Do I Have the Right-of-Way When Backing Out of a Parking Space in California?

man-with-hat-coat-beard-driving-reverseBusy parking lots that are full of pedestrians and traffic in every direction are a hot spot for car accidents. When a parking lot accident does occur, who is at fault?

The answer is usually based on who had the right-of-way. Below, learn more about the right-of-way when a driver is backing out of a parking spot.

If you were injured in a parking lot accident, schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our legal team and learn what options may be available to pursue compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Am I Always at Fault When Backing Out?

Parking lots are made up of two types of roadways. Thoroughfares are typically lanes that exit onto a roadway. These are the main lanes through a parking lot and are usually wider than feeder lanes. Feeder lanes usually start at one thoroughfare and end at another. Feeder lanes are typically not as wide as thoroughfares.

Several factors determine right-of-way and who is at fault for a parking lot accident:

  • Vehicles in thoroughfares typically have the right-of-way over vehicles leaving feeder lanes.
  • Drivers turning left or right from a thoroughfare into a feeder lane or other roadway must yield the right-of-way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction as well as cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Vehicles driving through a feeder lane have the right-of-way over vehicles exiting a parking space. Just like exiting a driveway onto a roadway, vehicles already in motion have the right-of-way.
  • Any stop or yield signs located in the parking lot override the presumed right-of-way. Traffic signs in a parking lot must be obeyed.

If a driver backs out of a parking space and hits another vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist, they are typically at fault for the accident. Their vehicle was not already in the flow of traffic; therefore, they did not have the right-of-way.

However, there can be exceptions where a driver backing out of a parking space would not be at fault for a collision. If another driver disobeyed a posted traffic sign, they may be held liable for the accident.

Common Reasons for Parking Lot Accidents

Parking lots are hectic places with obstructed visibility. Several types of car accidents are common in parking lots, including:

  • A driver backs or pulls out of a parking space and hits another moving vehicle. Typically, the driver who exited the parking space is the at-fault party.
  • Two vehicles collide as they both back up and pull out of their respective parking spaces at the same time. In this situation, fault is typically shared.
  • A moving vehicle hits a parked vehicle, such as backing into a car while exiting a parking space, hitting a car while opening the door of your vehicle, or clipping the bumper of a vehicle while maneuvering in or out of a parking space. In this case, the driver of the moving vehicle is typically at fault.
  • A vehicle strikes a pedestrian in a parking lot. Pedestrians almost always have the right-of-way; therefore, the driver of the vehicle is at fault.

Avoiding Parking Lot Accidents 

To avoid parking lot accidents, be cautious and follow these best practices:

  • Drive slowly through parking lots. If a speed limit is posted, do not exceed it.
  • Use turn signals to show pedestrians and other motorists your intentions.
  • Watch for vehicles backing out of parking spaces, as their view may be obstructed.
  • Park in spots further away from your destination instead of circling the lot for a closer spot.
  • Park in the back of the parking lot for less congestion to make exiting easier.
  • Make sure your vehicle is fully within your parking spot and centered.
  • When backing out of a parking spot, physically look for traffic and pedestrians. Do not rely only on your vehicle's backup camera.
  • Back up or pull out of a parking space slowly while watching for oncoming traffic or pedestrians, as your view may be obstructed by other vehicles or structures.

Call a Trusted Lawyer If You Were Injured in a Crash

If you were injured in a parking lot collision, the Sacramento car accident lawyers at the Arnold Law Firm are available to discuss possible legal options.

Schedule a free, no obligation consultation today. We charge no upfront fees and payment is only due if we recover compensation for you.

Call the Arnold Law Firm at (916) 777-7777 or complete our Free Case Evaluation form.