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Have you ever been involved in a parking lot car accident and wondered who the responsible driver was?

This article is intended to address popular myths regarding parking lot accidents, as it relates to the designation of fault, and also to provide a guideline for some of the rules and laws that surround car accidents that happen on private property or parking lots. 

Are parking lot accidents automatically 50/50 at-fault for each driver?

No. A popular misconception is that each driver is automatically 50% at fault when the accident happens in a parking lot.  This is NOT true!

The reason that drivers are held 50% responsible for parking lot accidents is that either the responsibility is truly shared or because the insurance company is forced to split liability based on conflicting details of the accident. 

Conflicting Stories

When drivers report conflicting details about how the accident happened, without independent witnesses to confirm, the insurance company has no option but to deem both or all parties partially At-Fault.  Another fact that would reinforce this outcome is that the police do not show up to parking lot accidents unless there are injuries. If the police are involved it’s usually through the self-collision reporting center, where all parties give their version of the accident details. Although police reports can be obtained for review by the insurance company, it doesn’t solve the issue of conflicting details. 

How to Help Avoid a 50/50 Fault Determination Due to Conflicting Details

The best way to avoid this from happening to you is to canvass for witnesses that support your version of the circumstances behind the accident. I’m not saying to find someone who will lie for you, as this can get you into trouble, and it’s also unethical. Look around to see if anyone saw the accident and ask for their names and phone numbers so that your insurance company can contact them. Even if the At-Fault driver admits fault and responsibility for the accident may seem clear cut, you never know if that person will change their mind later on.

When insurance companies get conflicting details of an accident, whether, through a self–collision police report or hear-say, they look to other sources to help confirm who the at-fault driver was.  An account from an independent witness should be enough to help substantiate your version of the events as they truly unfolded.  Keep in mind that a witness needs to be independent, meaning they can’t have any bias towards your favour. This means your Mother, Sister, or your best friend with you during the accident wouldn’t be considered an independent witness. 

Parking Lot Accident and No Police Report

If you’ve been involved in a parking lot accident and do not have a police report, it won’t affect your ability to make an auto insurance claim. 

Although it’s always a good idea to call the police after any type of accident, it’s not required in some situations.  If there are no injuries and the combined damages to vehicles and/or property are less than $2,000 there is no requirement to call the police or file a police report. 

However, if one party decides to file a report, this will force all parties to file a police report, as well.  The self-reporting collision center will notify all parties involved, by telephone and in writing, that a police report needs to be filed with their version of events.

Police do not attend the scene of a parking lot accident unless there are injuries or moving violations that go beyond the provincial highway traffic act. Since parking lots are considered private property, the police cannot enforce the highway traffic act while on private property.

The reality is that many drivers dispute responsibility when involved in a parking lot accident.  Even if a self-collision report is filed, the report is completed by the drivers involved. This means that each driver can supply their version of the events that led to the accident.  If the details of an accident are conflicting and there are no independent witnesses to corroborate someone’s story, the insurance company would deem the accident 50/50. 

Fault Determination Rules for Parking Lots

In “no-fault” provinces such as Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, insurance companies use “Fault Determination Rules” to help claim adjusters determine fault for each parking lot accident scenario. 

The “fault determination rules” were developed to help consumers with prompt claims handling and consistent administration.  The “rules” or FDR rules cover more than 40 accident scenarios, with illustrations and diagrams for each occurrence.

In provinces were the “no-fault” does not apply, insurance companies use the “ordinary rule of law” to adjudicate and assign fault for each accident scenario.

Whether you are insured in a no-fault or tort-governed province, the rules for fault determination in parking lots are very similar.

Key Takeaways:

  • A thoroughfare is treated as the main roadway.
  • Traffic from feeder lanes needs to yield to traffic from a thoroughfare.
  • Vehicles leaving parking spaces need to yield to both feeder and thoroughfare traffic.
  • If both vehicles are backing-up, responsibility is shared 50/50.
  • You’re at fault if you make a U-Turn and collide with another vehicle or property.
  • You’re 100% At-Fault if you or your passenger cause damages to another vehicle or property while opening the door.
  • Driver charged with a traffic offense is usually the At-fault party
  • Conflicting accounts of accident details usually result in a 50/50 fault determination rule

Thoroughfares, Feeder Lanes and Parking Spots

There are three types of roadways in a parking lot:

Thoroughfare – a thoroughfare is the main roadway that routes main traffic in a parking lot. The entrance and exit paths are good examples.   Thoroughfares can also be located throughout the parking lot, depending on the size and configuration of the space. A thoroughfare is usually wider than other roadways and always perpendicular to feeder lanes. 

Thoroughfare traffic flows into feeder lane traffic, usually in search of parking spots.

People driving on the thoroughfare have the right of way, except for pedestrians, cyclists, and e-bikes!

parking-lot-accident

Feeder Lanes

Feeder lanes are the lanes that drivers enter to find a parking spot, and also when leaving a parking spot. Feeder lanes are perpendicular to thoroughfares and typically are smaller in width.

Feeder lane traffic flows into thoroughfare traffic.  Vehicles entering a thoroughfare must yield to traffic in those lanes.

Parking Spot

A parking spot isn’t technically a roadway but worth mentioning because when driving out of a parking spot, whether backing out or driving ahead, the right of way belongs to the traffic in the feeder lanes. Vehicles coming out of a parking space need to yield to traffic from the feeder lane.

Hit and Run Accident in a Parking Lot

A hit and run accident in a parking lot can either be:

  • An unidentified vehicle and driver that hits your vehicle and flees the scene of the accident

Or

  • You hitting a vehicle and fleeing the scene of the accident

A Hit and Run accident is considered Not- At Fault accident (unless you’re the one that caused the hit and run), as long as you make as formal police report within 24hrs, or if unable to within 24 hrs, to do so as soon as reasonably possible.

Do You Still Need to Pay a Deductible for Parking Lot Accidents if I’m Not At fault?

Although a hit-and-run parking lot accident is usually considered Not-At-Fault for an auto insurance claimant (the person whose vehicle was damaged by an unidentified vehicle and driver), a deductible would apply. 

Drivers insured in a No-fault province, such as Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick would also need to pay a deductible, provided that proper insurance coverage was purchased.    The reason for this is that a prerequisite of two or more valid auto insurance policies must be identified before “no-fault, or DCPD coverage can be used to cover the auto insurance claim. 

If first-party coverages (collision, comprehensive, all-perils) aren’t purchased, unfortunately, there would be no insurance coverage.

Opening Door While Getting In or Out of Your Vehicle in a Parking Lot

A driver who opens their vehicle door and causes damage to another vehicle is normally 100% at-fault. However, if the vehicle that was struck by the door was in motion, an argument can be made for splitting liability 50/50; 50% at fault for the driver who opened the door, and 50% for the other vehicle for “hitting a parked vehicle.”

If both drivers open their car door and cause each other damages, the fault would be 50/50. 

Who is At-fault if a Car is Parked Illegally?

If a vehicle is parked illegally and you collide with that illegally parked vehicle, fault for the accident can vary depending on if you live in a no-fault or tort governed auto insurance province.

If you live in a tort governed province such as Alberta, British Colombia or Manitoba fault can hinge on many contributory factors such as whether hazard lights were on in the illegally parked vehicle, or if the driver of the other vehicle was intoxicated, etc.   However, it would be very difficult to escape partial liability for hitting a parked vehicle, regardless if that vehicle is illegally parked or not.

In “no-fault” provinces such as Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, the only way you’d be Not-At fault for hitting an illegally parked vehicle is if the accident occurs outside a city, town or village. Therefore, hitting an illegally parked vehicle in a parking lot is usually 100% At Fault for that driver and vehicle.

Do Police Respond to Parking Lot Accidents?

Police respond to parking lot accidents when injuries are reported, or if misconduct is reported. i.e drinking and driving or abusive behavior.  Otherwise, the police would tell you to go to the nearest collision reporting center to file a self-reporting collision report. 

Keep in mind that you need to file a self-collision report in the jurisdiction of where the accident happened. For example, if the accident happened in Hamilton, you need to go to a self-collision reporting center in Hamilton, not necessarily where you live, should you live in a different city.

Should I Report the Parking Lot Accident to the Police?

A parking lot accident should be reported to the police if the damages sustained to your vehicle exceed $2,000 or there are injuries.  It’s always advisable to call the police, even though most times they will ask you to file a report at a self-collision reporting center. 

Can Cops Give Tickets in Parking Lots?

Yes, Cops can give tickets in parking lots, but normally not under the highway traffic act. In most cases, a police officer will charge someone involved in a parking lot accident that violates other codes and laws, like the Criminal Code of Canada or the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act.

Some driving violations, such as impaired or dangerous driving fall under the criminal code of Canada. Another example is being charged for not having insurance which falls under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act. Although the police may not enforce the highway traffic act on private property, it doesn’t mean that they can’t give tickets for accidents that happen in parking lots.

Does A Parking Lot Accident Go On Your Driving Record?

Parking lot accidents do go on your driving record! Auto insurance companies treat parking lot accidents like any other type of accident, whether it is on private property or not.

There are three ways that a parking lot accident could end up on your driving record:

1. By filing a claim to your auto insurance company, whether you decide to claim for your damages or not.
2. The other driver or parties involved file a claim with their respective insurance companies.
3. Collision reporting center submits the accident report which in turn opens a claim, whether you want to or not.

Do Parking Lot Accidents Affect Insurance?

Parking lot accidents can affect your insurance if you’re partially or wholly responsible for causing damages or injuries to any other driver and vehicle.

Parking lot accidents are treated the same as any other accident and are assigned fault accordingly. 

Who’s At-Fault if Both Drivers are Backing Up in a Parking Lot Accident?

Both drivers would be 50% At-fault for backing up into each other in a parking lot.

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