I Was Hurt in a Parking Lot Accident. Who is At Fault?

Parking Lot Accident

Old Man Winter is on his way. And, as many as a fourth of all late fall, winter, and early spring parking lot accidents involve unsafe ice and snow accumulations.

As most people know from experience, even a razor-thin layer of ice or snow could be “unsafe.”

State and federal laws require property owners to keep their properties free from such hazards. But many times, mostly to avoid spending money, owners ignore these requirements.

In general, if you were hurt in an accident that was not your fault, or at least mostly not your fault, a New York personal injury attorney can usually obtain substantial compensation.

That compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additionally, legal claims usually force companies to take customer safety as seriously as they take their own profits.


The precise location of a parking lot slip and fall injury usually determines legal and financial responsibility in these situations.

In New York, landowners have a legal duty to protect invitees and licensees who visit their property.

Most visitors are invitees. These individuals have specific or general permission to visit the property, such as a dinner invitation or an “open for business” sign.

Moreover, these visits benefit the owner, either non-financially or financially.

The duty of care is somewhat lower if the visitor had permission to visit, but there was no benefit. Examples of licensees include children who walk across parking lots on their way to and from school.

There are very few shopping malls and mini malls in New York City.

Typically, at such places, individual shopkeepers have a duty to maintain sidewalks, parking spaces, and other common areas directly in front of their establishments.

The landlord must do the same thing in general common areas, such as parking spaces closer to the street and parking lot access areas.

The same thing is usually true of residential developments, like housing subdivisions which have a homeowner’s association and apartment complexes.

In addition to establishing a legal duty, victim/plaintiffs must also prove that the owner knew, or should have known, about the ice or other hazard.

The burden of proof, which is a preponderance of the evidence, is very low.

Property Damage Car Crashes

New York is a no-fault insurance state. So, vehicle owners’ own insurance policies usually cover strictly noneconomic losses, such as parking lot door dings. It does not matter if the cause was a runaway driver or a runaway shopping cart.

Occasionally, shopping cart accidents cause injuries, especially if the victim pushes a cart over a patch of black ice. Stores routinely post signs which say they are not responsible for such injuries.

These signs have no legal effect. Much like a “Beware of Dog,” “Swim at Your Own Risk,” or other warnings, parking lot signs simply make the assumption of the risk defense easier to prove in court.

Owners must still establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the victim saw the sign, read the sign, and understood what the sign meant. Frequently, the alert was buried in the fine print or possibly English was not the victim’s first language.

Serious Injury Car Crashes

These accidents are rather common at parking lot entrances and exits. The landlord or the individual driver could be responsible for such an incident.

Landlords do not just have a duty to keep common areas safe.

They have a duty to design them with safety in mind. That means including things like speed bumps, wide lanes, and clear lines of sight which protect both vehicles and pedestrians.

If that part of the parking lot was defectively designed, and that design defect caused the accident, the landlord could be legally responsible for injuries.

Typically, however, the individual tortfeasor (negligent driver) was responsible for the accident. Many drivers are seriously impaired. Common sources of impairment include:

  • Alcohol or drug use,
  • Fatigue,
  • Distraction, and
  • Certain medical conditions.

Operational errors, such as speeding or failure to yield the right-of-way, also cause a significant number of wrecks.

Parking lot accidents are legally complex. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.