Who is Liable for a Car Accident On Private Property in Washington State?

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Many accidents happen on private property, including driveways and parking lots. In many ways, these accidents are no different than collisions on the open highway. A motorist is liable if they fail to drive with reasonable care, which is called negligence, and if they injure another person in a crash. Because Washington is a traditional “fault” state, any car accident victim can submit a personal injury claim on the at-fault motorist’s liability coverage.

Some unique wrinkles arise when collisions occur on private property, especially over whether a property defect contributed to the crash. Many people crash due to potholes or inadequate security. A Abogado de accidentes automovilísticos en Washington at Premier Law Group explains more in this post.

When is a Motorist to Blame?

Many accidents on private property involve a negligent driver. For example:

  • A motorist in a parking garage is reading a text message and crashes into a car in front of him.
  • A reckless driver races around a parking lot, crashing into a vehicle and pulling out of a parking spot.
  • A careless driver backs out of a parking spot without looking in the mirror, pulling directly in front of another car.
  • A distracted driver pulls into a parking lot and crashes into a parked car.

These accidents are similar to collisions out on the open road, though usually at slower speeds. Nonetheless, these accidents are disruptive and expensive. You may need car repairs and will have medical bills.

Did a Property Defect Contribute to the Accident?

Some car accidents are caused by a property defect. For example, a parking lot might have a giant pothole in the ground. When a driver hits the pothole, the vehicle is thrown to the left, which crashes into a car in the opposite direction.

Here, the pothole contributed to the accident, and the parking lot owner is responsible for it. Negotiating compensation with the property owner would be necessary.

There are other situations where property defects cause accidents:

  • An untrimmed hedge at the end of a driveway could obscure your view, leading to a collision as you pull out.
  • Due to a lack of fencing around a parking lot, animals or small children wander in front of motorists, surprising them and leading to a wreck.
  • Ice accumulation on a driveway or parking lot could cause a vehicle to skid and lead to an accident.

When is a Property Owner Responsible for a Defect?

Accidents on private property typically occur on:

  • Driveways
  • Parking lots
  • Parking garages
  • Roads in homeowner’s associations

These are private locations where owners owe a duty of care to visitors. A key question is why you were on the property. You should expect the owner to fix or warn of defects if you are a business customer. For example, the owner of a parking lot should regularly check for potholes and fix them or at least put sawhorses around them.

By contrast, if you illegally trespassed on a private road, then you have far fewer rights. In fact, it’ll be hard to succeed in a legal claim when you are trespassing. Property owners don’t usually owe trespassers a duty of care.

What to Do After an Accident on Private Property

You should immediately stop, just as you would on a public road. This legal obligation applies even to private property.

You should obtain a driver’s license, registration, insurance, and personal details, which you should share with the other motorist.

If you believe a defect on the property caused the wreck, then do the following:

  • Take a picture of the hazard, preferably several pictures, to prove it existed. Ice will melt, and the owner could trim a hedge or fill a pothole. Return to the scene quickly if you don’t have your phone. It’s vital to take pictures before the hazard is fixed.
  • Speak to witnesses. They can provide testimony about the hazard.
  • Get information from the property owner. Sometimes, it’s not easy to know who owns the property. A parking lot, for example, might not be owned by the stores nearby. Instead, a property management company could own it. Look around for a sign listing the property owner.
  • Report the accident to the police. Washington law requires reporting, even if the car accident happened on private property.
  • Visit the hospital for medical treatment. Many people suffer pinched nerves, whiplash, and concussions in low-speed accidents. You should remember to follow your treatment plan.

Llama a Grupo Para La Gente. We will discuss what happened and analyze your legal rights. If hired, we can negotiate a settlement.

Compensation for a Car Accident on Private Property

In most car accidents, we submit a claim on the defendant’s insurance. Washington requires that drivers carry liability insurance so that policy will come into play if a careless driver hits you.

With property defects, the question is whether the owner has any insurance. A business should. A parking garage should have a liability policy that covers accidents in the garage. The same is true of companies that own parking lots.

A private homeowner might also have a homeowner’s insurance policy. So you can submit a claim to them if there’s a pothole in the driveway. Many banks require this insurance if the owner has a mortgage.

Unfortunately, not all homeowners have this insurance, and there might not be any policy that comes into play. As your lawyer, we must investigate whether the defendant has an umbrella policy or other assets to pay a settlement.

Speak with a Car Accident Lawyer

Premier Law Group is an established law firm that has negotiated many settlements for our clients. Look at our results to see the level of skill we bring to each case we accept. Our lawyers understand Washington law surrounding car wrecks, including the important laws related to private property.  If you hire us, you can be sure you’re getting a highly skilled attorney to negotiate. Give us a call to schedule your free consultation.