When a Car Accident Happens on Private Property

Senior man and young woman arguing after car crash.

When a car accident happens on private property such as at an apartment complex or in a parking lot, determining liability can be more complicated, police may be more reluctant to respond or create a police report, and insurance companies are more apt to deny injury claims. Those involved in accidents on private property should understand the complications that may arise so they can handle their case in the best possible way.

If an accident on private property causes injuries or property damage, the victim should notify the police, insurance companies, and the private property owner. If serious injuries occur, medical treatment should be sought immediately. As is the case with all car accidents, the parties involved should not leave the scene without sharing contact information.

Reporting the Accident

Typically, the police will respond and write a report when a car accident happens on a public road. But when it comes to accidents on private properties, the police may not respond unless there are public safety concerns or serious injuries. This is because most private property accidents involve only minor property damage and injuries.

Especially since a police report may not be available, people should take photographs of the accident scene and damage to all vehicles. This evidence can come in handy when determining fault.

The property owner should be notified about the accident as soon as possible. If there was security assigned to patrol the area, they may create their own incident report. The injured parties can ask for a copy that he or she can share with the insurance provider. Additionally, contact information of any individuals who witnessed the incident, their statements, and documentation of any contributing factors that may have led to the accident should be collected.

Determining Liability

Typically, both law enforcement and the insurance companies involved will play a role in determining who is responsible in a car accident case. But in a private property accident case, the police may not be involved. Insurance companies and personal injury attorneys use a system of comparative fault to determine liability and compensation in an accident, and the lack of a police report can make this more challenging.

While the state typically assumes no liability when a car accident happens on a public road- even if bad road conditions may have been a key factor in the crash- the situation can change when it’s on private property. If hazardous property conditions led to the crash, the owner of the property may also share some liability. For instance, if an accident occurs in a parking lot that has an intersection but lacks a stop sign that allows drivers know where they should stop, that could lead to liability on the part of the property owner or parking lot manager. Blind spots and poor construction may also contribute to an accident and may result in liability getting placed on the property owner.

If the property owner has security footage of the accident, that can help the injured victims and their attorneys determine who is responsible. But the property owner may assume a defensive posture and try to push against efforts to collect information to avoid having to contribute to a settlement. The issue can be further aggravated if an individual’s car was hit while he or she was not present and the other driver left the scene. Uninsured motorist coverage may be claimed but the parking lot owner may still have some liability simply by virtue of owning the property where the accident occurred.

Accidents that occur on private properties often lead to situations where drivers refuse to acknowledge fault. Because drivers often point fingers at each other, it is important to exchange information, gather all of the evidence, and contact the police, the property owner, a car accident lawyer if necessary, and the insurance companies right away. If people were injured in the accident, the parties should seek immediate medical attention.

Dealing with Insurance Companies

Whether or not the insurance will cover the damages or injuries in a private property car accident will be determined by the individual insurance policy. The affected parties should call an attorney before contacting the insurance company. Insurance companies often attempt to low-ball settlement offers and minimize damages so they pay the least possible amount. Some will deny the claim by alleging that the rules of the road do not apply in private properties. It is important, however, to notify the insurance company promptly when it is evident that there may be a reason for a claim. Failing to notify the insurance company in a timely manner can result in a denied claim.

A personal injury attorney that is experienced in private property car accidents and dealing with insurance companies can help negotiate settlements with the insurance company and other liable parties.