Parking Lot and Garage Damage Lawyers
What are Parking Lots and Garages?
A parking lots and garages are places where drivers may park their cars. Some allow drivers to park and remove their cars at their pleasure. Some parking lots charge fees while others may just allow short term parking for businesses. Other lots are for shelter and storage, such as garages for apartment buildings. They may be open to the public or private.
What is Bailment?
Bailment is a temporary transfer of property to another for a limited time and for a specific purpose. The transfer of property in a bailment is only in regards to possession, not ownership. For cars, you turn over possession and care over to the lot, for example by giving a valet your car key. If you store your car in a lot for a prolonged period, but you maintain possession by keeping the keys or you pay a fee to park and retrieve your car on your own, you are likely not in a bailment situation.
Some indications of bailment include:
- You intended to transfer possession to the lot.
- The lot is enclosed.
- The lot issues a claim ticket that identifies your car, not just one with the time of entry stamped on it.
- An attendant parks the car.
- You do not retain the keys.
What Happens if My Car is Stolen or Damaged in a Parking Lot?
If you are in a bailment situation, the lot owner has a duty to exercise reasonable care in safeguarding your vehicle. The owner would be liable if your windshield gets broken, someone crashes your car, some steals your car, or someone breaks into your car and the lot owner was not exercising reasonable care. For example, the lot owner cannot leave the keys in car and then not guard the car at all, leave windows open, or deliver the car to the wrong person. Some factors that determine reasonable care include:
- The number of attendants on duty.
- The ability of attendants to observe people and cars in the garage.
- The presence or absence of fences or barriers.
- The competence of attendants.
- The foreseeability of harm that happened.
If you are not in a bailment situation, you need to show negligence by the lot owner caused the damage or your loss.
What About the Contents of my Car?
Bailees (lot owners) are responsible for the contents of a vehicle to the extent that it is reasonable that the items inside would be there. Otherwise, lot owners are only responsible for ordinary equipment inside the car and items in plain view.
What About Disclaimers?
Parking lot operators often will attempt to disclaim their liability for loss or damage to your car and its contents. They may be printed on your parking ticket or posted on a sign. However, some courts say that such disclaimers are not valid if the customer has no knowledge of them when he parks. Also, the lot cannot disclaim its own negligence. Additionally, if an employee on duty ends up damaging your car while doing something beyond the scope of his employment, the operator cannot disclaim this and is liable for damages.
Should I Contact a Lawyer About My Parking Lot or Garage Problem?
If your car or its contents have been damaged or stolen at a parking lot, a lawyer can advise you of your rights and remedies against the parking lot. You may also want to file a police report and contact your automobile insurance carrier.
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Last Modified: 06-24-2009 04:28 PM PDT
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