Parking Lots And Parking Garages Are Common Accident Sites
Parking lots and garages are a lot riskier than you might think. Wisconsin parking lot accidents cause hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries every year, according to the National Safety Council.
Although parking lot accidents tend to be more frequent in the rush of holiday shopping season, Hayward car accident lawyers at Lein Law Offices know drivers and pedestrians must always be alert, because parking areas tend to be fraught with many factors that make them dangerous. Some of those include:
- Less attention of drivers, who relax once they are no longer in traffic
- Reduced sight lines and increased blind spots due to the parked vehicles
- Delivery trucks moving goods in and out regularly
- More frequent turns than a typical roadway
- Reduced lighting (particularly in parking garages)
- Distracted drivers and pedestrians
The one thing parking lots have in their favor is the slower speed at which most vehicles are going, at least compared to traffic on most roads and highways. However, this tends to give people a false sense of security. The truth of the matter is, these spaces aren’t inherently safe, and they can be especially dangerous when people are distracted.
Distraction Proves Deadly In Wisconsin Parking Lot Accidents
The NSC reports that 50,000 crashes occur every year in parking lots and parking garages, resulting in 60,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths.
In one recent survey, respondents indicated almost seven in 10 people felt comfortable making phone calls while driving in a parking lot. More than half felt fine to send and read text messages and nearly half felt they were capable of driving through parking lot while using social media, watching videos, taking pictures or sending e-mails. Most drivers admit they don’t give nearly as much attention to driving in parking lots as they do while on the road (especially scary considering a quarter of all traffic accidents are caused by distracted drivers).
Children especially may be vulnerable. They’re shorter, so drivers can’t see them as well as adults over the rows of parked cars. If a person is pushing a stroller, the driver may see the adult, but not the stroller right in front of them, causing the driver to misjudge the time they have to safely make a maneuver. Children are also more likely to dart out in front of vehicle traffic, not recognizing the danger.
Elderly people too may be at heightened risk. There have been several incidents of older drivers accidentally pressing the wrong pedal or failing to look before backing out of a parking space. In one such incident in Madison, a 70-year-old woman was fatally struck by a pickup truck while in the crossing walk of a hospital parking lot.
One benefit of advancing technology is in-vehicle technology, like backup cameras and sensors. An estimated 9 percent of pedestrian deaths in parking lots happen due to backup incidents. Parking lot design, including crosswalks, sidewalks and parking lot lighting, also play an important role in reducing the risks.
Liability For Parking Lot Accidents
Because parking lot accidents and parking garage accidents generally occur on private property, there aren’t traffic laws that govern, but everyone — motorists, pedestrians and property owners — is expected to use reasonable care. Failure to do so is negligence.
As noted in the 1967 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling in Olsen v. Milwaukee Waste Paper Co., ordinary rules of negligence involving control of motor vehicles apply in parking lots just like they do on public streets that aren’t specifically governed by ordinance or traffic regulation. However, as affirmed by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in the 2016 case of Brenz v. State Farm Ins. , a driver doesn’t have a duty to keep a lookout unless he or she “knew or in the exercise of ordinary care ought to have known” someone was likely to be passing behind or in the general vicinity of the vehicle.
Defense lawyers in Wisconsin parking lot accident cases may try to seize on the Brenz case ruling, but in any sort of a case where it was clear pedestrians were moving in and out of a parking lot, or it could have been reasonably anticipated that they would be doing so, drivers have a duty of care to watch for them and exercise caution.
Hayward car accident attorneys can explain that parking lot accidents are different, because they may be more likely to give rise to a premises liability claim against a business or property owner. In such cases, the injured person would need to show the property was somehow defective or dangerous. Examples might include lack in proper lighting, inadequate clearing of winter weather accumulation or poor design (well below industry standards), and lack of signage, crosswalks or inadequate maintenance. Plaintiffs need to show that the property owner specifically owed them a duty of care, that defendant property owner knew or should have known of the problem, and that the failure to take action played a causal role in the injury.
It is possible to file claims for damages against more than one person. For example, if you are a pedestrian struck by a driver in a grocery store parking lot, you may have a valid claim against both the driver and grocery store owner.
Defendants in these cases often argue comparative fault, meaning the person injured bore some responsibility. This fact alone won’t prevent someone from prevailing in a parking lot accident claim, but it could proportionately reduce damages.