Ohio Parking Lot Accidents: Who is Responsible?

Doug Mann

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), tens of thousands of automobile crashes take place in parking lots around the country each year. And, though most of those accidents are relatively minor, the same report determined that parking lot accidents result in hundreds of deaths each year. Thousands of others are injured. 

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Table of Contents
  1. Traffic Laws in Ohio Parking Lots
  2. Pursuing Compensation for a Parking Lot Accident in Ohio

Many people are uncertain about how liability works when a collision occurs on private property. Does automobile insurance cover those crashes? Were you even required to stop at that stop sign? Is it okay to text and drive on private property?

Here’s what you need to know about Ohio parking lot crashes.

Traffic Laws in Ohio Parking Lots

Some traffic laws apply in a parking lot exactly as they would on a public highway. For example, here’s language from the Ohio texting and driving statute

No person shall drive a motor vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar on any street, highway, or property open to the public for vehicular traffic while using a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication.

Ohio Revised Code 4511.204 

The law makes it explicitly clear that the prohibition applies on any “property open to the public for vehicular traffic.” That includes the parking lot at your apartment complex, the local mall, or your corner grocery store.

In some cases, though, it may not be immediately clear whether you’re legally required to obey posted signs. For example, Ohio law sets forth specific circumstances in which private property owners may post legally-enforceable stop signs and speed limit signs. But, whether or not you’re legally required to stop isn’t the key question.

That’s because wherever you are, you are expected to exercise due care in operating your vehicle. A driver who disregards a stop sign posted to maintain traffic safety on private property–a sign other drivers are likely relying on to make decisions about their own actions–will likely be found negligent even if the sign didn’t have the force of law. 

The bottom line: the safe bet is to drive as carefully in a parking lot as you would on the street. But, that doesn’t always happen.

Many Drivers are More Careless in Parking Lots

The NSC also conducted a series of polls regarding parking lot driving behaviors. More than half of respondents said they would: 

  • Make a phone call while driving through a parking lot
  • Text while driving through a parking lot
  • Program GPS while driving through a parking lot
  • Send or read emails while driving through a parking lot
  • Check social media while driving through a parking lot

Respondents were more than twice as likely to say they’d take most of these actions while driving in a parking lot as they were to say they would do the same on a highway or a surface street. They were also more likely to undertake non-device-related actions, such as grooming, while driving in a parking lot.

Possibly, some drivers believe these behaviors are less risky in a parking lot because of the lower speeds. But, there are many special risks associated with parking lot driving, such as:

  • Traffic crowded closer together
  • Many pedestrians, including children
  • Objects, such as grocery carts, in unexpected places
  • Many people pulling in and out of parking spaces at the same time

Generally, a driver who fails to account for parking lot conditions and drive in a manner that is safe under the circumstances may be liable for a collision. But, the negligent driver may not be the only responsible party.

See Also: The Most Important Steps to Take Following a Car Accident

Shared Responsibility for Parking Lot Accidents

Determining who’s on the hook for a parking lot accident can be somewhat complicated, depending on many different factors. There’s a chance each party was partially responsible, upon which point contributory fault would come into play. In some cases, a third party that wasn’t even directly involved in the crash might share responsibility too.

Contributory Fault

In a parking lot collision, as in any traffic crash, it’s possible that two or more parties share responsibility. One common shared responsibility scenario is that both of the drivers involved in the crash are partly responsible. For example, if a driver is backing out of a parking space without looking and is hit by another driver whipping around a corner without stopping at a stop sign, a jury may find that each is partly responsible. 

An expert tip from Doug Mann

In that situation, an injured party can receive partial compensation as long as they are not more than 50% responsible. Imagine, for instance, that a jury found that the accident above was 60% the fault of the driver who ran the stop sign and 40% the fault of the driver backing out of the parking space. The driver who ran the stop sign wouldn’t be entitled to any compensation, since they were more than half responsible. But, the driver backing out of the parking space might recover 60% of their losses. 

Third Party Liability

In some cases, a third party who isn’t directly involved in the crash will bear or share responsibility. Some examples include: 

  • Another driver or pedestrian in the parking lot: If someone else in the parking lot acts negligently in a way that sets the chain leading to the accident in motion, that person may be partly responsible for damages. For example, a young, unattended child might dart into the driving lane in a parking lot, causing a driver to swerve. If the driver who swerves hits another vehicle, the negligent parent might be responsible for partially compensating the driver whose car was struck, even though there was no direct interaction between them.
  • The entity responsible for maintenance of the parking lot. If the accident was caused–or partly caused–by negligent maintenance of the lot, the owner/operator of the premises may share responsibility for a crash. For example, if a grocery store fails to clear carts, creating an obstacle course in the parking lot that causes an accident, they may be partly responsible. Similarly, if negligently cleared snow and ice contributes to an accident, the business owner may be partly liable for the accident.
  • The entity responsible for design or construction of the parking lot. If a parking lot is negligently designed or constructed in a way that increases the risk of collision, such as creating blind spots, that entity may be responsible for accidents caused by the defect.

Pursuing Compensation for a Parking Lot Accident in Ohio

In general, liability for parking lot accidents works much like liability for a car accident in any other location. Anyone whose negligence causes or contributes to the accident may be responsible for the damage. The best way to identify all responsible parties and gather information about how to proceed is to talk with an experienced Ohio car accident lawyer.

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