While parking lots may feel like a lawless free-for-all, they are surprisingly subject to the same traffic laws as the open road. California Vehicle Code Sections impose a general duty of care on all drivers, requiring them to operate their vehicles with due caution and prudence to avoid parking lot accidents. Additionally, specific rules govern common parking lot maneuvers, such as backing out, yielding to traffic flow, and using turn signals.
If you have been hurt in a parking lot accident, our Los Angeles car wreck lawyers are here to help you.
Determining Fault for a Parking Lot Accident
While understanding California’s general traffic laws provides a foundation, pinpointing fault in a Los Angeles parking lot accident hinges on delving into the specific regulations and legal principles that govern common scenarios.
Backing Out vs. Traffic Flow
This maneuver carries inherent responsibility. California Vehicle Code mandates yielding to any oncoming traffic before reversing. Failure to do so, improper turn signal use, or backing without checking surroundings can establish fault.
Parked Cars and Moving Mayhem
Parked cars generally have the right of way when maneuvering within their space. However, situations can get tricky. Reckless driving, speeding, or failing to maintain a safe distance by a moving vehicle colliding with a parked car will likely place the moving driver at fault. Conversely, if a parked car abruptly lurches out, potentially contributing to the collision, shared liability might be considered.
Pedestrians in the Crosshairs
Pedestrian safety is paramount in all traffic situations, including parking lots (CVC Section 21950). Striking a pedestrian due to negligent driving like distraction or exceeding the speed limit assigns fault to the driver. Parking maneuvers also require caution. Opening a car door in a pedestrian’s path or failing to yield while backing out can lead to liability for resulting injuries.
Shared liability often arises when both drivers contribute to the accident through their actions. For instance, one driver might pull out of a space without proper lookout while the other approaches too quickly, violating the safe following distance requirements (CVC Section 21703).
Determining the percentage of fault attributed to each party can involve complex considerations and hinge on specific details of the collision, analyzed under CVC Section 1714.
Comparative Negligence and Contributory Fault
California operates under a pure comparative negligence system. Even if you contributed to the accident, you can still recover damages from the other driver, though the amount you receive will be reduced proportionally to your percentage of fault. For example, if you are found 20% responsible for the accident, your compensation will be reduced by 20%.
Witness Statements and Video Evidence
Gathering witness statements and any available video footage of the accident can be invaluable in establishing fault. Witness testimony can corroborate your version of events, clarify unclear details, and potentially identify distracted driving or other negligent behavior prohibited by the California Vehicle Code.
Security cameras or dashcam footage, if available, can provide compelling visual evidence and support your claims.
Taking the Right Steps after the Crash
The immediate aftermath of a parking lot accident can be overwhelming. However, taking the necessary steps can make a significant difference in resolving the situation effectively. Here’s what you should do:
- Ensure everyone’s safety: Check for injuries and call emergency services if necessary.
- Exchange information: Gather the other driver’s contact information, insurance details, and license plate number.
- Document the scene: Take photographs of the damage to both vehicles, any visible road markings, and any potential witnesses.
- Report the accident: File a police report, even if the damage is minor. This formal documentation can be crucial later on.
- Contact your insurance company: Inform them of the accident and follow their instructions regarding filing a claim.
How a Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
While navigating the legal intricacies of a parking lot accident can be daunting, seeking help from a qualified attorney can be invaluable. An experienced personal injury lawyer can:
- Investigate the case: This may involve gathering further evidence, obtaining witness statements, and analyzing police reports.
- Negotiate with insurance companies: Your lawyer can advocate for fair compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance company.
- Represent you in court: If a court case becomes necessary, your lawyer will handle all legal proceedings and represent your interests.
Accidents in Los Angeles parking lots may seem like inconvenient bumps in the road, but their legal implications can be far-reaching. By understanding California’s laws, accurately assessing fault, and taking the right steps, you can navigate this often complex situation with clarity and confidence.
Seeking legal guidance from our Los Angeles car accident lawyers can provide invaluable support and ensure your rights are protected. While we all hope to avoid parking lot accidents altogether, having the knowledge and resources to deal with them effectively can offer peace of mind.