Money Girl explains how to handle a parking lot car accident so you stay safe, don't break the law, and protect your finances.
Step #4: Document the Scene
Don’t move the vehicles until you take photographs of the accident area, including vehicle damage, broken glass, and any skid marks. If you don’t have a smartphone with a camera, always keep a disposable camera in your car just in case. Note that some insurance companies have mobile apps that allow you to upload accident photos when you make a claim.
Step #5: Find Witnesses
The only time it might be smart to avoid making a claim is if an accident happens in your vehicle, on your property, and the only damage is to your property.
Look around for witnesses to a parking lot accident. Maybe a store employee saw the accident happen while collecting shopping carts or taking a break? Or perhaps there’s a surveillance camera that shows the incident? When you find witnesses, get their names and contact information in case you need them later on, especially if you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run.
Step #6: Call Your Insurance Company
If you’re involved in a minor accident, you might wonder if you should report it to your insurance company, or just work it out with the other driver.
Note that anytime you’re in an accident with another person, you’re required to report it to your insurer. That’s because the damage or injuries could be much worse than you think. And if you end up getting sued later on, your insurance company might deny you certain coverage because you failed to promptly report an incident.
The only time it might be smart to avoid making a claim is if an accident happens in your vehicle, on your property, and the only damage is to your property. For instance, if you back into your own garage door, or a tree limb falls on your vehicle.
You should contact your insurer if you’ve been in an accident where the other driver is at fault, even if he or she doesn’t have any insurance. Depending on your policy, you may have uninsured motorist coverage that would compensate you.
If you’re at fault, you’ll be required to pay your deductible before the insurer pays for your vehicle repairs. You’ll also be assigned points for the accident, which typically causes your insurance rate to increase at renewal.
Tips to Avoid a Parking Lot Car Accident
To avoid getting into a parking lot car accident in the first place, keep these tips in mind:
- Drive slowly and stay alert for cars cutting across parking lanes.
- Use turn signals to make your intentions known to other motorists and pedestrians.
- Choose a parking spot where you don’t have to back up, but instead can pull forward to leave the space.
- Choose a parking space at the end of a row, next to an island, or in front of a light pole when possible, to protect your car.
- Don’t park in a compact space if you’re not driving a compact car—and never take up 2 spaces by parking over a line.
- Never rely solely on mirrors or rear-view cameras when backing out. Turn your head 180 degrees in both directions to visually check the area for oncoming traffic.
- Avoid shopping center parking lots on busy weekend days and during holidays.
- Don’t insist on taking the closest parking space. You may be able to park more quickly and in a safer, less congested spot by choosing a space farther away from a store.
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