Drivers are often confused about who has the right of way. It’s typically up to insurance companies to determine fault based on the facts of the accident.

How Fault Is Determined When Colorado Traffic Laws Don’t Apply

You’re slowly cruising through a shopping center parking lot, scanning for a place to park, when another driver comes out of nowhere and slams the passenger side of your car. Which of you is responsible?

Most parking lots are private property, and traffic laws generally don’t apply. So drivers are often confused about who has the right of way. It’s up to insurance companies to determine fault based on the facts of the parking lot accident.

What factors determine liability for parking lot accidents?

Parking lots are riskier than you may think. According to a National Safety Council poll, 66 percent of surveyed drivers admitted that they would make a phone call while driving through a parking lot. Half said that they would send or receive email, 56 percent that they would text, and nearly half that they would take photos or watch videos. So, before an accident happens, the first thing to do is to avoid all of these things.

When a car accident does occur in a parking lot, several factors may be used to determine who was at fault:

Who was moving? Generally, if only one car was moving, the driver of the moving vehicle is determined to be at fault. If a driver hits a legally parked vehicle, he or she will be responsible for the damages.

Who had the right of way? If both cars are moving, one typically has the right of way given the lane of traffic. Of course, if one driver is speeding or driving recklessly, that is the driver who will usually be held liable.

What type of accident occurred? The kind of accident will often determine fault in a parking lot collision.

There are generally two types of lanes in a parking lot: thoroughfare lanes and feeder lanes. A thoroughfare lane exits to a street, whereas feeder lanes, which are smaller, begin and end at the thoroughfares. Those who are traveling in a thoroughfare lane typically have the right of way over those driving in feeder lanes. This means that a vehicle exiting a feeder lane must stop and yield to traffic in the thoroughfare.

Five Common Types of Parking-Lot Accidents

These are the main kind of accidents that tend to occur in parking lots:

  • Two cars back into each other. Since both cars were moving and neither had the right of way, the drivers will probably share liability for the collision.
  • One car pulls out of a space into the thoroughfare. Since both cars are moving, both drivers will typically be held responsible. But the driver in the thoroughfare lane has the right of way, and the person who pulled out of the space will probably incur most of the liability.
  • One car backs out of a space into another car. Although the driver in the thoroughfare lane has the right of way, since both cars are moving they will both share responsibility for the collision. However, because the driver backing out of the space is responsible for waiting until it is safe to back out, he or she is likely to be considered mainly at fault.
  • Two cars vying for the same space collide. Both vehicles were moving, so the drivers share responsibility for the collision. As on the roadway, the driver turning across traffic is required to yield to oncoming traffic. This means that the driver making a left turn into a parking space will likely take most of the blame for the accident.
  • One car rear-ends another at a stop sign in a parking lot. Since only one vehicle is moving, that is the vehicle whose driver will typically be considered at fault.

A police report is not usually generated after a parking lot accident. If you are involved in one, exchange insurance information with the others involved, obtain contact information from witnesses, take photos of the damage, and report the accident to your insurer as soon as possible.

Contact an Experienced Colorado Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in a parking lot accident, contact personal injury attorney Dan Rosen at (303) 454-8000 or (800) ROSEN-911 to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case.

Embed this infographic:
Embed this image: