In some traffic crashes, finding which driver had the right-of-way may be the key to determining fault. You may not realize this, but parking lots have right-of-way rules too, and if you’re injured in a parking lot accident, you’ll need legal help from a Rochester personal injury attorney.

Who has the right-of-way when you’re driving through countless rows of parking spaces? It may take some thought and knowledge to answer that question. To start with, drivers should know that most parking lots use two types of traffic lanes: feeder lanes and thoroughfare lanes.

What Are the Driving Rules for Parking Lots?

Thoroughfare lanes exit onto a street. They are the “main arteries” in parking lots. Feeder lanes are the smaller lanes linking the thoroughfares. Motorists in thoroughfare lanes have the right-of-way over the motorists in the smaller feeder lanes.

When motorists in feeder lanes approach thoroughfare lanes, those motorists must stop when traffic is in the thoroughfare lane and let that traffic proceed before exiting the feeder. If you’re exiting a parking space, yield to any motorists in lanes behind you and in front of you.

Yield and stop signs must be obeyed in parking lots just as if those signs were on a street. A failure to heed posted yield and stop signs in parking lots places you at-fault if an accident happens.

What Are the Most Common Parking Lot Accidents?

Perhaps the most frequent parking lot accidents are “backing-out” collisions. This happens when motorists back out of parking spots and into other vehicles behind them that may be either parked or moving.

In these collisions, the motorists backing out are usually the at-fault drivers, with this exception; if two motorists back out at the same time and crash into each other, fault is usually apportioned equally between the drivers, unless additional negligence can be applied to one of the drivers, for example, if one driver was found to be intoxicated.

When a driver hits a vehicle that is parked legally, that driver will generally be found to be at-fault for the accident. When a motorist collides with a parked vehicle and flees without making any effort to contact or find the damaged vehicle’s owner, or to contact and make out a police report at the scene of the accident, the motorist can be prosecuted in New York State for hit-and-run.

It is also important for motorists to be alert for pedestrians in parking lots. Pedestrians often walk between parked vehicles and they may be difficult to see, particularly if the lighting is poor. It’s always best to significantly reduce your speed in parking lots and garages and obey any posted speed limit signs.

How Should You Deal With an Insurance Company?

Just like any other traffic accident, a traffic accident in a parking lot will be scrutinized by an insurance adjuster who will use the standard traffic accident guidelines for determining liability.

Parking lot collisions should be reported to your insurance company. If you’re in a parking lot collision and your auto insurance company finds that you were at-fault for the accident, you have a right to challenge that finding – be aware there are time-lines to challenge the decision.

If you’re injured or believe that you might be injured as the result of a parking lot collision, obtain medical attention promptly. You should still report the accident to your own insurance company, and should also consult with a car accident attorney to find out what are your rights.

You should speak with a New York personal injury attorney before you speak to an insurance company representative for the other driver involved in the parking lot collision or agree to any settlement.

When Should You Have a Medical Exam?

Following a parking lot accident, it may not be immediately evident that you sustained an injury. However, you should still consider having a medical examination because even the most trivial soreness or pain could, after several days or longer, turn into a severe medical condition.

The Rochester area has a number of large parking lots where cars, trucks, and pedestrians are constantly moving in all directions. Careful driving is the only way to avoid an accident in a parking garage or parking lot.

How Should You Handle Driving in Reverse?

If you must move in reverse in a parking lot, check the area and go slow. Always be alert for pedestrians standing or walking behind your vehicle, as well as for cars or trucks backing out of parking spaces. Pedestrians and other motorists may be struggling with blind spots.

When someone who is driving in reverse collides with your vehicle, under most fact patterns, the accident will be considered that motorist’s fault, but it is everyone’s obligation to try to prevent accidents and preserve evidence if one happens. Collisions should be reported to the police, and a police report should be completed at the scene of the collision.

What About Other Parking Lot Accidents?

Parking lot collisions can also happen when two drivers “compete” for a single parking spot and collide. Just as in any other accident, the facts are important in determining fault.

Police and insurance companies will consider the impact locations on the two vehicles, how close the vehicles were to the parking spot when the impact occurred, the speed of each vehicle, and whether any driver was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the collision.

Apart from the lower speeds, responsible and cautious driving in parking lots is no different from responsible and cautious driving anywhere in New York. Keep focused, look frequently at your mirrors, and let aggressive drivers have their way, even when you have the legal right-of-way.

What Are Your Rights as an Injured Victim of Negligence?

Rochester-area motorists who drive carefully and obey the rules are more likely to avoid crashes in parking lots, but accident-free driving can never be guaranteed. If you are injured in a parking lot accident, after receiving medical treatment, speak to a Rochester personal injury attorney.

In the State of New York, the victims of negligent drivers who sustain a “serious injury” as defined by the New York Insurance Law are entitled to compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, personal pain and suffering, and other accident-related damages.

How Can You Prevail With a Personal Injury Claim?

When a victim of negligence pursues a personal injury claim in New York after a traffic collision, that victim – called the “plaintiff” – and his or her attorney will need to show that the driver being accused of having caused the collision – the “defendant” – was driving negligently when the collision occurred.

A plaintiff and his or her attorney additionally must prove that the defendant’s negligence was a direct cause of the plaintiff’s personal injury.

Finally, plaintiffs must produce medical documentation that spells out the extent of their injuries and to show that they suffered a “serious injury” as defined by the New York Insurance Law, and produce documents evidencing their medical costs, and any other related damages and losses.

A good injury lawyer will review every detail of a parking lot accident to determine which party was at-fault. After determining who was responsible, your attorney will work to obtain the best possible settlement or trial verdict.

What If a Third Party is At-Fault?

If a defective part or vehicle is the cause of your injury, your lawyer may suggest legal action against the vehicle or part manufacturer. If poor lighting in a garage or a parking lot is the cause of your injury, it may be necessary to file a personal injury claim against the parking lot or garage owner in order to recover damages for your injury.

If a negligent driver injures you anywhere in western New York, seek medical treatment, and then, as soon as you are able, consult a personal injury lawyer to fight for the justice you deserve and the compensation you are entitled to by law. If you are injured by negligence in New York, let the law work for you.