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Most auto accidents occur on public roads and highways, but accidents on private property are actually fairly common. Accidents that occur on private property include those in private parking lots, parking garages, driveways, and other privately owned land. These types of accidents are generally not as severe as traffic accidents, but they do still cause injuries and property damage. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 363,000 people suffered injuries in non-traffic crashes from 2008 to 2011. Moreover, 6,483 people were killed in those types of accidents during that time frame. That number includes both vehicle occupants and pedestrians.
Thus, it’s clear that accidents on private property can be serious. While some aspects of these accidents are the same as those that occur on roadways, there are some key differences you should be aware of.
Differences Between Accidents on Private and Public Property
For one, the police may or may not respond to the scene. If the accident is serious, and major injuries resulted from the crash, emergency personnel will respond. But minor accidents on private property can still result in injuries, and the police may not arrive to assess the scene for these types of accidents. Because property owners are responsible for any traffic signs or rules in place on their property, the police cannot issue citations on private property for minor traffic violations, such as violating a stop sign that was placed by the property owner. However, that doesn’t mean the police can’t issue any citations on private property. They can still cite drivers for driving under the influence, reckless driving, hit-and-runs, and other criminal offenses.
Another difference between accidents on public and private property is that the property owner might be liable or partly liable for an accident on their property, depending on the circumstances. Property owners have the responsibility of maintaining their premises, including driveways and parking lots. If an unsafe condition on the property contributed to the accident, the property owner could be found liable for damages. Some examples of negligence on the part of property owners that could contribute to a car accident include:
- Lack of appropriate signage
- Inadequate lighting
- Construction that creates dangerous blind spots
- Lack of indicators for traffic flow (arrows, signage)
- Uneven pavement
If you believe the property owner may be liable for the accident, you may have a premises liability case.
How Do You Prove Liability for an Accident on Private Property?
If you were injured in an accident on private property that was not your fault, here are some steps to take to help prove your case:
- Report the accident to the police. Regardless of where the accident occurred, it is important to report it. Because the accident occurred on private property, a responding police officer will most likely not be able to issue traffic citations or make a determination of fault. However, the officer can still create a police report, which serves as official documentation of the accident. This could be very important when it comes to the insurance claim. The officer might say it’s not necessary to file a police report, but you can politely ask that they complete one. If you cannot get a police officer to respond to the scene, you can see if you can report the accident to the local precinct yourself.
- Report the accident to the property owner. The property owner may want to draw up their own incident report. If the property owner creates an incident report, ask to have a copy of it to provide your insurance company. The property owner may also have security footage of the accident, which could also become helpful if the insurance company disputes the claim.
- Take down the other driver’s information. This includes their name, contact information, address, and auto insurance information.
- Take photos of the scene. Be sure to get clear photos of the damage to all vehicles involved, as well as the surrounding scene. Pay attention to any unsafe conditions that may have contributed to the crash, such as uneven pavement in a parking lot. If you have any visible injuries, take photos of those as well.
- Take down contact information of any witnesses. If anyone saw the accident happen, make sure you speak with them and take down their contact information. This is particularly important if there was no police report for the accident.
- Seek medical attention for any injuries. Even seemingly minor accidents can result in injuries that require medical attention. The sooner you see a doctor for those injuries, the better. A doctor will help diagnose your injuries and set you on a treatment path, and you do not want to delay that process. Additionally, it is important to see a doctor right away so that your injuries are officially documented for your claim.
- Contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company. File a claim with the insurance company as soon as possible. Remember that the insurance company is looking out for their company’s interests, not yours, so be very careful with what you say to the insurance adjuster.
Establishing liability for injuries that occur on private property can be a challenge, especially if the at-fault driver does not want to admit fault, or if the insurance company tries to deny the claim or offers a lowball settlement. If you have been injured in this type of accident, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to learn about your legal options.
“There can often be multiple contributing factors to accidents on private property. A personal injury attorney can help to determine what those factors were and how to hold the responsible parties liable,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.
Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured in an auto accident and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today at (760) 777-7777 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, El Centro, and Yucca Valley, and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.
DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.
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