Car Accidents In Parking Lots: Who Is At Fault?

May 11, 2015

Crowded parking lotAccording to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, nearly 20 per cent of car accidents occur in parking lots and garages. Given the frequency of parking lot accidents, it is important to know the auto insurance implications of them. Do the rules of the road apply? Who is at fault during these accidents and how can they be prevented from happening in the first place?

Do Rules of the Road Apply in Parking Lots?

In most provinces and territories, the rules of the road do apply in parking lots. However, this is not the case in Ontario. Parking lots are considered private property and thus aren’t subject to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act. That being said, there are general rules of the parking lot that you should always follow for the purpose of safety and insurance.

Rules of the Parking Lot

  1. A driver in a thoroughfare lane has the right of way over a driver in a feeder lane.

    A thoroughfare is the lane in a parking lot that directly connects to the road, street, or highway. A feeder lane is any other lane in a parking lot that doesn’t exit to a road. These feeder lanes often lead to the thoroughfare lane. If you find yourself in a feeder lane turning into a lane that connects to the parking lot exit, you must wait for any traffic in that lane to pass prior to making your turn.

  2. If you open the door of your car and someone else hits it, you are at fault.

    If you are opening your car door to exit, check to ensure that there is no nearby traffic. This is an easily avoidable accident. By opening your door without looking for traffic, you are automatically at fault and in potential danger.

  3. If you hit a legally parked car while driving, you are automatically at fault.

    Regardless of the situation, if you hit a legally parked vehicle then you are at fault. However, if that car is not parked legally then that driver may instead be at fault. Gather as much evidence (photos, witnesses) as possible to support your argument.

  4. You must follow all signs in the parking lot.

    The signs are there for a reason. If you get in an accident because you didn’t follow the directions of a traffic sign (or police officer) then you are automatically at fault.

  5. If you are pulling out of a parking space, you MUST yield to any other oncoming vehicles.

    You must make sure there is no traffic before pulling out of your parking spot. It is your responsibility to look and ensure the coast is clear before pulling out of a parking space.

How to Prevent Parking Lot Accidents

  1. Slow Down.

    Drive slowly and carefully in parking lots. Busy parking lots can be incredibly hectic places. Cars are constantly pulling into and out of spaces, pedestrians with shopping carts or strollers can appear out of nowhere, and there can be many sharp, blind turns. By driving slowly, you allow yourself time to scan all areas of the parking lot for any danger and give yourself some lead time to react to any potential incident.

  2. Park Away From Others (If Possible).

    If a lot is relatively empty, you can eliminate many risks of your car being damaged by parking away from other vehicles. Your car is less likely to be scraped, dinged, or scratched if there is nobody around you. This also allows you to get in a good bit of exercise with your slightly longer walk.

What Do I Do if I Get in a Parking Lot Accident?

Parking lot accidents should be treated the exact same way as accidents on the road. Gather as much evidence as possible (witnesses, photos, detailed written account etc). If there is no evidence, witnesses, or proof to support either driver in a parking lot accident then the fault will likely be split 50/50 between the two drivers. For a helpful, detailed list of things you should do after any auto accident, check out Tips For After An Accident: 10 Things To Note.

Parking Lot Accidents And Your Auto Insurance

The affect of a parking lot accident on your auto insurance is really not all that different than any other type of accident. If you’re to blame for the accident, this will be reflected in your auto insurance premiums, if you’re not, then it won’t. That said, often the fault for parking lot accidents is 50/50; meaning both driver’s auto insurance will be affected by the resulting insurance claim.


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viorel tugui says:

The only thing I disagree with is: who is responsible backing out of a parking spot. several times, I have looked both ways but other drivers actually race down the lanes and could not stop, even endangering the lives of children, pedestrians and other vehicles.

David Coniam says:

Yes, I am appalled that if I am more than halfway out of a parking space I have to continue to yield to the other drivers. Does Not make sense especially since most scenarios are drivers speeding by.

lucia says:

if people backed into their parking stall and then pulled out front on, this would not be a problem

Greg McKenney says: