Parking lots in Florida can be surprisingly dangerous places for drivers and pedestrians. People who are walking through a parking lot can be easily caught unawares when a car suddenly begins backing up. Blind spots can abound for both drivers and pedestrians. Add more advanced car engines that are quiet, and our personal injury lawyers have only seen parking lot accidents become more common in Pinellas, FL.
The most common injuries in parking lot accidents involve a driver that gets hit by another car while they are backing up or pulling into a space. This impact often occurs when the driver is looking around and that can easily lead to more severe neck and back injuries. The same is true for car accidents on the road too.
So who is at fault if you get hit by a car backing out of a spot or putting their car in the wrong gear? What do you do next? How long should you wait before getting checked out by a doctor? What you should do is contact a Pinellas personal injury lawyer, because they will have answers to these questions.
Steps to Take After You’ve Been in a Parking Lot Accident in Pinellas
First, take a deep breath. Now start collecting your evidence.
Collect Pictures and Videos
We all know to take pictures following a parking lot accident. It has been the go-to recommendation for decades, going back to keeping a disposable camera in your car just in case. Almost everyone has a camera on their cell phone, but people still forget to take pictures and videos before the cars are moved. By taking pictures and video, if the other driver changes the story of how it happened, you will be able to prove your case.
Pictures are some of your best evidence. Since most parking lots are on private property, the police may not respond or may refuse to write a report. You need to document everything. Take photos of the lane or spot you were in. Get reference points in the background of the photo since parking lots can all look the same. Take photos of how close other cars were to you. Snap several shots from varying angles and distances, so you can clearly demonstrate to a third party what the scene looked like in the moments after impact. It is also a good idea to email the photos to yourself or someone you can trust, so they are saved on a server and not just your phone. You think you will remember all the details, but why take the chance when you can prove it with a few photos. Do not just take pictures of the cars; take pictures of everything so your memory isn’t on trial when the other driver should be.
Ask for Eye Witness Accounts
Witnesses always seem to be in a hurry in a parking lot. Often they just want to get home and not get involved. Immediately ask them for contact information so they can leave. If you can’t, take a picture of their license plate so we can track them down later. If this crash happened on a street, witnesses may be listed on the police report to refer back to, but with a parking lot accident, there is often no police or report. This means you have to go and get names and contact info for everyone who might have seen what happened.
Talk to everyone at the scene and find out what they saw. Don’t assume that everyone saw the same thing you did. While you’re getting their contact information, ask them to tell you what they saw and make a physical note of it.
Exchange Contact Information
Write down the insurance and contact information of the other driver(s) involved. Be sure when you do collect these details that you are able to refer to the correct driver. The problem with copying down information from the insurance card alone is that the driver of the car may not be the owner of the car or of the insurance policy. The car could have been borrowed by a son, brother, girlfriend, or someone else. You must be able to direct your insurance company or attorney to the correct person, so ask to see a driver’s license as well.
Locate Security Cameras
Many businesses, and even some homes, have some kind of security camera or equipment that may have witnessed your accident. These videos show exactly what happened, sometimes in color. However, many businesses won’t just give you a copy. This is another reason why it is important to consult with an attorney immediately after your accident. These videos won’t be kept for long, maybe a couple of days or a week before they are overwritten. If you wait to see how you feel in a couple of weeks before contacting an attorney, those videos may already be gone. Those need to be found and preserved right away.
What we use when necessary are either “spoliation letters” or every once in a while, a “Pure Bill of Discovery” where we use the Court to obtain a video before a suit is even filed. Keep in mind that probably 99% of attorneys in the country won’t even know what a Pure Bill of Discovery is without looking it up. If you want to have some fun, call an attorney and ask them.
Why Do You Need Evidence for a Parking Lot Accident in Florida?
The sad truth is that people aren’t always honest about accidents, or they may just not remember things the same way as you. While you may have had the right of way, the car that backed into you might claim you were speeding, but if there is a surveillance tape it will show you weren’t. They could claim you were on your phone or that they weren’t the driver. There is often no police report to show otherwise, but witnesses can attest to what actually happened. The other driver almost always claims that the damage was not that bad. But you will have pictures of the cars and damage to prove how bad it was.
The bottom line is that we don’t live in a perfect world, and some bad people lie to try to make an accident your fault when it wasn’t. Your attorney can only do so much when there is no evidence. Take the time to document everything right away to ensure a solid foundation for your parking lot accident case.
Should You Seek a Doctor After a Parking Lot Accident?
While most parking lot accidents are not major events causing injury, some are. Don’t talk yourself out of seeking medical treatment if you are in pain. Listen to yourself. When we think about debilitating accidents, we usually think about getting rear-ended at a high speed. Speed is what most people think is the main factor that determines how injured you might be. However, even in a parking lot accident, your body may have been in a position that it was not designed to take an impact from, and even a low-speed impact may cause a serious injury. Your body involuntarily often tenses up causing things to be worse. The impact is now taken with your back under tension and twisted.
Even seemingly less severe injuries can lead to chronic pain. Listen to your body and if you are in pain, seek medical attention right away. In Florida, you have 14 days from the accident to seek medical attention in order to have your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance help cover medical expenses.
Who Pays the Medical Bills?
Just like any automobile accident, your own car PIP insurance will pick up some of the bills. That said, it only pays 80% of the medical bills and there is usually only $10,000 of it, so you may still need to make a claim against the at-fault driver’s BI (Bodily Injury) insurance coverage to cover your full costs. Keep in mind that while traditional health insurance may help with some of your bills, the carrier will severely limit who you see and how much treatment you get. Your rates may rise, and, if you go that route, you will still owe deductibles & copays and you will not be able to get reimbursed for pain, suffering, or lost wages without a very rare insurance policy.
Common Parking Lot Accidents & Determining Who’s At Fault
Even though the police may not respond, or may decline to write a report, if the accident results in apparent damages exceeding $500, or injury or death, then you are required to report the accident immediately by the quickest means of communication to the local police department. Florida Statute 316.065(1).
- Two drivers back out at the same time – Unless clear evidence of negligence on the part of one driver is present, it is likely that fault will be shared by both drivers. This is because both cars were moving so both drivers are responsible for looking before backing out. If the vehicles pull out starting at different times, the vehicle that begins backing out first has the right of way.
- A driver pulls out of a parking space into traffic or backs out of a parking space into an oncoming vehicle – When a driver pulls out of a parking space into traffic, forward or backward, the driver in the lane of traffic has the right of way, making it likely that the driver pulling out of the space will be held liable.
- Two cars attempt to pull into the same parking space – In this scenario, fault will be determined based on which driver had the right of way. Similar to a roadway, a driver making a turn into oncoming traffic must yield to oncoming cars. Therefore, the driver turning left will likely be held at majority fault for the accident. However, this can vary. For example, if the car turning right made a wide right turn into oncoming traffic.
Injured in a Parking Lot in Florida? Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer
No two accidents are alike, but they are all traumatic. While a parking lot crash can be relatively minor, it can also be catastrophic. If you have been hurt and the incident took place in Florida, you can request a free initial consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys. Please call (727) 821-3195 or use our convenient website form.
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Slip & Fall Injury in St. Petersburg Parking Lot
Our client was significantly injured while traversing a parking lot in St. Petersburg, FL. This parking lot is located on 4th Street and had been recently resurfaced by the commercial property owner at the time of the incident. After the resurfacing had been completed, they negligently left a severely uneven surface right in the area where pedestrians would step down from the sidewalk. The incident occurred at night and with 2 parked cars flanking this uneven surface area. The low visibility was only exacerbated by the dark shadows from the cars and this prevented our client from seeing what they were stepping onto. Our client fell down and broke her leg as a result. Fortunately, our personal injury attorney successfully recovered $192,500.00 for them.