PARKING LOT ACCIDENTS: More Common and Dangerous Than You Think

Posted on July 11, 2019

Every time you get behind the wheel of a car or embark on foot as a pedestrian, you weigh the risk of being involved in an accident (based on road conditions and where you must travel to get from point A to point B). Whether you know it or not, based on your perceived level of risk, you adjust your behavior accordingly. Be it with a heightened level of awareness or proceeding with a higher level of caution.

When most people think of instances where they are most at risk for accident or injury, they may think of a busy intersection, a highway on ramp, or during bad weather conditions, and
for good reason. Though a high-risk area that may not come to mind is a parking lot.

People view parking lots as safe because of the low speeds at which you must drive, but that perception in and of itself is making the parking lot much more dangerous of a place than it needs to be. According to a poll taken by the National Safety Council, 66% of drivers in the US make phone calls while navigating in the parking lot, 63% percent set their GPS, 56% send text messages, and 52% use social media.

According to the national safety council, this level of distracted driving is leading to 50,000 crashes in parking lots every year which results in over 60,000 injuries and over 500 deaths. In most of these cases, the driver was liable for the injuries they caused as they could have been avoided had the driver not been distracted.

Although vehicle-on-vehicle fender benders in parking lots are time consuming and aggravating, vehicle-on-pedestrian accidents are far more serious, as the unprotected pedestrian is most at risk for serious injury or death. The most common causes of vehicle-on-pedestrian accidents are as follows:

  1. A forward moving vehicle colliding with pedestrian
  2. A backing vehicle colliding with pedestrian
  3. A driverless car colliding with pedestrian (car not properly parked and left on drive)

Fortunately, because of the fact that most of these accidents are due to human error, there are many steps both pedestrians and drivers can take to avoid them. The first and most obvious step drivers should take as soon as they get behind the wheel is to put their phones away. There is no reason to be manipulating any device while you should be focusing on driving. If there are any issues which you must resolve, such as programming your GPS, you should do it before getting moving.

Distracted driving is already illegal, but many people ignore the law, especially in the parking lot as shown in the NSC poll. Putting away your cell phone could not only save you from a ticket but could save somebody else’s life.

Another necessary step for drivers to take is to check, re-check, and keep checking from all angles and blind spots when backing out of a parking spot. It is common for people to simply look back quickly or just look back from one angle and proceed, which is why the 2nd most common cause of parking lot accidents is the driver backing into a pedestrian or vehicle.

The NSC also advises not to solely rely on technology such as backup cameras, and to look both over your shoulder and in your mirror before proceeding. Parking lots also pose an especially high risk for children and are a leading cause of death for children aged 5-9.
Be especially careful for children when backing up as they are often too short to be seen in the rearview mirror. Drivers can also lower the risk of an accident by avoiding crowded and dimly lit areas, jammed parking lot entrances/exits can also be high risk.

Although most car on pedestrian accidents are the fault of the driver, pedestrians also must take steps to protect themselves and minimize the risk of an accident. Pedestrians must always be alert, attentive, and plan for the worst. You cannot rely fully on drivers to be attentive and not to drive recklessly.

In some cases, the owner of the parking lot could also be liable for injury if they were negligent in their duty to ensure the safety of those on their premises (within reason). For example, if the owner of the premises did not have the proper road signs displayed, or if there were any hazards in the road such as ice or debris, they could be held liable for any accident or injury.

Though just because there were hazards or unsafe road conditions does not always mean that the property owner was negligent, it is determined on a case by case basis. In order to prove negligence, you must show that the property owner knew or should have known about the existence of unsafe conditions and failed to take the steps to fix it.

All and all, the parking lot can be far more dangerous than most presume. With a large percentage of all motor vehicle accidents and insurance claims occurring in the parking lot (over 20% of all accidents and 14% of all claims), raising awareness about distracted and reckless driving while in the parking lot is essential to making the roads safer as a whole.

With offices in Chelsea and Salem, MA, Spada Law Group provides Boston quality legal representation without the commute into the city with free on-premises or validated parking. We are here to answer any questions you may have. Call Spada Law Group today at 617-889-5000 to discuss your situation. The consultation is free and there is absolutely no obligation to hire us. We are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.