Staying Safe in the Parking Lot
The holidays are nipping at our heels, and this means that we are going to be doing more shopping of just about every kind. Whether you are headed to the grocery store for fixings, are picking up holiday decorations, or are running those last-minute errands that inevitably crop up, you are going to be spending some time in parking lots, and knowing the risks that lurk in parking lots – as well as how to avoid them – can help you stay safe out there this holiday season and beyond.
Distraction: The Number One Danger
There are all kinds of dangerous drivers out there and every manner of driver negligence, but when it comes to parking lots, the biggest danger is driver distraction. The National Safety Council (NSC) shares that parking lots are more dangerous than most people realize. In fact, there are tens of thousands of injury-causing accidents and hundreds of fatal accidents in parking lots and parking structures every year. Things become even riskier around the holidays – spiking on Black Friday and continuing to run high throughout the shopping season.
In a poll conducted by NSC, respondents shared the distractions they tend to engage in while driving through parking lots, including:
Sixty-six percent of drivers throughout the nation report that they make phone calls while driving in parking lots.
Sixty-three percent of drivers throughout the nation report that they program their GPS systems while driving in parking lots.
Fifty-six percent of drivers throughout the nation report that they text while driving in parking lots.
Fifty-three percent of adult drivers throughout the nation report that they engage in personal grooming while driving in parking lots.
Fifty-two percent of drivers throughout the nation report that they interact with social media while driving in parking lots.
Fifty percent of drivers throughout the nation report that they send and/or receive emails while driving in parking lots.
Forty-nine percent of drivers throughout the nation report that they take pictures or watch videos while driving in parking lots.
When you add the holidays to the mix, motorists are more likely to have dissertation length To-Do lists on their minds and are focused on getting everything done right now, which can turn the distraction up a level or two.
NSC shares that driving slowly is not the only means you have of making parking lots safer places. Consider the following safety tips:
Stay in your designated lane and carefully follow the arrows designating the driving direction
Do not cut across parking lots (it amounts to cutting across multiple lanes of traffic)
Drive slowly and purposefully, using your blinkers as appropriate
Anticipate what other drivers are likely to do (and assume they do not see you in the process)
Carefully adhere to all posted signs, including speed limits, stop signs, and no-parking signs
Use extra care when backing out of your parking spot
Be on the lookout for small children and for adults pushing baby strollers in your midst
Use Technology Wisely
Government data analyzed by NSC finds that 9 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents in parking lots are the result of cars backing up. Even though many vehicles come equipped with cameras that allow you to see what is behind you when you reverse, you should not rely solely on this view. The fact is that the camera lens can become obstructed, and the lens can also miss things that are very close and low. Always look over your shoulder before backing up (and engage your mirrors in the process). It is also a good idea to do a quick visual sweep around your car before getting in. Whenever possible, it is a good idea to pull through to a forward parking position, which alleviates the need to back up when you pull out. While your car may also have a safety system that alerts you to other vehicles in your blind spots, these monitoring systems are far less effective at detecting bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. Always proceed with caution.
Common Parking Lot Accidents
While there is no limit to the kinds of accidents that can happen in parking lots, there are certain types of parking lot accidents that are most common.
Two Cars Backing Up
One of the most common parking lot accidents occurs when two vehicles back up out of their parking spots into one another. The problem may be that the drivers fail to look, or they may fail to see one another due to their blind spots. If both drivers are moving at the time of the accident, neither is likely to have the right-of-way, and they both may be determined to share fault (depending upon the circumstances).
Backing into an Oncoming Vehicle
When a motorist backs out of a parking spot and hits another vehicle in the parking lot’s through lane, he or she is likely to be at fault. A driver who is leaving his or her lane of traffic must yield the right-of-way to vehicles that are already in motion, which means that he or she is responsible for waiting until it is safe to proceed with backing out.
Vehicles Collide While Vying for a Parking Spot
It is the holidays, and parking spots can be hard to come by. Some overly aggressive drivers are not afraid to play chicken for parking spots, and it can lead to dangerous parking lot accidents.
Motorists who drive through parking lots in distraction mode are far more likely to cause life-threatening pedestrian accidents.
When a motorist uses a parking lot like his or her own personal motorway, fails to follow the safety rules of the parking lot, and/or cuts across lanes with impunity, he or she makes colliding with another vehicle or a pedestrian in the parking lot that much more likely.
Parking lots can feel like a free for all, but there are strict rules that apply and that guide how fault is determined in parking lot accidents.
Only One Car Is Moving
If one car is moving and the other is not, the driver in the moving vehicle is very likely at fault (as long as the driver that parked or stopped the other car did so legally and appropriately).
Typically, parking lot accidents boil down to who had the right-of-way in the situation at hand. In the State of Texas, parking lot rules dictate that those vehicles already in the through lane have the right-of-way (in relation to parked vehicles). As such, motorists who are parked must yield the right-of-way to vehicles passing through the lane they are pulling into from their parking spaces. This holds unless there is a stop or yield sign that specifically affords parked cars the right-of-way when exiting their parking spots.
The Elements of Your Parking Lot Accident Claim
In order to bring a successful parking lot accident claim, specific legal elements must be present.
Duty of Care
To begin, the other driver must have owed you a duty of care. Every motorist owes everyone else on the road – and in the parking lot – a serious duty of care that includes following the rules, regulations, and restrictions that apply. This means driving distraction-free, yielding the right-of-way as required, and proceeding with caution generally. In other words, the at-fault driver in the parking lot accident did owe you a duty of care.
The next element of your parking lot accident claim is that the at-fault driver must have breached the duty of care owed to you. This means that, if he or she engaged in any of the following, the driver breached the duty of care owed to you:
Drove at a speed that exceeded the posted speed limit (which is naturally very low in a parking lot) or that was too fast for the parking lot’s condition
Failed to adhere to any other posted traffic lights, signs, or signals
Failed to yield the right-of-way
Allowed himself or herself to become distracted by anything other than moving through the parking lot safely
Engaged in aggressive driving practices, such as by aggressively nabbing a parking space
For example, if a speeding motorist whose nose was in his phone slammed into you at a stop sign, it is fairly clear that the duty of care he owed you was breached.
The next element of your claim is that the at-fault driver’s negligence must have been the direct cause of the injury-causing parking lot accident in question. In the example above in which the distracted driver who was speeding slammed into you while you were stopped at a stop sign, there is little room to argue that the distracted driver’s negligence (or breached the duty of care owed) caused the ensuing parking lot accident.
Finally, the accident in question must have caused you to suffer legal damages (or losses) that you can address in a parking lot accident claim, such as:
Property damage to your vehicle
Pain and suffering
If you have been injured in a parking lot accident, the answers to the following frequently asked questions may help you find your own best path forward.
Do I need a car accident attorney?
While you are certainly not required to hire a car accident attorney, doing so allows you the best chance of recovering fully from your physical, financial, and emotional losses.
What does pain and suffering cover?
Pain and suffering refers to the physical pain and emotional anguish you suffer as a result of the other driver’s negligence. While it can be more difficult to point to and assign a value to, the pain and suffering common to car accidents can be one of the most difficult forms of damage to overcome. Common signs of psychic pain include:
Severe mood swings
Bouts of depression
Increased anxiety, which can include anxiety attacks
Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia
A tendency to self-isolate
Feelings of hopelessness
How expensive is a car accident attorney?
It is only natural to be concerned about how you are going to cover your legal expenses when you have been injured, have considerable medical expenses, and are facing lost earnings. There is, however, good news. Most reputable Texas car accident attorneys take cases like yours on what is known as a contingency basis. This means that your attorney’s pay will be based on (contingent upon) the outcome of your claim. If it prevails and you receive either a settlement or court award, your car accident attorney will receive a prearranged percentage of your compensation. If it does not, you won’t owe anything.
What can I do to help protect my parking lot accident claim?
While your parking lot accident claim will be utterly unique to the unique circumstances involved, there are some basic steps you can take to help ensure that both your health and claim are well protected, including:
Seek the medical attention that you need as soon after the accident as it is possible to do so.
Carefully follow all the medical instructions and advice you receive from your doctor.
Consult with a dedicated car accident attorney sooner rather than later.
Allow your seasoned car accident attorney to handle the insurance company, including providing it with the information it needs and skillfully negotiating for fair terms that cover your damages in their entirety.
Lay low on social media and avoid talking about the accident (the insurance company is lurking – waiting for you to say something that it can twist to its own advantage).
Reach out to an Experienced Killeen Car Accident Attorney for the Help You Need
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a savvy car accident attorney with a wealth of experience helping clients like you successfully recover on their full range of damages. Your case is important, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.