a parking space and hits another vehicle in the lane of traffic
- A driver reverses out of a parking space and hits a car in oncoming traffic
- Two drivers attempt to move into a single parking space and collide
- At a stop sign, one driver rear-ends another vehicle
Even at low speeds, these types of crashes can lead to serious injuries, such as whiplash.
So what causes these types of accidents? The National Safety Council reports that the most common reasons involve failure to pay attention and poor driving choices.
One of the biggest problems in parking lots and garages is that many drivers seem to view them as somehow exempt from regular driving rules, and engage in unsafe driving behavior that they may not otherwise do. For example:
- 66% of drivers would make phone calls while driving through parking lots
- 63% would program GPS systems
- 56% would text
- 52% would use social media
- 50% would send or receive emails
- 49% would take photos or watch videos
In addition, drivers may simply ignore common sense in parking lots and do things like cut across the lots, fail to use turn signals, and ignore stop signs. Anyone in a hurry may also rush through parking lots and garages, which can often lead to accidents.
Determining Fault in Parking Lot Accidents
It can be difficult to figure out who was responsible for an accident in a parking lot. However, there are two questions that can help you determine who was responsible for a parking lot accident:
- Was more than one car moving? If just one vehicle was in motion, then its driver will usually be primarily at fault for the accident
- If more than one car was moving, which driver had the right of way?
The right of way is typically based on the pattern or lane of traffic. For example, if one vehicle is in the lane of traffic, while the other is attempting to pull into the lane, the driver that is already in traffic has the right of way. Similarly, if a car is traveling through a parking lot, looking for space, it has the right of way — and other vehicles attempting to back out of their spaces must yield right of way.
In the examples of common car accidents listed above, the fault would be determined by examining the specific facts of each case, such as the speed of each driver and the points of impact. However, there are some broad conclusions that can be made about each type of accident.
- Two drivers back up into each other: both vehicles are moving, and neither has the right of way, so they each share responsibility for the accident.
- A driver drives forward out of a parking space and hits another vehicle in the lane of traffic: both vehicles are moving, but the vehicle that was hit had right of way, so the driver pulling forward is likely more at fault
- A driver reverses out of a parking space and hits a car in oncoming traffic: while both vehicles are moving, the car in traffic has right of way. The driver backing out is probably primarily at fault for the accident.
- Two drivers attempt to move into a single parking space and collide: both vehicles are moving. The car making the left turn into space must yield to oncoming traffic (the car making the right turn), so that driver likely has a greater portion of the blame.
- At a stop sign, one driver rear-ends another vehicle: only one vehicle is moving, and the driver of the vehicle who rear-ended the other car will generally be at fault for this type of crash.
These types of accidents bring up an important consideration. Washington, D.C. is one of just four jurisdictions in the United States to use the principle of pure contributory negligence. This means that if you are found to be even 1% at fault for an accident, your recovery may be barred by law.
Insurance companies often use this principle to avoid paying valid Washington, D.C. personal injury claims. There are ways to overcome this overly harsh law. An experienced and aggressive Washington D.C. car accident attorney can attempt to settle the case with the insurance company — and if that fails, file a lawsuit and take the case to court to get you the compensation that you deserve.
Work with a Skilled D.C. Car Accident Attorney
A parking lot may not seem like a dangerous place, yet it has plenty of hidden hazards for the unwary. If you’ve been injured in a collision in a parking lot, you will need an experienced attorney who can fight for your rights and help you obtain justice.
At Patrick Malone and Associates, our team of professionals understands the intricacies of D.C. law and how insurance companies work. We put this knowledge to work for our clients each and every day. Call us today at 202-742-1500 or contact us online to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with a Washington, D.C. car accident attorney.