During the holidays, shoppers are out in full force. And because of all the increased traffic, parking lots and garages are much busier during this time of year. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), there are more than 50,000 crashes in parking areas annually, and these types of accidents begin to spike starting on Black Friday and remain well above normal until the end of December.
Parking lot accidents can be far more serious than many people realize. There is a common misconception that most of these collisions are just minor “fender benders”, because they tend to happen at lower speeds than accidents that occur on the roadways. While collisions between two vehicles in a parking lot or garage may sometimes be minor, a large percentage of these accidents involve pedestrians and even some bicyclists.
A few years back, CBS News reported that there are more than 500 deaths and tens of thousands of serious injuries in parking lot and garage crashes every year, and the main culprit is distractions. Parking areas pose some unique hazards that are not necessarily present on streets and highways that make distracted driving even more dangerous. For example, these areas are more compact and enclosed, and they often have tight corners, poor lighting, and difficult overall visibility.
Another problem is that motorists do not tend to take distractions as seriously when they are driving through a parking area. For example, an overwhelming majority of motorists would agree that texting while driving is unacceptable when you are out on the roadways (although many drivers do not practice what they preach). But at the same time, an NSC survey found that 56% of motorists thought it was okay to send a text while driving through a parking lot or garage. And an even higher number (66%) were comfortable making phone calls when driving through these places.
Drivers are not the only ones who are susceptible to distractions in parking lots and garages. A high percentage of pedestrians also send and receive texts and engage in many other forms of electronic activity on their smart phones.
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, shoppers are even more distracted as they rush furiously to check off all the items on their “to do” list. And to save time, it is tempting to sneak in a text or electronic message whenever the opportunity presents itself. The stress that is associated with this season can also cause poor driving decisions, such as overly aggressive driving or road rage fighting to get a parking spot.
Who is At Fault for a Parking Lot Accident?
When an accident occurs in a parking lot or parking garage, there are several potential contributing factors. As we have touched on earlier, negligence on the part of a distracted driver could be the cause, although a pedestrian could also be at least partly to blame if they were not watching where they were going.
There are outside parties that could also be at fault for a parking area accident under certain circumstances. For example, if a pedestrian stumbled across a pothole and tripped and fell, the party responsible for safely maintaining the parking lot could be to blame.
The owner or proprietor of a lot or garage could also be liable in some cases. For example, some of these lots and garages have poor designs with signs pointing in multiple directions, parking spaces that are too small for an average size vehicle to safely get into and out of, and similar hazards.
To determine who is at fault in a parking lot or garage accident, a thorough investigation is necessary to gather all the important facts and pieces of evidence. This may include reviewing any official report that may have been filed, reviewing any visual evidence (such as photographs and surveillance video), interviewing witnesses, and bringing in outside experts such as accident reconstructionists. Because of the complexities involved with these types of accidents, it is best to work with a seasoned personal injury lawyer.
What Causes Parking Lot and Parking Garage Accidents?
Although vehicles move more slowly through parking areas, there are some other inherent dangers that make crashes more likely in these settings. For starters, there is typically a lot more pedestrian traffic in parking lots and garages, particularly during certain times of the year when the lots are fuller, such as the holiday season.
Secondly, parking areas are more compact and difficult to maneuver in compared to the regular roadways. Some of them also have poor lighting and tight corners, making it more difficult to see what is behind and in front of you.
There are number of different scenarios in which a collision might occur in a parking lot or garage. Sometimes, two cars that are backing up at the same time crash into each other. In other cases, a car backs up into an oncoming pedestrian or bicyclist. There are also instances in which a pedestrian or bicyclist might suffer a fall because of a large pothole or something else that obstructs their path.
Here are some of the common causes for accidents in parking lots and garages:
- Distractions: As we talked about earlier, people tend to relax and let their guard down when they enter a parking area, and a public opinion poll done by the NSC bears that out. 56% of motorists surveyed nationwide said they would send and receive texts while driving through a parking lot, which is significantly higher than those who would admit to texting while driving on the regular roadways. Pedestrians walking through parking areas are also highly prone to being distracted by their phones, which creates an environment where people are far less focused on safe travel than they should be.
- Aggressive/Reckless Driving: While some people enter parking lots and garages relaxed, others are stressed and in a hurry. Maybe they are running late for work, or maybe they are trying to squeeze a quick errand in on their lunch hour. Situations like these can cause people to drive more aggressively while going through parking areas, which can be especially hazardous if there is a lot of pedestrian traffic and/or it is difficult to see too far in front of you.
- Chemical Impairment: It is well-known that driving while intoxicated can result in very poor driving decisions that lead to accidents, and it is no different when a motorist is intoxicated while going through a parking lot or garage. Parking area accidents that are caused by drunk driving tend to happen most often on evenings, weekends, and holidays when there are a lot of people leaving bars and exiting through a parking lot or ramp.
- Negligent Maintenance: Many of the parking lots and garages in the Atlanta area are aging and not kept up well. They have cracked and uneven pavement, overgrown grass, poor lighting, potholes, and similar problems. The failure to adequately maintain a parking lot or garage could place at least some of the responsibility for the accident on the shoulders of its owner or caretaker.
- Faulty Design: With some parking ramps, lots, and garages, the problem is not so much maintenance as it is design flaws. For example, some of them have arrows pointing in several different directions, making it very confusing to navigate safely. Others have corners that are so tight and narrow that it is nearly impossible to see vehicles that are coming from the other side. These and similar flaws could be the fault of the party that designed and constructed the garage, ramp, or lot.
Contact the Experienced Attorneys at Bailey, Javins, & Carter, L.C.
If you or someone close to you was injured or killed in a parking area accident, Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C. is here to help. We have a long history of success standing up for those who have been injured through no fault of their own, and we have in-depth experience with even the most complex cases. We can meet with you to thoroughly assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. And if we decide to take your case, we will explore every potential legal avenue toward recovering maximum compensation.
To schedule your free consultation with a member of our legal team, message us online or call our Atlanta office today at (678) 981-5370. We look forward to serving you!