A parking lot accident is bound to happen to all of us at some point.
- You’re backing out of your spot when your coffee spills in your lap and you look down to clean up the mess.
- You’re pulling up to a stop sign but hit a patch of ice and lose control.
- Your kids are fighting in the back seat and you look away for just a moment.
- You’re leaving the parking lot to merge with traffic and you forget to check the bike lane.
These accidents happen every day and only cause minor fender benders for the most part, but there are some common misconceptions out there that the rules don’t apply in a parking lot. We’ve even heard people say they thought they were allowed to ignore stop signs!
Private parking lots aren’t subject to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, but they’re still not a free-for-all, either.
The Criminal Code of Ontario still applies in parking lots. More to the point for your wallet, though, insurance companies can still determine fault based on the details of your collision. There’s a proper way to determine who’s at fault, if you need to report it to the police, and who pays for the damages. A car accident report for a parking lot collision can still affect your insurance rates after the fact.
What are the relevant laws and insurance rules in Ontario’s parking lots?
Some laws are specific to private parking lots, while others are enforced no matter where you’re driving in Ontario. Most of them are no-brainers though (e.g. “don’t drink and drive”).
- You must obey any traffic signs within the parking lot.
- If you’re on a main lane, you have the right-of-way over secondary, feeder lanes. (A main lane generally enters or exists the lot.)
- If you’re pulling out of a parking spot, you do not have the right-of-way.
- If you open your door and hit another vehicle, it’s your fault.
- If you and another driver are both backing out and hit one another, you are likely both at fault.
- If you hit a legally parked car, you are at fault.
- If you are parked illegally and someone hits you, it is usually your fault.
- If someone is injured in your parking lot accident, you must report it to the police.
- If your accident causes $2,000 or more in combined damage (vehicles and property) then it must be reported.
- You cannot drive intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
- Leaving the scene of an accident without giving your personal information can lead to criminal charges.
Who’s at fault?
Many people believe that with a parking lot accident the fault is 50/50, which can be valid sometimes… but not all the time.
“As the Highway Traffic Act generally doesn’t apply on private property, private parking lot accidents are typically treated as ‘no fault’ collisions by police (excluding when criminal actions contributed to the accident). This means that each driver is responsible for making a claim against their own motor vehicle insurance policy.”
We need to differentiate between being at fault in the police report and being at fault with your insurer. Your insurance company will have its own method for determining who was at fault in the accident, and that will determine if your rates increase.
You may be tempted to just not report the accident at all and pay out-of-pocket for the repairs, but be aware that most vehicle insurance policies in Ontario require you to report all accidents.
Do you have to report a parking lot accident in Ontario?
Generally, yes. There are three scenarios in which you need to report your parking lot accident:
- Someone has been injured in the accident.
- There is $2,000 or more of damage to the vehicles or property.
- Your insurance policy requires you to report all accidents.
Be warned that if the other driver reports the accident to their insurance company and you do not, your insurance company is still going to find out and adjust your rates accordingly.
What do I do if I’m in a parking lot accident?
It’s always best to follow these five steps whenever you get into an accident, parking lot or otherwise:
- Check whether anyone was injured and call emergency services if required.
- If you are able to drive your car, move it out of the way of other vehicles.
- Exchange your personal information with the other driver. If you hit a parked car, leave a note with your personal information.
- Take pictures of both vehicles and any other damage caused (i.e. property).
- Call your insurance company to notify them of the accident and arrange for a tow truck (if necessary).
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in the accident, you may want to consult with a legal professional about compensation.
What happens if someone hits your car in a parking lot and leaves?
If you notice that someone has hit your car but fled the scene without leaving so much as a note, this is considered a hit and run. You should report the accident to the police so that they can investigate the incident.
Then you need to notify your insurance provider. Sometimes the damage is covered by collision insurance or it may be put under the “uninsured driver” category. A hit and run involving a pedestrian is also a very serious accident, and can lead to criminal charges—especially if there are serious injuries.
Unfortunately accidents like these do happen often in Ontario, so be sure to report it before leaving the scene so police can investigate for you.
Does a parking lot accident go on your driving record?
It doesn’t matter where the accident happened—if you report an accident, it goes on your record.
Being at fault in a collision will usually result in raising your rates. If there are more serious charges involved like reckless, careless, or impaired driving, you can also get demerit points and a hefty fine from the Highway Traffic Act.