Nearly 20% of all auto accidents in Michigan happen in a parking lot. This makes sense because most parking lots are congested full of vehicles, tight spaces and inattentive drivers. In fact, 66% of drivers pay less attention in a parking lot than they would when driving in the streets according to the National Safety Council. This can be because of a multitude of reasons, but the main culprit is the increase in usage of cell phones and the distracted driving that comes along with it. Since drivers are not traveling at a high speed in a parking and assume the risks are lower, they are more prone to pull out their cell phone and check text messages, social media, or even punching in an address into Google Maps.
Hit and Run Parking Lot Accidents are Extremely Common in Michigan
Nobody wants this to happen to their vehicle, but the unfortunate truth is that a hit and run accident in a parking lot is much more common than in any other type of vehicle accident. You get to your car and notice that there is damage from another vehicle hitting yours and there is no note left behind with the contact and insurance information. You can’t collect any money from the owner of the store or the parking lot because they are simply not responsible. So what should you do? This can be a difficult decision to make, but the first thing is to check the details of your auto insurance policy and the amount of damage. If you elected to purchase collision coverage, you should have no problem making a claim with your car insurance company without your rates increasing. If you don’t have collision coverage, the decision becomes a bit more tricky.
Many parking lots and retail stores have security cameras in place and it’s very possible you can find out who the other driver is simply by asking to review the tape and looking for a license plate. If you are lucky enough to find the driver responsible, you can file what is called a mini-tort. The purpose of this mini-tort is to compensate a person for the out-of-pocket expenses when you are not at fault.
If the security tape cannot identify the responsible party or there weren’t any cameras at all, you must weigh the decision of paying for the expenses out of your pocket or making an insurance claim. In many occasions, it’s cheaper in the long run to pay for the damage done to your vehicle yourself without involving the insurance companies. Michigan already has some of the most expensive auto insurance in the country and making a small claim like this can increase your rates even more. If you feel the damage is over $1000, you should have a police report filed.
When The Responsible Driver Can Be Identified In a Parking Lot Accident
The very first thing you should do if you have been hit in a parking lot while in the vehicle is to check for injuries and seek medical attention if necessary. After addressing any medical concerns, you need to document as much as possible about the crash. Taking cell phone pictures of both vehicles is highly recommend and then you will need to exchange information with the other driver involved. Here is a short list of the information that you should take note of:
- The exact location, the time of the crash, and the date of the accident.
- Write down contact information including names, addresses, phone numbers, and even emails of all parties involved. This can include the driver, the passengers, and any witnesses to the accident.
- Document the other driver’s license information and license plate number.
- The make, model, year, color, and any other distinguishing features of the other vehicle(s)
- Get a copy or write down the other driver’s auto insurance company and their actual policy number.
You should always contact law enforcement and have a police report filed. This will protect your rights in the future if the other party involved changes their story or you find that days or weeks later that you are injured and require medical care.
No-Fault Insurance and Michigan Parking Lot Accidents
As you are already aware, Michigan utilizes No-Fault Law. By definition, this means that your injuries in a parking lot accident will be covered by your own insurance company. It does matter if you were hurt in a parking lot, side street, or highway. If a vehicle was involved and you are hurt, you will be covered as long as you currently have auto insurance.
Michigan has a law called the parked vehicle exception (No-Fault Statute: MCL 500.3106). In general, an injury suffered from the use of a parked vehicle will not be covered my no-fault. However, there are a few exceptions which include:
- The vehicle happened to be parked in an unsafe manner which caused unreasonable risk to bodily injury.
- If the injury happened because of contact with mounted equipment while that equipment was being operated during loading or unloading.
- The injury happened during occupying, entering, or leaving the vehicle.
As mentioned previously, Michigan does utilize a Mini-Tort Law and this is your best option if you were in the vehicle and the damage is less than $1000. It’s important to note however, that a mini-tort will only cover up to $1000 in vehicle damage and is unsupervised parked vehicles are not covered.
Tips to Prevent Michigan Parking Lot Accidents From Occurring
- Always drive cautiously and slowly in parking lot settings
- Be aware of your surroundings and watch for both vehicle and pedestrians
- Always use your turn signals even if it’s obvious where you are going. Many people fail to follow this simple task of using a blinker.
- Don’t attempt to fit into small parking spaces or in tight areas
- Always take your time when backing out of a parking space. Don’t simply rely on your mirrors and back up camera.