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Parking lots and garages can be busy, congested places, especially during the holidays. Drivers are looking for the perfect parking spot. Pedestrians are trying to get in and out of stores and surprise obstacles, such as bicycles or  shopping carts can wreak havoc, even at low speeds. With all this activity and chaos in such a small area, it’s no wonder that 20% of car accidents happen in parking lots. So what should you do if you are involved in a parking lot accident? Follow these steps to stay safe and protect your finances.

1. Call for medical help. 

If you or anyone at the scene of a parking lot accident is hurt or seems dazed, call 911. Sometimes injuries aren’t apparent right away, so it’s better to be safe and see a doctor promptly.

Emotions and tempers can flare after getting into an accident, so try to keep yourself and other people at the scene calm. Never get into an argument about what happened, who was at fault – or even admit that the accident was your fault. Be polite and let the other party know that your insurance company will work it out.

2. Call the police. 

After checking for injuries, call the police and file a report – even if it’s a minor accident and no one claims injury. A formal report is important if you or the other parties are injured. Without a police report, it may be your word against the other driver’s.

Remember that some states require you to report any incident if the damage is estimated to be more than a certain amount, such as $500. The authorities can instruct you to go to the nearest police station or how to file a report online.

It is possible the police may not come to the scene of a parking lot accident if no one is injured, if the damage is minor or if there’s extreme weather in the area.

3. Get information. 

Gather key information about the other party, including his or her:

– Name (and any passenger names)
– Driver’s license number
– Insurance information
– Phone number
– License plate number

If the other person is uncooperative, or you believe that he or she doesn’t have auto insurance, get as much information as you can. Also, look around for witnesses and get their names and contact information in case you need them later.

If you hit a parked car, and the owner is nowhere in sight, record information about the vehicle and leave a note with your contact information. Otherwise, you will be considered a hit-and-run driver and could face fines or jail time, depending on state law.

4. Take photos of the accident scene. 

Before you move vehicles involved in a crash, take photos including:

– Vehicle damage
– Broken glass
– Skid marks
– Property damage

Some insurance companies have mobile apps that allow you to upload accident photos when you make a claim.

5. Contact your insurance company. 

If you’re involved in a minor accident, you might wonder whether you should report it to your insurance company or just work it out with the other driver. Note that most insurance policies require you to report all accidents because damage or injuries could be much worse than you think. If you’re involved in a lawsuit related to an unreported accident later on, your insurance company could deny your claim.

The only time it might be smart to avoid making a claim is if an accident happens in your vehicle, on your property, and the only damage is to your property. For example, if you back into your garage door or a tree limb falls on your vehicle.

You should contact your insurer if you’ve been in an accident where the other driver is at fault, even if he or she doesn’t have insurance. Depending on your policy, you may have uninsured motorist coverage that would compensate you.

If you’re at fault, you’ll be required to pay your deductible before the insurer pays for your vehicle repairs. You may also be assigned points for the accident, which typically causes your insurance rate to increase at renewal.

How to avoid a parking lot accident. 

To avoid getting into a parking lot car accident in the first place, keep these tips in mind:
– Drive slowly
– Stay alert for cars and pedestrians cutting across parking lanes
– Use turn signals for the benefit of other drivers and pedestrians
– Choose a parking space where you can pull forward to leave the space instead of backing out
– Park at the end of a row, next to an island or in front of a light pole when possible
– Don’t park in a compact space if you’re not driving a compact car
– Never take up multiple spaces by parking over the line
– Look 180 degrees in both directions before backing out of a parking space instead of relying on mirrors or rearview cameras
– Park in spots farther away from a store as it may be easier to avoid traffic

A parking lot accident is never on anyone’s holiday to-do list, but knowing what to do can help. With the right insurance, you’ll be back on your merry way in no time. Just call us at 724-929-2300 today and let us compare prices for you. We’ll tailor a policy to fit your needs and you can use the savings for making you holidays more magical!