Who is at Fault for a Car Accident in a Parking Lot?

You paid for your groceries, left the store, and headed across the parking lot.  That’s when you saw it: the giant dent in your new car.  It’s a stressful, aggravating situation, but the good news is that you may be entitled to compensation, depending on how and why the crash occurred.  This article will help you understand how fault is determined after a parking lot car accident in Oklahoma.  

How Many People Are Injured or Killed in Car Accidents Outside of Traffic?

Believe it or not, parking lots and parking garages can be just as dangerous as busy highways and city streets.  According to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which covered accidents occurring in parking lots, parking garages, private roads, and driveways from 2008 to 2011, these “not-in-traffic” accidents kill more than 1,620 people every year on average, many of whom – nearly 40% – are cyclists or pedestrians.

Another 91,000 people are non-fatally injured each year on average, a number that equates to roughly 250 injuries every day.  According to NHTSA data, forward-moving vehicles consistently cause more injuries than vehicles that are backing out, while a small number of injuries – anywhere from 6% to 12% – are caused by cars that are parked or rolling away.

The NHTSA found that the vast majority of fatal accidents involved single-vehicle crashes – most years, around 99%.  However, multi-vehicle crashes accounted for up to 37% of non-fatal injuries.

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Someone Hit My Parked Car, What Does the Law Require in this Situation?

Oklahoma’s motor vehicle laws dictate a driver’s legal responsibilities in the event of an accident which results in personal injury or damage to a vehicle.  In particular, drivers should look to the following statutes:

  • O.S. § 47-10-105 (Duty Upon Striking Vehicle) – When a driver hits an unattended vehicle, such as a parked car, he or she must immediately stop and either:
  • Find and inform the car’s owner in person.
  • Leave a “conspicuous” note in a place that’s easy to find.

In either case, the striking driver should share his or her name and address, information from his or her security verification form, and a description of what happened.

  • O.S. § 47-10-103 (Accidents Involving Damage to Vehicle) – If an accident causes property damage but no physical injury, the striking driver should immediately stop at the scene of the accident, or as close as safety allows.  The driver should remain at the scene long enough to share his or her:
    • Name
    • Address
    • Registration number
    • Driver’s license and security verification form (upon request)

The same laws apply to accidents resulting in personal injury, with the added stipulation that the striking driver is responsible for calling an ambulance or getting medical help for the injury victim, and may be subject to drug or alcohol testing.

If a driver leaves the scene after a car accident without disclosing the required information, he or she can be criminally prosecuted.  Not only that – he or she can also be held liable for triple the damage to your vehicle, which is sometimes called “treble damages.”  This is established by O.S. § 47-10-103, which states the following:

“In addition to the criminal penalties imposed by this section, any person violating [it]… shall be subject to liability for damages in an amount equal to three times the value of the damage caused by the accident.  Said damages shall be recoverable in a civil action.”

How Fault is Determined in a Parking Lot Accident in OK

When a car accident results in property damage and/or personal injury, the victim may be able to get compensated.  However, he or she must be able to prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident which occurred.  This holds true regardless of whether an accident takes place on a busy highway, a quiet country lane, a crowded parking lot, or any other driving environment.  The burden of proof, or responsibility for proving fault, lies with the injury victim.

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Many factors are considered when making a determination of fault, depending on the circumstances of the accident.  Some examples include:

  • Whether and to what extent either driver was violating traffic laws (e.g. speeding, ignoring right-of-way, driving while intoxicated).
  • The information contained in the police accident report (e.g. road conditions, weather conditions, witness statements).
  • Physical evidence left by the accident, such as the size and placement of dents, scratches, or skid-marks.

Even if both drivers were partially at fault, it may still be possible for the injury victim to recover compensation.  However, recovery is possible only if the injury victim was less than 51% at fault for the accident which occurred, which is called the 51% Bar Rule.  If a driver is 51% or more at fault, he or she will not be awarded compensation.

Get an Oklahoma Car Accident Lawyer Who Can Help Your Case

If you were injured in a parking lot accident in Oklahoma, or if somebody hit your parked car and caused damage to your vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills and repair costs.  Call the Oklahoma car accident attorneys of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040 to set up a free and confidential legal consultation today.