Stores and shopping malls are busier than ever this time of year. This increase in shoppers brings with it impatient drivers and congested parking lots – which means you have a greater chance of being in a parking lot car accident. Here are some numbers:
• 1 in 5 car accidents happen in a parking lot.
• as many as two-thirds of drivers are distracted by their cell phones when pulling into a parking lot
If you’re in a parking lot accident, keep in mind that Michigan has what is called a “mini-tort” law. This law lets you recover up to $1,000 for vehicle damage (not personal injury) in a minor vehicle accident. Certain conditions must be met to bring a mini-tort claim:
• you must know who hit your vehicle.
• your vehicle must be properly insured.
• the other driver must be at least 50 percent at fault.
When it comes to the mini-tort law, keep in mind that if your auto insurance includes collision coverage and you don’t have to pay a deductible before costs are covered, you may not sue under the mini-tort law. In addition, damage to unoccupied, parked vehicles is not covered under the mini-tort law.
What happens if you don’t know who hit your vehicle? If the person did not leave a note, contact your insurance carrier to assess whether you have collision coverage. Note that you do not have a claim against the store or the parking lot owner, as they are not responsible for damage to vehicles. In addition, take steps to try and find out who hit your vehicle. Malls and stores often have security cameras in their parking lots, so check to see if there’s video of the incident.
If you’re in a Michigan parking lot accident and you do know who struck your vehicle, you should first assess whether anyone is injured and, if so, contact emergency responders. Next, call law enforcement to file an accident report and take photos of the damage to your vehicle. You should also exchange information with the other driver(s), including:
• date, time and location of the accident.
• names, addresses, phone numbers of the other driver(s), passengers and witnesses.
• driver’s license number of the other driver(s).
• make, model and license plate number of the other vehicle(s) involved.
• insurance information of other driver(s).
Even if the damage to your vehicle is relatively minor and no one was injured, you should still report the crash to police. Why? Because a seemingly minor injury on the day of the accident may worsen over time. The accident report will also be needed if you want to file a claim for no-fault benefits, a mini-tort action or a lawsuit against a negligent driver for certain damages not covered by no-fault insurance.
Generally, Michigan no-fault law applies to parking lot accident injuries, as long as a “motor vehicle” was involved in the collision. However, there are some exceptions to no-fault coverage for parked vehicles. So if you’re injured in a parking lot accident, be sure to contact an experienced Michigan no-fault attorney who can help determine whether an exception to coverage applies.