Parking Lot Car Accidents: First Steps to Take
Parking lots and garages are busy, congested places. There are often drivers jockeying for “the perfect spot,” shoppers walking to and from their cars, and obstacles like runaway shopping carts that can cause an accident. With all that is going on in a small space, it is no wonder that many crashes happen in parking lots and garages.
It is estimated that 1 out of 5 car accidents occur in a parking lot. Most are just “fender benders,” but others are more serious. You may be asking yourself what steps do I need to take? Who do I need to contact? Am I at fault?
If you are involved in an accident in a parking lot and before you leave the scene, take these essential steps to stay safe and protect your finances.
Emotions are high following any accident — even heightened when there is physical damage or injury. The most crucial step is to remain calm and help keep others at the scene calm as well. Do not get into an argument about who was at fault. Do not allow others to get the best of your emotions. Your job at the accident scene is to think clearly and exchange information.
Call for Medical Help:
If anyone involved in the parking lot crash appears to be injured, your priority is to seek medical attention. Call 9-1-1 and have medical professionals assess any injuries. Sometimes injuries do not appear right away, so be sure to see a doctor if you are feeling pain or discomfort following an accident.
Call the Police:
Even if the parking lot crash is minor and no one appears to be injured, call the police and file an accident report. Without a police report following a parking lot accident, it may be your word against the other person. A police officer’s primary role at the scene is to ensure everyone’s safety and gather information on the parking lot crash. Police officers record details of the crash– including the names of the people involved, vehicle data, and insurance information — and produce an accident report that can be given to insurance providers.
After calling the police, you should gather important information on the other person involved in the parking lot accident, including the name and contact information of the driver, the name of the vehicle owner if it is not the same as the driver, the names of any passengers, the vehicle make, model, and license plate number, and insurance information. Take pictures of the accident scene and vehicle damage. Take note of details of the accident scene — was the parking lot crowded? Was there signage? Were there witnesses or security cameras? If the other person is uncooperative, gather as much information as you can. If you hit a parked car, you should leave a note with your name and phone number for the other driver to get in touch with you. If there were any witnesses to your parking lot crash, you should collect their information as well.
What to do if the Police Fail to Come to the Scene or Write a Police Report:
Sometimes police departments will not dispatch officers if you tell them the accident was in a private parking lot. So, it may be best to just tell them there was an accident and you need the police to come to the scene. It may surprise you that they will not come, or once they get there, they refuse to write a report. They typically say that because it is on private property, they can’t do it, which is just not true. If they will not come to the scene or write a report, be sure to video the scene, try to get the at-fault party to state on the video or in writing what they did wrong and admit fault, and document as much as you can. This will prove to be invaluable later in your case.
Do Not Contact Your Insurance Provider Without Speaking to an Attorney First:
You really should consult an attorney to discuss your rights before contacting your insurance provider or the other party’s insurance company. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and they will do and say things to minimize their exposure by hurting any potential claim you may have. You have no obligation to give a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance company or to even speak with them. In fact, if you provide a statement early on in your case, you may very well do more harm than good. Many times people think they are just sore and will feel better over time, so they make the critical mistake of giving a recorded statement stating that they are ok only to later realize that they are actually really hurt and the pain will not subside. Another tactic the insurance companies love to use is to offer a quick settlement of $1,000 to $2,000 and get you to sign a release, and this is highly unethical and not necessary. They are only doing this so that if you realize you are more seriously hurt later, you cannot do anything about it because you have released any claim to future money. Be careful and speak with an attorney first!
After speaking with an attorney, what to discuss with your insurance company:
First, you should only speak to the insurance company with your attorney. If you choose to speak to them without an attorney, you should only discuss property damage and how the accident happened. When they ask if anyone was hurt, if you are hurt even a little bit, you should say that you are hurt or your passenger was hurt, but you will only speak to them about that with your attorney on the phone with you. Then, give them your attorney’s information. Remember you have an obligation to communicate with your insurance company, but you can do so with your attorney regarding injuries to make sure that your rights are protected.
If you have been involved in a parking lot accident, contact us today. Our attorneys have over 60 years of experience with personal injury matters, including injuries resulting from parking lot accidents. Let us answer any questions you may have today.