Who is at Fault in a Parking Lot Accident?

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on January 28, 2016

Car accidents in parking lots usually involve only minor damage because cars are normally travelling at low speeds.  However, side collisions and rear end collisions, even at low speeds, can result in serious injuries.  Also not uncommon are collisions between cars and pedestrians in parking lots, which can cause severe and sometimes, fatal injuries to a pedestrian.

In late 2015, there were two fatal parking lot accidents involving pedestrians in Brampton. In October, a woman was struck by a car while walking in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  She suffered severe injuries and later died in hospital.  The driver of the ‘at fault’ vehicle is facing charges of dangerous driving causing death.  Another tragic parking lot accident occurred in December when another woman was struck by a car and sustained fatal injuries in a car-wash parking lot.  No charges were laid against the driver in the latter case.

Regardless of where a car accident occurs, in a parking lot or on a public road, the drivers involved in the accident are required to report the collision in accordance with the requirements of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.  In particular, if anyone was hurt, you are obligated to phone emergency services and provide aid to the injured person in any way you can.  If you are involved in a parking lot accident, it’s always a good idea to take a picture (with your cell phone) of your car and the other vehicle(s) involved and any damage that resulted, whether or not you feel the damage warrants an insurance claim. The photographs will serve as important evidence, if the other driver leaves the scene or if his/her description of the accident differs from yours.

Parking lots are generally private property, but from the perspective of automobile insurance fault determination, it doesn’t matter if the car accident and any related injuries occurred in a parking lot, city street or highway. This means that an ‘at fault’ accident can impact your insurance rates in the same way as an accident on public roads. However, unless reckless driving, impaired driving or other negligent actions were a factor in causing the car accident, parking lot accidents do not result in demerit points or fines under the Highway Traffic Act.

Many people are uncertain about who has the right of way and who is at fault, in the event of a parking lot accident.  One important rule that is important to remember is that you must obey the traffic signs in the parking lot, and if an accident occurs because you disregarded a posted sign, you can be held liable for any damages.

 Here are some of the ‘rules of the road’ as they apply to parking lots.

  • You are always at fault if you hit a parked car, if it is parked legally. 
  • If an illegally parked car is hit by another car, the owner of the illegally parked car is generally at fault.
  • Drivers on a main lane that enters or exits into the lot have the right of way over drivers pulling out of parking spots or entering from a feeder lane.
  • Even if there is no stop sign where you enter a main lane from a feeder lane, you are expected to stop or at least, yield to traffic.
  • If you back into a feeder lane or main lane and another car hits you, then you will likely be held responsible for the accident.
  • If two drivers back into one another while pulling out of a parking spot, they may both be at fault.
  • If you back into an opened door of a parked car, the owner of the parked car is at fault.
  • If you open your door and hit another car, then you are at fault for the damage.
  • If a car accident results because one or more drivers ignored a traffic sign in the lot, then the driver(s) who failed to obey the sign is at fault.
  • If someone drives recklessly and hits another car or a pedestrian, then they can be held liable under Ontario traffic laws.
  • If you or your vehicle was hit by someone who left the scene of the accident, this situation will be treated like any other hit-and-run accident.  You need to immediately inform your insurer of the accident if someone was injured or if you wish to file a claim for property damage, and the police must also be informed if there was combined damage over $2000 or any injuries.
  • If your insurer finds it difficult to ascertain who was at fault in a parking lot accident, they will likely assign 50 per cent blame to both drivers, which means that your insurance may be affected if you make a claim.

If you were seriously injured or lost a loved one in a parking lot accident or any other type of car accident, call a personal injury attorney who can advise you of your rights and legal options for seeking compensation.  The Injury Lawyers of Ontario are an association of respected and experienced attorneys who specialize in personal injury claims resulting from car accidents, slips and falls and other forms of injury.  Our lawyers strive to ease the lives of family members who are struggling with the results of a serious injury and at the same time, fight for the compensation accident victims need and deserve for their recovery.  Call a nearby ILO office today to find out how we can best serve you.


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