Parking lot accidents account for 20% of all car accidents, but when they happen, you may not know what to do. Following the rules of the road is the first step, but because you may be on private property and surrounded by businesses, there could be some extras that work to your advantage. Whether you're at fault or you've just found a note on the windshield, here's how to handle parking lot accidents.
1. Make sure you're safe
Just like with any accident, you should make sure everyone is safe. You're at an advantage because you're not on a busy road, but you still may need to pull your car into a parking space to hash out the details and ensure no one is injured.
2. Contact the police department
Because most cars are moving at a slow speed in parking lots, most accidents are minor fender benders. Even so, it's a good idea to contact the police department and report the accident. Since parking lots tend to be private property, they probably won't come out unless someone is hurt or major damage has occurred, but a police report will be important if there are any disputes.
Also, even if you think no one is injured, it could take time for those injuries to manifest. And collecting damages or seeking compensation for those injuries will be difficult if the accident was never reported.
Furthermore, some states have laws that if damages exceed a certain amount, the accident must be reported to the police. And unless you're an insurance adjuster or an auto body repairman, it's unlikely that you'll be able to estimate the amount of damages sustained in your accident.
3. Get pictures
Take pictures of the accident, and do so before moving your cars if it's safe and you're not blocking the natural flow of traffic. Again, this is to document the scene and the damage done to both vehicles.
Pictures can be used to prove fault in many cases and can be especially beneficial if you're involved with someone who is disputing their responsibility.
4. Collect information
Get the name of the other driver with their driver license number, their license plate, and their insurance information. If there are any other passengers in the car, get their names as well. This is the only information you need to give and ask for. Do not give out your social security number or let someone pressure you into giving them anything unrelated like your date of birth or employer.
If you hit a car and can't find the driver, take pictures of the cars and leave your name and contact information on their car.
If you're the one who discovers damage to your car with a note, once again, get pictures and call the police department to report the accident. From there, it's simply a matter of calling the person and getting the information listed above.
5. Gather possible evidence
Many parking lots nowadays have cameras, so if you can, find out who owns the property or monitors the cameras in case you need additional evidence.
If there are nearby businesses, you may try speaking with an employee and asking if they witnessed the accident, particularly if they were outside assisting a customer or gathering shopping carts. Anything you can do to get as much evidence as possible will only work in your favor.
6. Contact your insurance company
Even if you think the damage isn't noticeable, most insurance companies require you to let them know of an accident. You may be concerned about your rates going up, but things could be worse if you neglect to report it.
For example, if the other driver ends up sustaining injuries and files a lawsuit against you, your insurance company could deny the claim if they were never notified about the accident.
7. Contact an attorney
In some situations, you may need an attorney. If the other party doesn't have insurance, or if you both neglected to call the police and the insurance isn't willing to pay, an attorney can help. You might have injuries yourself that didn't manifest until days or weeks later. If that's the case, and the other driver was at fault, it's important to get the advice of an auto accident attorney at firms like Bangel, Bangel, & Bangel about what can be done to seek compensation.