Parking lots can be dangerous places. You have to worry about cars whose drivers are more focused on finding the perfect parking spot than driving, weather conditions that make the ground dangerous to traverse and criminals who may take advantage of a lot's isolated condition.
Is the risk you take all your own? After all, life's full of risks, right?
Not exactly. You see, under premise liability laws, property owners have a certain obligation to make sure that their guests are reasonably safe from preventable accidents and injuries. While you can't hold a property owner liable for every injury that might occur in a parking lot, here are some situations that could fall under the owner's responsibility:
You're assaulted in a dark or dangerous lot
Many crimes of violence are opportunistic in nature. Criminals will steer clear of properties that are well-maintained, well-lit and properly guarded. Parking lot owners generally should keep a lot lighted at night, and they may have a duty to provide security in high-crime areas.
You experience a serious slip-and-fall injury
If there are holes in the concrete or chunks of asphalt lying around a parking lot, those are hazards that could easily cause someone to trip and fall -- especially at night or when carrying packages. This is particularly a problem outside shopping centers and stores.
You're injured by a car that's circling the lot
For the most part, car accidents (or car-and-pedestrian accidents) in a parking lot are treated the same as they would be anywhere else. You'll generally look to the at-fault driver for compensation. However, there could be an exception. If the parking lot is badly designed or conditions in the lot make it hard for drivers to know what to do, the lot owner may be liable instead.
For example, imagine there's been snow, and the lot manager allows the plow team to pile the snow up in a way that impairs the ability of drivers to see cars or pedestrians on the move. That could make the lot owner liable for any injuries that result.
If you've been injured in an otherwise preventable accident in a parking lot, an attorney can help you understand who is potentially liable and what you can do next to recover your losses.