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Parking Lot Accidents: Motorists and Pedestrians at Risk

large parking lot

Parking lots are very busy places for motorists as well as pedestrians. They are also unique places where most people have been both a hurried driver and a distracted pedestrian, often within a matter of minutes when they exit their car and walk toward their destination — across a busy parking lot.

Types of Parking Lot Accidents

While cars typically move more slowly in parking lots, drivers also travel unpredictably in all directions and are often distracted while weaving back and forth, putting other motorists and pedestrians at risk. Not surprisingly, about one out of every five motor vehicle accidents happens in a parking lot, under a variety of circumstances.

  • Single car accidents. These types of parking lot accidents include hitting a light pole or misjudging the curb, and may occur when motorists are distracted and more intent on looking for a spot than watching where they are going.
  • Vehicles colliding with other vehicles, including parked cars. Approximately 14 percent of all accident claims involve parking lot collisions, and 80 percent of all bumper damage occurs during parking. Although some collisions occur when both drivers are jockeying for that coveted parking spot, many vehicles get hit while parked.
  • Vehicles striking pedestrians. When a pedestrian walks through a parking lot toward his destination, be it a store, office, or stadium, he must be aware of cars traveling toward him from all directions simultaneously. Experts say that pedestrian accidents in parking lots are the driver’s fault about three-fourths of the time.
  • Pedestrian slip-and-fall accidents. A simple slip, trip, or fall due to holes, uneven surfaces, or wet or icy conditions can result in severe injuries to someone walking through a parking lot. And once he has fallen, he is at risk of further injury from distracted motorists looking for open parking spaces, not pedestrians in their path.
  • Accidents involving children. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that more than one-fifth of the fatal accidents involving children between the ages of 5 and 9 occur in parking lots, particularly when motorists failed to see children around them while backing up their vehicles.

Fault in Parking Lot Accidents

Establishing fault in a parking lot accident can be extremely dicey, and for this reason, if you are injured, calling a personal injury attorney might be advisable. Because parking lots are technically private property and the rules of the road don’t apply, the police usually won’t investigate or complete a report on a parking lot accident. It generally comes down to one person’s word against the other, and insurance companies usually split the fault equally, regardless of who may have actually been to blame.

Even if the accident is minor, you should call your insurance company and put it on notice to protect you in case the other party makes a claim. Try to get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident, and document the scene by taking pictures before the vehicles are moved.

Parking Lot Psychology?

In his book, “ReThinking a Lot,” MIT professor Eran Ben-Joseph examines how drivers often ignore the painted markings and take a direct path across a parking lot to their destination, putting pedestrians and other motorists at risk by exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior and a sense of territorial entitlement that demonstrates a competitive spirit.

Perhaps remembering that we’re all pedestrians and drivers at one time or another will make parking lots safer places to be — at least we can hope.

Image by Heath Alseike


My daughter and I first consulted with Dan Rosen after a very serious auto accident. Dan had several phone conferences with me, and Tracie was available whenever I called. We would recommend personal injury attorney Dan Rosen to anyone!
Sally from Denver, Colorado

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