Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Advice on Parking Lot Accidents

I'm not sure how many car accidents I have investigated in my life but I know that number is well north of a thousand or two.

The great thing about being a cop is that you tend to notice what damages property and sometimes injures and kills people. What types of driving behaviors are more prone to end in accidents. One of the driving behaviors that will get you into a wreck is hauling ass through a congested parking lot.

Now hauling ass on some vacant highway somewhere is actually pretty safe. Cops may score easy tickets in those locales and insurance companies may find that a great excuse to jack up premiums- but speed alone is no indication of the likelihood of you filing a claim. This is a point I love to argue.

Speed and reckless driving. Sure. Speed in a congested parking lot. Sure.

My gym is located in a heavily congested parking lot.

So yesterday, after washing my car, I went to the gym. There was only one available parking spot- directly in front of the entrance. I went in and ran my 3.2 miles and came back out. I began to slowly back out of my parking space but I cannot see to my left because the parked vehicles next to me are blocking my view and they are much taller. I can safely back out and still stay in my half of the two way traffic lanes unless of course some guy is hauling ass from behind the parked vehicles on my half of the parking area that I cannot see.

I heard and felt the crunch. My rear bumper wiped out the entire side of his Subaru.

Fortunately, he was a nice guy from the Congo. He actually had insurance. The problem was that it was expired by a couple of weeks. The other problem was that because he was so far left of center- there was simply no way to avoid him. It is a private parking lot- which means there are no traffic controls. You are left to war it out with the insurance company when getting in accidents here. Positioning in parking lots is everything. Insurance companies will look for any reason they can to assign fault to you and refuse to pay a claim. The cops don't really care either. I called one anyway.

I know it's private property. I know those poor over worked cops won't do a report. (of course that is bullshit) I have to tell the guy from the Congo they can't write a ticket here.

So for about 15 minutes I had to keep the parking lot blocked and field angry looks from those motorists who are too stupid to figure out what has happened (one guy honked the entire length of the lot as he drove around) and the other 1/2 who think you can just exchange information and move the cars. Because government encourages that- at your expense of course.

I had to tell one twenty something gym employee thank you after she informed me that we could just take a picture and move on. I must have had my idiot look on. This moving cars without calling the cops can be problematic. Insurance companies still assign fault even in parking lots. I have a 1000 dollar deductible. I know his insurance company will try to say that I am at fault as though somehow I can see thru the vehicles parked to my left and use my extra sensory perception to avoid the Subaru as it travels a couple of feet from our bumpers. Or that I hastily backed up without due caution. That will be their position because it always is.

So I have to report this and put up with all of the bullshit that goes along with it as his insurance company tries to weasel out of the claim, tries to assign fault with me and make me pay the deductible, or watch my rates go up because my x ray vision was not working.

So what use was calling the cops? You get a witness for free. You preserve your right to sue and bring some evidence with you (witness) in a future small claims action. The cop took no report. I have to tell you this. In my 25 years as a cop, I took every private property accident report and made one for people. It is easier for professionals to do this and it gives an uninvolved and unbiased view of what happened. It makes the claim easier to settle. The simple fact that police departments refuse to do this any longer is a dis-service. It only takes a couple of minutes. I could scratch a whole accident report like this out with a photo in five minutes flat.

Some wrecks are unavoidable. The only way to avoid this accident would have been to park somewhere else- like on a residential street nearby. The fact that this parking lot has a liquor store a few doors down from the gym doesn't make it any safer.

Be careful in parking lots. If you do get in a wreck, use your head. Don't just blindly go about exchanging information only to find out later that the other guy was uninsured and he has now fled for the Congo. Don't ever let another driver intimidate you into doing something that you don't want to do. If you feel pressured or suspicious, call the cops. Missing information, fake identification, cars that have not been re-registered after a sale- all of those things are possible. Don't move the cars if you can get away with that despite what new laws tell you. Take at least one picture if you can. Always commit the other guys plate to memory. One last story for the road.

Years ago, a witness watched as a vehicle backed into another and did some significant damage. The witness watched as the driver got out a piece of paper, wrote down a bunch of information, and slipped it under the wiper. An hour later, the owner of the damaged car showed up. He looked at the note. It read, "I am sorry that I struck your vehicle. I have no way of paying for it so I am leaving you this note."

The ruse worked. The witness failed to get a plate number or call police because it appeared like the offending driver was complying with the law and leaving his information. Sometimes, and especially when it comes to money and consequences, you simply cannot trust people to do the right thing. Bad guys can be pretty clever.

That's what 25 years of law enforcement taught me.


Always On Watch said...

In the past year, my car has been struck three times in parking lots and once on the street (I have only street parking where I live). Four hit-and-run events!

And I park in places that I consider safe spots, too.

Previous to these events, I'd had such events only once in about 45 years of driving.


One person attempted to leave me a note, and I know this because of all the scratches on the hood when the person tried unsuccessfully to get a pen to write. At that point, the person apparently abandoned those efforts because of even more damage to my car and left no note.

Anyway, in the past year, I have shelled out about $1000 for these hit-and-run events in parking lots. I talked to my insurance agent, and she advised not reporting the damages because of what such reports would do to my insurance premiums.

Brian said...

The adjustor called me on my way to Montana with the sole purpose of trying to convince me I was 50 percent at fault- of course this is bullshit but they get paid to settle claims and save money. They know we won't sue even when we know they are full of shit. It's just too much of a hassle.

Joan Ross said...

I agree with you, Brian. Good positioning in the parking lot and knowing who was primarily at fault are big things when you are to report such accidents. Anyway, there are some parking spaces that draw a limit to every block. It can be useful when the authorities decide to investigate.

Joan Ross @ Parking Lot Services