1/9/2012 6:05 PM ET|
When a parked car is at fault
Here's how you should deal with insurance -- or law enforcement -- if someone else's lousy parking job made it difficult or impossible for you to avoid an accident.
Bad drivers usually get what's coming to them: tickets, fender-benders, higher car insurance rates.
But what about bad parkers?
The driver who scrapes an inconsiderately or illegally parked car usually curses it, then takes the blame because he was moving and the parked car wasn't.
So it may come as a surprise to you -- and even to some police officers -- that a poorly parked car can be held liable, either by an auto insurance company or in a court of law.
"Absolutely," says Glenn Greenberg, a spokesman for Liberty Mutual. "Just because the vehicle is parked doesn't absolve it in 100% of cases from any liability in the accident."
Situations vary so widely that it's difficult to provide blanket at-fault rules, particularly given the added variability of state and local laws. But to get a general idea of when, or if, the driver of a parked car may have toassume some responsibility, consider these two scenarios:
- A public parking lot is full, and a large van has pulled to the side of the lot's exit lane to park. A driver leaving the lot -- his attention focused on cross traffic -- scrapes the side of the van as he turns onto the street. Clearly, the van should not have been parked there. So is the van's driver partly to blame for the accident?
- A driver pulls to the side of a rural roadway to make a phone call. The speed limit is 50 mph, and the road lacks a wide shoulder. The car extends slightly into the driving lane just past a curve. Another car comes around the bend and, unable to stop or veer into oncoming traffic, hits the parked car from behind. Should the parked driver pay?
Is this parked car an inconvenience or a hazard?
George P. Patterson, a lawyer with Sasscer, Clagett & Bucher in Maryland, has fielded his share of calls from drivers who believe they've been wronged by bad parkers.
One simple way to assess blame, he says, is to ask, "Was this parking violation creating an inconvenience or a safety hazard?"
If it's the former, as with the van in the parking lot, the driver certainly may be cited for illegal parking, but likely won't be held accountable for the accident. It is the responsibility of other drivers to make their way around the car, no matter how annoyed or distracted they may be.
"When you're driving your car and you can see it, it's really on you to avoid it," says Patterson.
The car parked along the bending highway, though, is clearly violating a no-parking rule that exists for safety reasons. In that situation, the parked driver's car insurance company may end up paying all or part of the damages.
Patterson currently represents a client involved in just such a case. His client was rounding a bend in the left lane of the Washington Beltway, a divided highway, and hit a tow truck parked partially in the lane of travel. His client was unable to swerve because of traffic in the neighboring lane.
"That's a situation where you have clear negligence on the part of the tow truck, and a situation where the driver couldn't have done anything," Patterson says.
Drivers have a duty to move their cars off the road to the best of their ability, particularly where other drivers would not expect to encounter a parked vehicle.
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There's always an exception
Of course, between the aforementioned scenarios lie many shades of gray.
What if a driver turns a corner in a residential neighborhood and strikes a construction worker's trailer? Is the trailer's owner to blame for parking at the corner and not putting up warning cones?
"It's always going to be very fact-specific," says Patterson.
It's also always worth a call to an auto-insurance specialist, says Greenberg.
"If the facts reveal that the owner (of the parked car) did not exercise reasonable care and give drivers the ability to avoid it, we might consider pursuing some level of liability," Greenberg says.
And here's another scenario that should haunt any illegal, inconsiderate or other type of bad parker: Say you've parked your SUV on a city block lined with parked cars, but pulled into an illegal spot that blocks the visibility of the car behind yours. That car then pulls out and into oncoming traffic, causing a crash.
Your car was parked, and it wasn't even hit. But you're not necessarily off the hook.
The person "can certainly collect from the person who pulled out in front of them, but they might also be able to collect from the driver of the parked car," Greenberg says.
How to file a parking-lot car insurance claim
Most car insurance companies won't require a police report for a minor parking lot accident, says CarInsurance.com consumer analyst Penny Gusner. She suggests calling anyway. "Many times the police will tell you to exchange information on your own. But you can tell the insurance company that you did call, but that the police didn't respond."
And if the cops do show up, you've got a police report that lays out the facts.
If police don't respond, Gusner says you should exchange names, contact information, license numbers and insurance companies and policy numbers. If there are witnesses, get their names and phone numbers as well. Take pictures, she says, even if you believe you were at fault. You don't want to be asked to repair damage you didn't cause.
If you hit an unoccupied car, most states require that you find the owner or leave a note so he or she can contact you. Tell your own insurance company exactly what happened. Your car insurance liability coverage -- the coverage you're required to buy -- will pay for damages to the other driver's car if you're determined to be at fault.
If another car hits yours but the driver fails to leave a note, your own collision coverage (assuming you carry it) would pay any auto insurance claims.
If another car hits yours and the other driver is at fault, the person's property damage liability coverage would repair your car.
If the facts are in dispute, exchange information and tell your own insurer your side rather than hashing it out in a parking lot. Let the adjusters settle it.
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what state are you from? anybody in texas can stop in the lane closest to their intended turn direction to wait for oncoming traffic to clear. if it is not written, then it is implied. no policeman would cite you for stopping with your turn signal on. please respond so i can avoid your state.
I see again and again and again, some of you (maybe the MAJORITY) like so many people in our society, LOVE to make an excuse. You want to be right you ignore the law when you know or so CONVENIENTLY forget that you must not park more that x distance from the side walk, at least x distance from a fire hydrant, not in front of a driveway; no double parking. But because those laws are not consistently enforced by the people who are paid to do so you believe you are right.
Where is common sense? OHHH, I forgot, SENSE is NO LONGER COMMON. I would like to live to see the day when our politicians start using common sense and maybe then the laws will be enforced.
A vehicle that is parked bad should be ticketed. Those people suddenly decide to walk in between traffic especially when they do not have the right of way should be ticketed. but currently, if they are strucked down it becomes the driver's fault.
No common sense being used over the past 25-30 year is why our society is the way it is. NO RESPECT for anyone and anything. But as soon as something bad happens the first words out of most of you mouths are How could that happen or what an idiot they are or that don't make sense...Now ask yourselves, HOW MUCH ARE YOU WILLING TO PAY FOR SENSE since it is no longer COMMON?
Anyone who double parks a car, should be held responsible if they are hit.
Double Parking is illegal, yet people do not seem to understand that. Putting your flashers on does not make the situation ok. Neither does "oh, someone is just running in and out really fast"...
To me, double park, pay the price!
freedomfrom the press, you are 100% wrong. A car stopped, with left turn signal on waiting for on coming traffic that get hit in the rear is fault free. A.) He has control of the lane. B.) he is stopped. C.) his signal is on notifying all traffic of his intent. The driver coming from the rear is at fault.
As for the parked car in a parking lot. You have a duty to see what is there to be seen. A parked car is there to be seen.
As for the tow truck slightly in the road of travel. It can be argued the tow truck was in the lane of travel but again it is there to be seen. It would be counter argued it is an emergeny vehicle, you can't just strike a police car, ambulance or fire truck because they stopped in your lane. This is why we have brakes in our cars, There is a duty to maintain control of your car, failure to maintain control and hitting a parked tow truck is wreckless driving. Did the tow truck has his flashers on? was he police dispatched? was there a disabled car in front of him? No matter what you can ram him.
great, now people will be blaming the tree as it was too close to the curb. they will sue and ticket the tree and then the owner of the property the tree is on. soon we will go after the persons family who planted the tree a couple hundred years ago
Huge police department parking lot w/multiple available legal parking spaces - yet the deputy driven squad parked behind my vehicle to write something. Even though I physically checked and did not see a vehicle parked behind me prior to backing out of my space. My Scamps rear end smashed the squad rear passenger door. Oh he caught a glimpse of me backing and rolled the squad forward. Quick thinking on his part - explains the straight scratch mark across the door, shows car was in movement. Actually I think he came barreling into the parking lot from the road, fiddling with the computer squad, & I was already in the backing process, he did not see me and ran into me. I later heard him say he tried to swerve - just how does one swerve from a parked position? Backers are always at fault.
How is this for a situation where the parked car should perhaps bear some of the blame: A vintage porsche parks diagonally across a handicap stall and a regular stall with part of its backend still out in the driving lane, with the engine running but no driver inside. An SUV (which is obviously much higher off the ground) after checking side and rearviews mirrors, backs up while watching behind him - but as the porsche is so low to the ground <comparatively> the SUV does not even see it at all - and runs into the porsche.
This happens in a fast food parking lot so neither party is cited, since it is private property.
Should the SUV still assume full blame for the damages and the increase in monthly insurance permium? If the porsche had parked legally and fully in a regular stall, this would be a no-brainer. But as the porsche was parked improperly....
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