If you think about it, parking lots are busy places. People are constantly coming and going, there are both drivers and pedestrians moving through the same area, and sometimes you have to circle around the lot looking for a space. But what happens if you have an accident, or if you’re injured in the parking lot?
Responsibility for injuries you suffer in a parking lot depends largely on the circumstances surrounding your injury. If the owner of the premises was negligent, then they may be held liable for the injury. However, there are some particular rules when it comes to determining whether negligence occurred in your case.
Generally, the owner of the parking lot (whether it is a person, a business, or a property management company) has a reasonable duty to take care that people don’t get hurt on their property. This means that they have to take certain precautions to make that parking lot as safe as possible.
If there are cracks or uneven areas in the pavement, the owner needs to warn people of the danger or repair any hazards that could cause a person to slip and fall. If the parking lot becomes icy, the owner has a responsibility make it as safe as possible, perhaps by clearing the snow and putting down salt or ice melt.
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 your injury, you will need to prove that the parking lot owner was negligent in their duty of reasonable care.
Even if there are conditions on the property that are unsafe, this does not automatically mean that the parking lot owner was negligent. You will need to show that the owner knew or should reasonably have known that the unsafe condition existed, and still failed to take proper steps to remedy the situation.
Parking lots and parking decks are often subject to normal wear and tear, whether that comes from normal everyday traffic or from exposure to the weather. Some conditions that may result in possible injury can include:
- Pavement Issues: As people use the parking lot every day and the lot itself is exposed to the elements, the pavement can become slick, uneven, cracked, damaged, and even suffer from potholes. These issues can, under the right circumstances, cause accidents that may injure people;
- Speed Bumps: While speed bumps are generally intended to help drivers slow down and increase safety for both drivers and pedestrians, they are not always as effective as intended. Speed bumps that don’t adequately slow down drivers could pose a hazard;
- Poor Security: Sometimes a rise in criminal activity can be related to inadequate security in and around the parking lot, threatening the safety of the public using the lot;
- Poor Lighting: If there is inadequate lighting in the parking lot, you may not be able to see hazards or conditions that might otherwise be visible in a well-lit area. Dark parking lots may sometimes hide potential issues; and
- Other People: Parking lots are often busy, and there is a chance that you may suffer injury due to an accident involving a driver or pedestrian in the lot. If you are driving, remember to use caution, and stop and yield for pedestrians and other vehicles.
The owner of the parking lot has a responsibility to make things as safe as they can for the members of the public who use the parking lot. However, there are limits to that responsibility — just because you were injured in the parking lot does not automatically mean that the parking lot owner was negligent.
While the parking lot owner has a duty to take care of the property — to prevent and fix dangerous conditions — they are not responsible for problems that they could not have anticipated or for conditions that are not clearly obvious.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where crimes happen. A parking lot owner may have to take certain steps to help keep the premises safe, but unfortunately they may not be able to prevent every single crime. Generally, lot owners are not responsible for random acts of violence that may occur on their property.
In many cases, property owners will attempt to limit their liability for random theft by posting signs reminding customers to take their valuables with them (or at least not to leave them in plain sight), with a notice that they are not responsible for theft.
If you have been injured in a parking lot, and you think the property owner was negligent in their duty to keep the property safe, contact a qualified personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney can help you talk through the circumstances of your case and offer advice on the best way to protect your rights and move forward.
If you decide to file a claim, then your attorney can help you with filing the appropriate paperwork and represent you in court when the time comes. 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.