When a car accident occurs on the road, determining liability may be challenging but it typically falls on the drivers involved in some fashion. However, if a car wreck occurs on private property, determining liability can be much trickier. It is possible for a property owner to face liability for a car accident on his or her private property if the owner’s negligence somehow contributed to the accident.
A private business owner who owns a parking lot with the business must ensure the lot meets state and local requirements, including marking parking spaces, erecting curbs or medians, and placing stop signs and other signs to help patrons avoid preventable accidents. A car accident may occur on private property due to a failure to properly configure a parking lot, poor property maintenance, broken lighting, or a defective element on a private street or driveway.
Property owners have a duty of care to legal visitors on the property to address known safety issues promptly and correct them so they do not cause harm to visitors. If immediate correction is not possible, the owner should mark the hazard if visitors are likely to encounter it while on the property. Ultimately, the property owner must do everything he or she can to address a known or foreseeable safety issue from harming legal visitors on the property.
After any car accident it is always best to call the police and report it. Even though a responding officer may not wish to write a report about an accident on private property, if you find yourself in this situation you should politely insist the officer file an official report and secure a copy for your records as soon as possible. Try to secure as much evidence as possible from the scene of the accident. This can include pictures with your smartphone of your injuries, the damage to your vehicle, and the crash site. You should also photograph any damaged structures, lighting elements, or other physical elements that may have contributed to your accident.
If anyone suffered injuries in the accident, seek medical care immediately. Any delay could not only cause an injury to worsen but also endanger the victim’s ability to secure compensation in a future lawsuit for the incident. If the jury notices the victim delayed seeking treatment, they may see this as an indication that the victim’s injuries were not as severe as he or she claimed since the victim did not appear compelled to seek medical care right away.
After seeking medical treatment, the victim of a private property car accident should ask for a report from the attending physician that outlines his or her prognosis and the details of his or her injuries. This and the police report will help form the foundation of a personal injury claim.
Liability for a car accident on private property could potentially fall to multiple parties. If an accident occurs due to the negligence of one of the drivers but some structural defect on the property contributed to the accident, both the at-fault driver and the property owner could share liability for the resulting damages. For example, the jury in the case may decide the at-fault driver’s actions make him or her more liable for the damages in the case, but the property owner’s poor care of the property or failure to mark a hazard that contributed to the accident means the owner is also liable. The jury will split the responsibility for the victim’s damages based on each liable party’s level of fault.
After seeking medical care and securing the police report from the accident, the next step for an injured driver should be contacting an attorney to help navigate the liability issues surrounding this type of claim.