Responsibility for injuries that a person suffers in a parking lot depends on the facts of the incident that causes the injury. If the owner of the premises has been negligent, then they may be held liable for any injury or damage that a person suffers. On the other hand, the negligence of another user of the parking lot can be responsible for causing harm, for example a negligent driver or pedestrian.
Generally, the owner of the parking lot has a duty to take reasonable care in the management of the parking lot. That duty includes an obligation to take reasonable steps to ensure that people using the lot are not injured or their property damaged in the lot. This is true whether the owner is a person or business. A property management company that is responsible for a parking lot has the same duty of care and can be responsible if its negligence results in injury or damage. This means that they have to take certain precautions to make sure the parking lot is as safe as possible.
Of course, this does not mean that every single situation that results in injury is the responsibility of the property owner. If the owner is taking reasonable precautions to prevent people from being hurt on the premises, it is less likely that the courts will hold the owner responsible. In order to prove a claim that the owner is responsible for their injury, an injured person needs to prove that the parking lot owner’s negligence, or breach of their duty of care, was the cause of their injury
This requires showing that the owner knew or should reasonably have known that the unsafe condition existed, and still failed to take proper steps to remedy the condition.
What are Common Parking Lot Conditions that Result in Liability?
There are a variety of conditions that can cause injury to a person in a parking lot. Some of the hazards that can cause falls or other accidents in a parking lot are the following:
- Trip hazards: A parking lot owner needs to warn people of the danger of cracks, uneven areas, potholes and other defects in the pavement that could cause a person to slip and fall. The owner also needs to repair these hazards quickly after they appear;
- Snow and ice: If the parking lot becomes icy, the owner has a responsibility to make it as safe as possible by clearing the snow and ice and applying salt or ice melt;
- Wet surfaces: If surfaces become slippery when they are wet, an owner has the duty to warn of the hazard or take action to remove it.
- Poor lighting: if poor lighting in a parking lot creates a risk that a user could be the victim of a crime, the owner might be liable for injury caused by the criminal act of a third party; poor lighting can also make trip hazards less visible and more dangerous;
- No security: If an owner is aware that there is criminal activity in a parking lot and fails to provide adequate security, the owner might be liable if a parking lot user is the victim of a crime;
- Poor signage or other traffic control: A parking lot accident can result from poor signage or a lack of signs where needed. An owner should make sure that a lot is properly marked and regularly maintained so that drivers can operate safely in the lot. Proper signage such as stop signs, turn indicators and other hazard warnings should be in place; crosswalks must be marked so pedestrians can recognize them.
If a person is injured in a parking lot accident caused by any of these hazards, then they can seek compensation from the owner or manager.
Are there Limits on Liability for Parking Lot Injuries?
The owner of the parking lot has a responsibility to make a parking lot safe for the members of the public who use it. This responsibility also applies to owners of parking garages. However, there are limits to that responsibility — just because a person is injured in the parking lot does not automatically mean that the parking lot owner is liable
A parking lot owner has a duty to take care of the property — to prevent and fix dangerous conditions. However, they are not responsible for problems that they could not have anticipated or for hazardous conditions that are not obvious.
For example, suppose in a grocery store parking lot, a shopper loading groceries into their car drops a glass jar full of liquid. The jar shatters and liquid spills in the parking lot. The person getting out of their car next to shattered glass and spilled liquid slips on the liquid, falls and is injured by the broken glass. The parking lot owner probably would not be liable as they could not have eliminated the hazard before the accident happened. The shopper who dropped the jar might be liable, but only if they were negligent in some way while loading their groceries into the car.
If the negligence of another driver or pedestrian in the parking lot causes an accident, then they can be liable to anyone who is injured. Suppose a driver backs out of a parking space without looking to see who might be behind them and strikes another car. The driver can be liable for any injury or damage caused by their negligence. The parking lot owner is not likely to be responsible.
Can I Sue for Falling in a Parking Lot?
The owner of a parking lot has a duty of care to people who use the lot. They need to keep their parking lot safe. An owner can fulfill this duty by regularly inspecting a parking lot for hazards and eliminating any that arise.
If an owner regularly inspects their lot and promptly repairs problems, a person who is injured as a result of slipping or tripping and falling may not succeed in a lawsuit against the owner. To succeed, the injured person would have to prove that the owner did not regularly inspect the lot or did not promptly repair problems that came to light or post warnings so that users could avoid them.
For example, suppose there is a large snowstorm and 24 hours after it has ended, the parking lot owner has not yet plowed the lot and salted slippery spots. A person parks in the lot, gets out of their car and promptly slips and falls on a patch of ice. In this case, the person might recover damages from the parking lot owner, because the owner did not promptly treat the hazardous conditions in the lot.
On the other hand, if the owner plowed, shoveled and treated hazardous patches and for some reason, the user slips and falls, the owner might not be responsible.
The success of a lawsuit would depend on the facts of each case. Success would depend on whether an injured person could show that the parking lot owner breached the duty of care and the breach directly resulted in the injured person’s slip and fall.
What About Crimes in the Parking Lot?
A person who is the victim of a crime committed in a parking lot might be able to hold the owner liable for their injuries. A parking lot owner’s duty of care includes a duty to take reasonable steps to protect users of the lot from criminal acts.
This duty includes all kinds of criminal acts. An owner can do such things as provide adequate lighting in all parts of a lot. In many cases, property owners will attempt to limit their liability for theft by posting signs reminding customers to take their valuables with them or not leave them in plain sight in their car. The sign might include a notice that the owner is not responsible for theft.
If an owner knows that there is a serious crime problem in their parking lot, then the owner might even need to provide security for users.
Again, success in a lawsuit to assign liability for injury caused by a criminal act will depend on the facts of the case. The victim needs to show that the owner failed to take reasonable steps to protect parking lot users from the risk of criminal activity in the parking lot.
Do I Need A Lawyer for Help with a Parking Lot Injury Lawsuit?
If you have been injured in a parking lot, and you think the property owner’s negligence caused your accident, you want to contact a qualified personal injury attorney. An attorney in your area can offer advice on the best way to protect your rights.
An experienced personal injury attorney can assess the facts of what happened and determine whether the owner or property manager was negligent in some way. An attorney can ensure that your injuries are fully assessed and that you are adequately compensated for the harm you suffered.
If you decide to make a claim, your attorney knows how to prepare the technical legal documents that must be presented to the court and can represent you in court if needed. Having an attorney to guide you through the legal system can give you peace of mind — you’ll know that you have someone helping you achieve the best possible outcome.