Navigating a crowded parking lot can be a frustrating and sometimes dangerous experience for drivers. Every year, tens of thousands of parking lot crashes lead to thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths. Determining who is to blame for a parking lot accident is a complex problem and often hinges on who has the right of way in a parking lot.
Who Has the Right of Way in a Parking Lot?
According to Arizona law, cars traveling in the main lanes of a parking lot have the right of way. Vehicles that are backing out of spaces must yield to cars in the main lanes.
Additionally, Arizona drivers must yield to the following:
- Pedestrians who appear to be visually impaired or who have a guide dog
- Pedestrians in crosswalks
- Vehicles at uncontrolled intersections
- Oncoming bicyclists, cars, and pedestrians when turning left
- Vehicles in the roadway when entering from a parking lot
Usually, a driver who fails to yield when another driver has the right of way is at fault for a car accident. However, it isn’t always clear who has the right of way, and having the right of way does not absolve drivers of the duty to drive carefully and take steps to avoid accidents.
Arizona law requires drivers to obey traffic signals in parking lots. Drivers who don’t follow traffic signals may be liable for accidents that result.
Some parking lots have stop signs or stop lines, but many have intersections with no traffic controls. When approaching an uncontrolled intersection, yield to any vehicle that is already in the intersection and to vehicles that reach the intersection before you. If you arrive at the intersection at the same time as another vehicle, yield to the vehicle on your right.
T intersections are common near the front of businesses and the exits of parking lots. Often, the drivers in the main lane will not have a traffic control, while the drivers in the other lanes have stop signs or lines. If you have a stop sign and the cross traffic does not, you must wait for the cross traffic to clear before entering the main lane.
What Does “Right of Way” Mean?
Determining who has the right of way in a parking lot is important for determining fault in a parking lot accident, but what does “right of way” mean? Right-of-way laws specify which driver must yield when two vehicles are attempting to maneuver in the same space. In parking lots, right-of-way laws govern who must yield when two cars are backing at the same time or when a car is attempting to back into or enter a lane where another vehicle is traveling.
Who Is at Fault for a Parking Lot Accident?
Multiple factors affect who is at fault for a parking lot accident.
In most cases, a person who crashes into a parked car is at fault. If the car was parked illegally, the driver in the moving vehicle is usually still at fault, but there are some circumstances, such as the car being parked in such a way that it was difficult for the driver of the other vehicle to see it, that could put part of the fault on the person who parked the car.
One Vehicle Backing
When one vehicle is backing out of a parking space and another car is traveling forward in the lane that vehicle is backing into, generally, the driver who is backing up must yield. However, disputes may arise over which vehicle had control of the main lane at the time of the accident.
If a person begins backing into the main lane while it is clear and then another vehicle enters the lane, the vehicle traveling forward may need to yield to the backing vehicle if the backing vehicle is far enough into the lane to have the right of way. Additionally, both drivers must be observant and take action, such as applying the brakes, to avoid a collision. A driver who fails to take reasonable actions to avoid an accident may be at fault, even if that driver had the right of way.
Two Vehicles Backing
Accidents that involve two vehicles backing at the same time often present the most challenge for determining fault. The order that the two vehicles entered the main lane and how far each vehicle got into the lane may impact who has the right of way in a parking lot accident.
Both drivers must watch for obstacles and could be at fault for hitting a vehicle because of backing up without looking. If one vehicle stops and the other keeps moving, the driver of the moving vehicle is often at fault. If both vehicles are moving, both drivers will usually share a percentage of the fault.
Drivers of vehicles must yield to pedestrians even when pedestrians do not have the right of way. However, there are some circumstances, such as a pedestrian who darts out in front of a moving vehicle, where the pedestrian could share some fault in an accident.
How Can You Determine Who Had the Right Of Way?
Most of the time, insurance companies and courts determine which driver had the right of way in a parking lot accident by comparing the physical evidence, such as the impact points on the vehicles, with the accounts of both drivers and any eyewitnesses. Less commonly, there may be video evidence from security cameras or dashboard cameras that may reveal which vehicle had the right of way according to Arizona law.
What Are the Penalties for Hitting a Car in a Parking Lot?
In most cases, crashes in parking lots are civil matters. This means that a person who causes an accident in a parking lot may be liable for damages, but there is usually not any criminal charge involved. However, drivers who leave the scene of an accident or cause accidents while driving under the influence may also face criminal charges.
Can MDK Law Group Determine Who Has the Right of Way in a Parking Lot Accident?
Parking lot accidents can be confusing. MDK Law Group can answer your questions about who has the right of way in a parking lot accident. Contact us online to schedule a free consultation.