How Does the Law Treat Parking Lot Accidents?
Parking lots can be dangerous, with potentially two thirds of drivers distracted by their phones while driving in a parking lot. Parking lot accidents are common, and due to the low speeds involved, usually fairly minor. However, the slow speeds in parking lots can make drivers feel safe to text or make calls, and serious injuries can result.
What is the law governing parking lot accidents?
Unlike other provinces in Canada, many provisions of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act do not apply on private property. Since the vast majority of parking lots and garages are privately owned, this means that drivers involved in parking lot accidents are not at risk of being fined, or given demerit points, for committing a driving offence.
This doesn’t meant that no laws apply to drivers in parking lots! Collisions that occur in parking lots in Ontario must still be reported if:
- There is an injury, in which case emergency services should be contacted;
- Total property damage as a result of the accident exceeds $2,000;
- The accident involved a pedestrian or cyclist;
- One of the parties involved is uninsured or driving without a license;
- Any of the parties involved is intoxicated or engaged in criminal activity; or
- There is any damage to public property, or if publicly owned vehicles are involved.
Your insurance company may also have different requirements for reporting accidents, so check your policy or contact your insurer, even if you do not plan to make a claim. It is a good idea to take photographs of the vehicles before moving them, and any damage caused, even if it is minor.
Parking lot accidents – who is at fault?
Even if a parking lot is private property, drivers must still obey all posted signs and speed limits.
When considering who has right-of-way, parking lots will have primary and secondary, or feeder, driving lanes. Primary lanes are main corridors through the parking lot that exit to the street. These are larger, and sometimes have markings like a centre line. Secondary lanes run within the parking lot, and connect, or “feed,” the primary lanes. Drivers on a primary lane have right-of-way. Vehicles in feeder lanes must yield to these drivers before proceeding.
A car in a parking space must give right-of-way to other vehicles before backing or pulling out in to a feeder lane. This is similar to exiting a driveway, where vehicles must yield to any oncoming traffic before proceeding.
Generally, the standard Fault Determination Rules will be applied to accidents in parking lots. Any driver that fails to follow posted signs, or yield the right-of-way as described above, will likely be found at fault for any damage or injuries.
Legal advice for anyone injured in a parking lot accident
If you were injured after an accident in a parking lot, our team of personal injury lawyers can help you bring a claim for compensation. In addition to a potential civil claim against an at-fault driver, we can also help you secure Accident Benefits to help fund medical treatment and cover other expenses.