It’s easy to assume that you’re less likely to be in an accident in a parking lot than a busy freeway. After all, most of the time you’re going so slow in a parking lot you should have time to stop before an accident occurs. Parking lot accidents, however, are an incredibly common occurrence.
While parking lot accidents are usually much less severe than an accident in fast-moving traffic, they should still be treated as a normal accident. Follow these steps so you’re prepared if you happen to be involved in a parking lot accident.
Check for Injuries
Much like an accident on a roadway, the first step in a parking lot accident is to check with everyone involved for injuries that need immediate attention. Parking lot accidents tend to involve slower speeds, but they may be more likely to involve pedestrians. Shoppers walking out of a store may be difficult to see. Likewise, sometimes children may suddenly run around the corner of a vehicle or dart down an aisle in a parking lot .
Call the Police
Calling the police for a fender bender with minimal damage may seem over the top, but it’s still a good idea. A formal report with the police can help prevent a battle where it’s your word against the other driver. Likewise, the police officer will be able to act as a mediator and collect information from any nearby witnesses.
For smaller accidents, however, the police may not even send an officer to the scene. In this case, it’s still important that you report the accident with the police so they have a record. Without an officer present, you should take extra care in recording details of the accident and gathering information from any witnesses.
Take Pictures and Gather Information
Take pictures of all areas of the accident, not just damage to the cars. Be sure to include the license plates for both cars as well as any noticeable damages, including minor scratches. With the new technology in modern cars, even a seemingly small dent may cost several hundredover a thousand dollars to replace. If there are any skid marks you will want to take a picture of them and the surrounding area.
Talk with any witnesses to the accident and consider asking their permission to record them on video recounting the moments before and during the accident. You may also want to report the accident to the owner of the parking lot. Most malls, grocery stores and other businesses have surveillance cameras installed in their parking lots. Should you get into a dispute of what really happened, or if there were no witnesses, this footage may be necessary to determine who is at fault in the accident.
Additionally, you will want to exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver involved in the accident. This includes names, phone numbers, addresses, insurance information, Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) and license plate numbers. Remember to remain calm and be polite following an accident. After all, the other driver likely didn’t want to be in an accident either. No matter if you think you are at fault or not, do not mention anything one way or another. This gives the experts a chance to determine who caused the accident and can help protect you from accidentally taking the blame.
If there are no injuries and you have gathered adequate pictures of the accident scene, move the vehicles to empty parking spots and out of the way. Moving the cars helps prevent congestion in the parking lot that could lead to another accident.
Contact Your Insurance Provider
As soon as it is convenient , contact your insurance company. Even though it may be tempting to not report the accident and work out payment with the other driver, this is usually not a good idea. For example, if you knocked your head on your car window during the accident you may not appear to have any major injuries at that time. But, a short time later you might notice recurring headaches discomfort which could result in the need for expensive medical treatment. If you did not report the accident within the required timeframe as defined by the policy, the insurance company may deny the claim and you’re left to pay the doctor bills.
If you are worried that the other driver does not have insurance, having a car insurance policy that includes uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage can help protect you. Uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage helps you with the financial burden of the accident when the other driver cannot. Instead of having to pay for repairs or medical bills yourself, your uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage may help pay for the damages.
Contacting your insurance company can also help you get back on the road if your car is not drivable following the accident. Carrying roadside assistance on your auto insurance can help you find towing services and, in some cases, even a rental car.
What if One of the Cars is Parked?
Many parking lot accidents involve two moving vehicles. With so many parking spaces, however, it’s just as easy to be involved in an accident with a parked car. If you hit a parked car in the parking lot, you should follow steps similar to hitting a moving vehicle. Take pictures of your car and the car you hit, making sure to record the license plate number and closeups of any damages. If you see any witnesses, also speak with them and get their view of the accident and their contact information.
You should wait for the car’s owner to exit the store or business so you can exchange information with them in person. Unfortunately, you may not have time to wait for the other person, or they may not show up for several hours. If you must leave the accident, don’t just drive away. Known as a hit and run, leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense. It’s important that you write a note for the other driver that details your name, contact information, and details of what happened in the accident. Leave the note in an easily-spotted area underneath a windshield wiper. Contact the police and your insurance company to report the accident so there is a file on record. This helps protect you from being accused of a hit and run.
Alternatively, if you come back to your car in a parking lot and see that it has damage but no one is around, check for a note left on your car. If you can’t find a note, contact the police right away to report the hit and run. You should also contact your insurance company and let them know that your car has been hit by a driver who fled the scene.
How to Avoid Parking Lot Accidents
Parking lots seem like one of the safest places to drive, but accidents do happen often. To reduce your risk of being in a parking lot accident, make sure you are aware of your surroundings and drive slowly. Even if you don’t immediately see a pedestrian or other car, be sure to follow any road signs such as STOP or YIELD signs.
Consider using a parking space further down the aisle so you have several empty spaces around your car. You can alert other drivers of your intentions by using your turn signals and avoid cutting through parking spaces to move through aisles. Even as a highly cautious driver, you can help protect yourself and your car by adding coverages to your auto insurance policy such as Uninsured/Under-insured motorist coverage or collision coverage. Call us at 1-800-640-2920 to speak with a quote specialist or get a free quote by filling out our online form to learn more about these coverage options.