You’d think that after leaving the traffic-congested streets and pulling into a parking lot, you would be far less likely to have a car accident. Unfortunately, that’s far from what’s happening in Texas today. In fact, the Institute for Highway Safety warns that about 20% of all auto accidents occur within parking lots.
Sure, you might think, but how bad can parking lot crashes really be?
A recent incident that took place in one of the busy strip malls in Dallas puts the seriousness of parking lot accidents into perspective. A family from Wichita, Kansas had just stopped over at the strip mall to eat before heading back home. As the family was walking back to their car, a black pickup truck hit their 3-year old boy, killing him right there in the parking lot.
This tragedy illustrates just how vigilant we all need to be about parking lot safety – whether we’re driving or walking.
Sometimes, though, even if you do all the right things, you might become the victim of another’s negligence. No one wants this, but if you find yourself in that type of situation, one silver lining is that you can hold the other party responsible – and receive compensation for your injuries – by filing a personal injury claim.
How does this work? What kinds of accidents qualify? Below, we’re going to cover all of that.
Determining Fault Following a Parking Lot Accident in Texas
An average parking lot in the Fort Worth area may have several lanes. Vehicles enter the parking lot, join a “through lane,” then travel along that lane until they find a “parking lane.” (In other words, a parking spot.)
When accidents happen in a parking lot, they may involve moving vehicles, stationary cars that are parked in the lot, or pedestrians. How do courts determine who is liable? Two important factors are involved:
- Was the vehicle in motion? The driver of a moving car is generally at fault for causing a parking lot crash. This, of course, is assuming that the hit car was legally and appropriately parked.
- Did the driver have the right of way? Parking lot right-of-way rules dictate that the car that’s in the “through lane” has the right of way. Therefore, a driver who’s pulling out from a “parking lane” must yield the right of way to vehicles in the “through lane.” An exception to this right-of-way rule exists if there’s a STOP or YIELD sign giving the right of way to cars that are leaving parking spots.
Types of Accidents that Happen in Texas Parking Lots
Most collisions that happen in parking lots are low-speed, low-impact collisions. Such crashes are typically not very serious, but there are always exceptions. That’s why you should know your rights after a car crash.
Here are five of the most common auto accidents that occur in Texas parking lots:
- Two vehicles back up into each other – In an accident of this nature, both drivers will be at least partially at fault because both of their vehicles were moving.
- A vehicle is driven forward out of its parking space and into a lane of traffic – The right of way, in this case, belongs to the vehicle in the lane of traffic, which typically makes the driver who pulled out of his or her parking space at fault in such an accident.
- A driver backs up out of a parking space and into an oncoming vehicle – Both vehicles were in motion, so both drivers hold some level of responsibility. However, the driver who backed up into the oncoming vehicle will likely be primarily at fault for not yielding the right of way to the car in the “through lane.”
- A collision between two vehicles competing for the same parking spot – In these kinds of accidents, both drivers hold some level of responsibility. However, a definite determination of who was primarily at fault will take into account various factors, including which driver made a left turn, how far the individual vehicles were into the parking space when they collided, points of impacts, speed before impact, and so on.
- A vehicle rear-ends the car in front of it at a stop sign – Drivers should always keep some distance between their car and the vehicle in front. Therefore, a driver who rear-ends another vehicle is generally at fault for a rear-end collision in a parking lot. As always, there are exceptions, but arguing for the other side here would be an uphill battle.
Dealing with a Parking Lot Accident in Texas
As with any other auto accident, you are entitled to make a claim for damages and any serious injuries you suffer as a direct result of the crash. To win your claim, though, you will need to show that that the other driver acted with negligence or recklessness. This means proving four elements:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
- Injury resulting from that breach
- Damages resulting from that injury
Generally, proving these elements will require you to gather a large amount of material evidence, including medical reports, surveillance, reports, or witness accounts of the accident, and so on.
Even if your case seems clear cut, do not assume that you can simply walk into the court room and win. To give yourself the best chance at success, it is highly recommended that you enlist the help of an experienced Texas injury attorney who understands the nuts and bolts of how these types of cases work.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing law in Texas in 2005. Before joining the Fulgham Hampton Law Group, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.