According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 50,000 crashes occur each year in parking lots and parking garages, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of serious injuries. Driving through parking lots is more dangerous than many people realize, and parking lot and garage accidents account for approximately 20% of all auto accidents. Parking areas can be hazardous during any time of the year, and this is especially true during the holidays.
Although vehicle traffic typically moves much slower in parking lots and garages than on the regular roadways, there is also significantly more pedestrian traffic, and vehicles often have far less room to maneuver in a lot or garage. Compact spaces and visibility problems are other issues that are not experienced as much on the streets and highways.
Common Causes of Parking Lot and Garage Accidents
The unique hazards that are present in parking areas can result in various types of accidents. Examples include two cars colliding while backing up at the same time, a car colliding into a pedestrian, a car colliding into a bicycle or motorcycle, or a pedestrian getting hurt after tripping and falling.
There are a number of reasons why parking lot and garage crashes occur:
- Aggressive/Reckless Driving: A lot of motorists who are entering and exiting parking areas are under a great deal of stress. Maybe they are running late for a doctor’s appointment, or maybe they are trying to squeeze in some quick shopping during their lunch break. When people are in a rush, they tend to drive more aggressively; and in many lots and garages, it is not uncommon to see cars speeding across the lot or recklessly winding tight corners in a garage. These driving behaviors increase the likelihood of a parking area collision.
- Distractions: These days, everyone seems to be distracted by their cell phones. We know that texting while driving and similar behaviors are all too common on the roadways, but they happen even more frequently in parking lots and garages. In fact, two thirds of respondents in an NSC survey said that they were comfortable making a phone call while driving in a lot or garage, and 50% said they were comfortable texting and doing other smartphone activities. To make matters worse, pedestrians are also highly prone to cell phone distractions.
- Drunk Driving: Driving while intoxicated is a major contributor to vehicle accidents, including accidents that occur in parking areas. Drunk driving is most common in the late evening and overnight hours and among those who are leaving a bar and exiting through a parking lot or garage.
- Negligent Maintenance: Maintenance is a major problem in some of these parking garages, ramps and lots. Many of them have potholes, cracks in the cement, uneven pavement, poor lighting, and other issues. Failure to adequately maintain a parking area can be a contributor to accidents and injuries, particularly with pedestrians who slip and fall because of unsafe conditions.
- Design Problems: There are some parking lots and garages that have faulty designs which make them inherently dangerous for patrons. For example, some of them have very tight corners that make it hard to see other vehicles coming from the other side. Others have very small parking spaces, confusing signs that point in multiple directions, or parking spots that are not properly marked or the marking is so faded that it is no longer clear.
Who is At Fault for a Parking Lot Accident?
There is no simple answer to this question, because there are often multiple parties involved in a parking lot or garage accident. In general, a motorist that is traveling in the “through” lane has the right-of-way over a car that is approaching from a parking spot. Therefore, the motorist that is exiting from their parking spot would normally be at fault in this scenario.
When two cars collide with each other while both are backing up, it can be very difficult to determine fault because they often appear to be backing up at the same time. If one car clearly started packing up before the other, then it is the responsibility of the second car to wait until the first car has cleared the area.
There are also outside parties that could be responsible for a parking area accident. For example, if a pedestrian falls and gets hurt because there was poor lighting and they could not see the crack in the pavement, then the owner of the lot or garage or whoever is responsible for maintaining it could be the at fault party. Or if the accident is caused by confusing signage, then the party that designed the lot and/or put up the sign could be the one to blame.
Cases like these can be extremely complicated, and a thorough investigation is needed to determine the root cause of the accident and which party (or parties) were responsible. For this reason, it is very important to get in contact with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you get an attorney involved, the better your chances of recovering full and fair compensation if you suffered injuries from the accident.
Injured in a Parking Lot Accident in Alabama? Contact an Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one got hurt in an accident in a parking lot or parking garage, Hedge Copeland is here to help. Call our office today at (251) 432-8844 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys.