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Blog category: Driving

How to Deal with Parking Lot Accidents

7 min read

Did you know that one out of five car accidents happen in a parking lot? Parking lot accidents are often viewed as less serious because they happen at slower speeds, but scenarios occur when this is not always the case. Often, parking lot accidents involve pedestrians, unbuckled passengers, and completely distracted drivers, which can complicate matters.

While you can’t always prevent mishaps, you can learn more about what to do after a parking lot accident to protect yourself and others. Follow these four steps to ensure that the car accident is wrapped up in the best possible way.

1. Check for Injuries

One of the most dangerous times to drive is during rush hour and prime shopping times. During these times, more pedestrians are likely to be in the parking lot area. Children, busy shoppers, and distracted drivers all pose a risk. Parking lot accidents that involve a pedestrian can be serious, even when the vehicle is moving slowly.

Much like a car accident on a roadway, the first step in a parking lot accident is to check with everyone involved for injuries that need immediate attention. It’s important for you to remain calm and not argue or admit anything at the scene with the other people involved. An independent investigation into the facts will take place later – that’s why you have insurance, after all.

2. Call the Police

If anyone is injured, call 911 right away. If not, it’s still important to call the police to report the car accident. This still holds true if you think it’s a minor fender bender accident. Note: police may not be able to come to the scene, but it doesn’t hurt to try to involve them.

Calling the authorities ensures that an official report is created. This official report will list the parties involved, any witnesses, any evidence the police discover at the scene, and an initial cause for the crash. All these factors are important to document and can help you later if you need to seek out compensation. If the police are unable to come to the scene, do the best you can to gather information safely.

3. Take Pictures and Gather Information

Take pictures of all areas of the car accident in the parking lot, not just damage to the car(s). Be sure to include the license plates for both cars as well as any noticeable damages, including minor scratches. With new technology in modern cars, even fixing a seemingly small dent may cost several hundred dollars. Photos of the individuals in the vehicle, if the situation safely allows for it, are extremely helpful for establishing who was at the scene. Even photos taken from a distance are helpful.

If there are witnesses, talk with them and consider asking their permission to record them on video recounting the moments before and during the accident. Just don’t ask their opinion of who was at fault or interject your own opinions. It’s also important to get their contact information and let them know your insurance company will likely be contacting them.

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 lots and are willing to provide it to you. If they won’t give it to you, ask them to retain the footage, and be sure to tell your insurance company about the existence of the video.

Should you get into a dispute over what really happened, or if there were no witnesses, this footage may be necessary to determine who is at fault in the parking lot accident.

Additionally, exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver involved in the incident. This includes names, phone numbers, addresses, insurance information, Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) (which can be photographed through the driver’s side of the windshield) and license plate numbers. Remember to remain calm and be polite following an incident – even if the other driver isn’t.

If the other driver’s behavior is aggressive or feels unsafe, remain in your vehicle and lock your door. Usually, the other driver doesn’t want to be in this situation either and will be courteous to you in turn. Whether you think you’re 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’ve gathered enough pictures of the accident scene, move the vehicles to empty parking spots and out of the way. This helps prevent congestion in the parking lot that could lead to another accident.

4. Contact Your Insurance Provider

Contact your insurance company. Even though it may be tempting not to report the parking lot fender bender and work out payment with the other driver, this is usually not a good idea. For example, if the other driver was speeding through the parking lot, and you knocked your head on your car window during the collision, you may not appear to have any injuries initially.

But a short time later, you might notice recurring headaches and 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’d be left to pay the medical bills.

It’s also important to report the accident because there are scenarios where individuals intentionally cause accidents and try to profit from even minor accidents. If you feel that this may be the case, let your adjuster know why you feel that way. Additional investigation may be required.

If you’re worried that the other driver does not have insurance, having a 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. It’s still important to collect and photograph as much contact information as you can, as an uninsured driver is still legally able to make a claim against your policy.

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, a rental car.

What if One of the Cars is Parked?

Many parking lot accidents involve two moving vehicles. However, it’s just as easy to be involved in an accident with a parked car. If you hit a parked car in the lot, follow the same steps you’d take if you hit 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 damage. If you see any witnesses, speak with them, and get their view of the accident and their contact information.

Wait for the car’s owner to exit the store or business so that you can exchange information with them in person. 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 a car accident is a criminal offense. You can also check with the business owner, explain what happened, and often they can facilitate finding the other party or at least provide the security footage.

It’s important that you write a note for the other driver that details your name, contact information, and details of what happened. Leave the note in an easily spotted area, such as underneath a windshield wiper. Contact the police and your insurance company to report the accident to have 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’s damaged, 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.

Check with the businesses in the parking lot to see if they have security cameras facing where you were parked. 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 happen there often. To reduce your risk of being in a parking lot accident, make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and drive slowly.

  • Follow STOP or YIELD signs even if you don’t immediately see any pedestrians or cars.
  • Consider using a parking space further down the aisle that allows several empty spaces around your car.
  • Alert other drivers of your intentions by using your turn signals and avoid cutting through parking spaces to move through aisles.

Even as a cautious driver, you can help protect yourself and your car further by adding coverages to your auto insurance policy, such as Uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage or collision coverage.

Hopefully, you’re now feeling more knowledgeable about what to do after a parking lot accident. Always remember to check yourself for injuries, involve the authorities, collect as much evidence as possible, and inform your insurance provider. Following these steps will help protect your right to pursue any compensation from the legally liable parties.

Is it time to switch auto insurance companies to help cover your losses in the event of a parking lot fender bender? Wawanesa Insurance offers great rates to good drivers. Get a free quote now or contact us at 800-640-2920 to learn more about how we can help provide you with coverage and peace of mind.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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