Most of us have been hit by someone in a parking lot at some time in our lives. These accidents usually cause scratches and dents. However, not all wrecks in parking lots are fender benders with property damage only. Some people suffer serious injuries, even at low speeds. How to determine fault in parking lot accidents in Baltimore can be complicated.
A large number of cars moving in and out of parking lots makes them high-risk places for accidents. If you or a family member sustains an injury in a parking lot accident, you should seek the advice of a Baltimore personal injury lawyer. In this article, Baltimore parking lot accident lawyer Randolph Rice explains how liability is determined in a parking lot or parking garage collision in Maryland.
How Many People are Injured in Parking Lot Accidents?
More people are killed and seriously injured in parking lots than people think. An article by EHS Today in 2016 suggested about 50,000 accidents happen every year in parking lots in the United States.
They result in more than 60,000 injuries, and 500 deaths. In January 2019, two people died in a parking lot accident in Baltimore. Police said the driver lost control of a pickup truck in the parking lot of the Mount Clare Junction Shopping Center. The driver crashed into a wall, killing two passengers. The force of the impact ejected them from the pickup.
Although parking lots wrecks are usually fender benders, the number of injuries and deaths associated with these incidents is shocking. A CBS News report cited National Safety Council stats showing at least 60,000 people are injured every year and 500 or more die in 50,000 plus parking lot and garage crashes every year.
As many as two-thirds of drivers are distracted when they pull into shopping center parking lots, according to the National Safety Council. Cellphones are the leading culprit.
Distracted driving became a massive menace on the roads of Maryland in recent years and parking lots are no exception. A survey by Erie Insurance survey found drivers are doing many dangerous things behind the wheel including changing their clothes, eating, and even brushing their teeth.
Most Common Causes of Parking Lot Accidents in Baltimore
Parking lots and garages are more dangerous than many people realize. If you have just turned off a busy street into a parking lot you may make the mistake of believing you are in a safe environment. Drivers often become less attentive or so preoccupied with finding a parking space, they forget to look out for other vehicles. The most common causes of parking lot crashes include the following:
Accidents While Backing Up
Another common cause of a parking lot wrecks in Maryland is when a driver pulls out of a parking spot and reverses into a car in a passing lane. The driver who is leaving the spot has a responsibility to yield the right of way to cars in the lanes. The driver who is backing out must wait until the lane is clear before moving out. Many drivers become confused in parking lots. Collisions often occur in lanes because one driver is going in the wrong direction. Many accidents in parking lots are caused by drivers who back up without looking behind them. Large vehicles like SUVs backing up can cause considerable damage and injuries to occupants of other vehicles if they are T-boned. Your line ion vision is often restricted when you reverse.
Reversing accidents can also cause harm to pedestrians. Children can be seriously injured or killed in ‘backover’ accidents even at low speeds. The federal government mandated that all new vehicles sold in the United States by 2018 must be equipped with back-up cameras. Although back-up cameras are a step in the right direction, some studies warn they have blind spots and may miss a child behind a vehicle in a parking lot.
Drivers Entering the Same Spot
Another common parking lot accident scenario occurs when two drivers are trying to get into the same spot. At times like the holidays when parking spots are at a premium, drivers get competitive. Occasionally, drivers race to get to an available spot first and hit each other. This is a form of road rage. Other drivers fail to even notice another car entering the space they are maneuvering into.
The drivers may have a head-on collision or sideswipe each other. Often the driver turning left across traffic is responsible for the wreck when two vehicles collide as they seek to get into the same parking space. These accidents are sometimes associated with ‘road rage’ when the drivers are trying to beat each other to the parking spot.
Failing to Follow the Right of Way
Most parking garages and lots have one-way lanes marked by arrows in the road. When drivers fail to follow the directional rules, they can end up in head-on collisions. Even at the slower speeds associated with parking lots, head-on collisions can cause serious injuries to drivers and passengers.
Failure to Obey Stop Signs
Drivers in parking lots often seem to think different rules apply than on the open road. This includes obeying stop signs. Drivers in parking lots habitually roll through stop signs and hit other cars. Another common accident scenario is for a driver who is not paying attention to rear-end a car in front that suddenly stops at a stop sign. Rear-end accidents are among the most common kinds of collisions on the highway, but also occur in parking lots and parking garages.
Distracted driving is a significant cause of a car crash in a parking lot in Maryland? You should never be looking at your cellphone when you are driving. However, there are many other distractions in parking lots such as finding spaces, people walking by and passengers in your car getting ready to get out. Parking lots are chaotic places and distracted driving is perhaps the most significant cause of wrecks.
Poorly Maintained Parking Lots
Features like bad lighting, blind corners, potholes, and poor maintenance can cause accidents or make them more likely. If dilapidated conditions in a parking lot or garage cause a crash, the owners or operators could be sued for an injury under the law of premises liability. Although drivers and pedestrians have a duty to look out for ice, owners or operators can be held liable for less obvious hazards like a water leak.
Driving Too Fast
Given the obvious hazards in parking lots in Maryland, no drivers should be traveling at more than 15 mph. Some drivers make the mistake of driving at the same speed down the lanes as on a city road. Driving too fast gives you less time to stop if a car suddenly backs out. It also means you are more likely to be injured in a crash in a parking lot in Maryland.
It is common for people to be injured in a pedestrian accident in parking lots. Crashes can cause serious injuries and even deaths. Children and older people are more likely to suffer life-threatening injuries in parking lot accidents in Baltimore. Often shoppers or pedestrians are hit when by cars whose drivers are trying to back out. The driver must always be careful when reversing out of a space, making sure no pedestrians or other cars are approaching down the parking lane.
Common Injuries Suffered in Baltimore Parking Lot Accidents
The distracted driving epidemic has further fueled the number of parking lot accidents. The National Safety Council warns Black Friday and the holidays are particularly dangerous times. As many as two-thirds of drivers get distracted in parking lots. The most common injuries sustained in parking lots are:
- Whiplash and Neck Injuries – The neck is particularly sensitive to impacts, even at low speeds. People who are hit in parking lots can suffer herniated disks and whiplash injuries. Even at low speeds, a violent jolt can leave you with whiplash injuries, torn ligaments or herniated disks.
- Broken Wrists – Many people who are hurt in a Baltimore car accident suffer broken wrists because they put their hands out to break the anticipated impact.
- Crush Injuries and Organ Damage – Pedestrians who are hit and run over in parking lots may suffer serious internal injuries
- Brain Injuries – Pedestrians are vulnerable to head injuries from striking their skulls on the hard surface of a parking lot during a crash. Parking lots and garages have hard asphalt surfaces. When cars strike pedestrians they can crash onto the deck, sustaining head injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Pedestrians are also vulnerable to head injuries from falls on slippery parking garage stairs.
- Soft-Tissue Injuries – Lower impact crashes are associated with soft-tissue injuries such as damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Injuries like sprains can usually be treated with rest and ice. Like any other injury, injury motorists can suffer complications.
Who Is to Blame in a Parking Lot or Garage Accident?
Blame is not always straightforward in parking lot accidents. When two cars back into each other, both drivers may claim the other was to blame. When a driver is any degree to blame for an accident, he or she is barred from making a recovery. When a driver hits a car driving down a lane when he is backing out, the reversing driver is typically to blame. This driver may be held liable for injuries to the other motorist.
If you hit a parked car, you are usually liable for damage or any injuries caused to the occupant. Drivers who rear-end cars at a stop sign in a parking lot or a pay booth will typically be held liable for injuries and property damage they cause. When two vehicles collide in a parking lot, a driver who is not following the traffic rules will often be found liable. This behavior may include driving against the directional arrows or across parking spaces.
A driver who hits a pedestrian in a parking lot may be held liable for injuries he or she causes. The behavior of the pedestrian is relevant, though. A walker who is distracted by a cellphone and not paying attention may not be able to make a claim. If a child darts out suddenly in front of a car, the driver cannot be expected to stop in time.
Questions that Help Determine Fault in Parking Lot Accidents
The following questions are relevant in deciding who was to blame for a parking lot accident.
- Who had the right of way? When both vehicles were moving, the question of who had the right of way is relevant. Clearly marked out parking spots should have markings on the pavement, yield, and stop signs, and directional arrows. Lawyers investigating parking accident injuries will look at who had the right of way.
- Was your vehicle moving? If your car was stationary, the other driver was clearly at fault as long as you were legally parked in a garage or a parking lot.
How to Gather Evidence After a Parking Lot Collision in Baltimore, MD
Parking lots are often busy. This means there are likely to be plenty of witnesses to accidents. Talk to as many of them as possible. Always wait for a police officer to arrive and make a report or the police could charge you with hit-and-run. The police may not respond to a parking lot accident unless serious injuries are reported. It’s always important to gather as much evidence as possible.
Take pictures and video from the scene. The positions of the cars are likely to be important in establishing liability. Many parking lots are monitored by closed-circuit cameras. If you hire our legal team, we will request this footage to form part of a case.
In some cases, a poorly maintained or marked parking lot may contribute to an accident. Drivers hurt in badly maintained parking areas may have grounds to bring a premises liability action against the landowner. Compile evidence of bad lighting, potholes, or poor marking if these problems contributed to an accident.
Talk to a Maryland Car Accident Lawyer for Your Parking Lot Accident Claim
Parking lot accidents in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland are very common forms of auto accidents. Although they are often fender benders, they can cause injuries.
Victims of parking lot accidents should consult a personal injury lawyer to find out if they have grounds to sue an at-fault driver. Please call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice as soon as possible for a free and confidential consultation with a Maryland car accident lawyer at (410) 834-3859.