Parking lot accidents certainly have the potential to ruin your day. If you have ever been to the grocery store, you know that driving in a parking lot can be a deadly trap. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see someone backing out of a space while smoking a cigarette or talking on a cell phone. If you are in a parking lot accident, there are several things you need to know before it is too late.
Most parking lots in the United States are considered private property, and most of the accidents are low-speed impacts. This means that, typically, parking lot accidents rarely result in bodily injury claims. The combination of the two allows the police to decline your call for help, and it is very likely that the police will not respond to document the damages.
You will be left to your own devices to get the other party’s information and defend your case. A parking lot accident usually gets complicated. Drivers have very different perspectives of what happened, and “word vs. word” situations will most likely be the case if you do not have witnesses (insurance companies require independent witnesses, so your passengers will not count).
It is often the case that the other party will not want to give you their information. This is when things can get ugly. How can you file a claim if you do not have their information? Call the police again and try to get them to come out. If they don’t, then go to the closest police station and file a walk-in report. Write everything you know and explain exactly what happened. This will help you later on to document your claim.
There are two reasons why people won’t give you their insurance information. Either (1) they do not have insurance, or (2) they think you are responsible for the accident. The common view is "if you hit me, then your insurance should pay". In no fault statues (like Michigan), this does not apply, but all fault states most drivers do not want to file against their own insurance company.
Although this is a reasonable deduction, it is misguided. Insurance agents try to discourage people from making a claim against their own insurance policy. Most of the time, your rates will not be affected if you are a good customer and the accident is not your fault. Agents also have personal motives for this; they have "loss ratio" percentages that can lower their commissions, so they want to discourage claims as much as they can. Not filing a claim can jeopardize your potential claim coverage, and you have a duty to report an accident because not doing so can leave you without coverage.
These circumstances can put you in a very bad spot. If you do not file a claim then no defense against bodily injury claims and ludicrous claim will be paid by the insurance company. Protecting your defense rights can save you thousands of dollars in legal fees in paying someone’s alleged injuries.
Even if your parking lot accident is minor and the damages are not significant, call the insurance company and put them on notice. This will protect you in case the other party makes a claim against you. Remember that a parking lot accident is the single most disputed accident out there.
Make sure you file a police report, even if it is through a walk in report. This documentation will protect you in case the other person does not have insurance. In many cases, Uninsured Property Damage Coverage in the policy makes it a requirement that you file a police report. All of these things are important to take into account during your decision-making process.
It is a great idea to go back to the parking lot and talk to the business owners. Many parking lots in America have surveillance cameras and it is likely that the accident was caught in tape. This will be the single most important piece of evidence. Should your adjuster get that? Yes, they should, but that does not mean that they will. Unfortunately there are many adjusters that will only take a recorded statement and call it an investigation.
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