What Should I Do If I am in a Car Accident on Private Property?November 23, 2020
When a car accident occurs on a public road, whether it is a busy interstate highway or a quiet residential street, most drivers know the basic steps to take. They call the police, exchange information with the other driver, take pictures of the accident scene, and seek medical attention if there were injuries involved. However, if a car accident occurs on private property, the rules are slightly different, particularly when it comes to determining liability. Although the injured victim may still be eligible to pursue compensation, the claims process can be a bit more challenging, and insurance companies are often reluctant to pay on a claim if the accident occurred on private property. However, a skilled car accident lawyer understands the challenges associated with these types of cases and will negotiate the best possible settlement for the injured victim.
Common Causes of Car Accidents on Private Property
Examples of private property can include a driveway, a privately owned parking lot, or a road that is on private property. The following are examples of ways that car accidents can occur on private property. Motorists can avoid serious car accidents by avoiding these dangerous driving habits:
- Distracted driving: This is one of the top causes of car accidents, both on public roads and highways, and on private property. Using a smartphone to talk or text, adjusting the radio, or reaching for something in the back seat takes the driver’s attention off the road. This can easily cause a collision with another vehicle. In addition, if the property is in a residential area or near a school, there is an increased risk of hitting a pedestrian.
- Impaired driving: Drunk driving accidents that occur on private property are completely preventable, yet people continue to get behind the wheel after having too much to drink or taking drugs. These accidents continue to occur on public roads and highways, and on private property.
- Careless driving: Stopping suddenly, turning without using a signal, or switching lanes without checking the side or rearview mirrors are all examples of careless driving that can cause accidents on private property.
- Tailgating: People often drive too close to the vehicle in front of them when they are in a hurry or running late. This can cause rear-end accidents and other types of collisions when driving on private property.
- Lack of signage: When stop signs, right of way signs, or any other signage that helps direct traffic is missing, drivers can become confused and go the wrong way or fail to stop for another vehicle.
- Unsafe surfaces: Large potholes, ice patches, and debris on private roads can cause car accidents.
What Should Drivers Do Immediately Following an Accident?
The steps motorists should take following a car accident that occurred on private property are generally the same as if the accident occurred on a public road or highway. For example, police should be notified as soon as possible. However, some police officers may not be particularly eager to come to the scene, particularly if there were no serious injuries involved. When an accident occurs on private property, police do not have jurisdiction to take a police report, but they can do an incident report, which is basically a simplified police report. When a driver is filing an accident claim, a police report is a key piece of evidence that will help prove that the other driver was responsible for the accident. In the absence of a police report, an incident/accident report is the next best thing.
The following are additional steps that motorists should take if they are involved in a car accident on private property:
- Exchange contact information with the property owner and the person who caused the accident if that person is not the property owner.
- Collect evidence by taking pictures of the accident scene, including damage to the vehicles, injuries, debris in the road, street signs, and potholes in the road.
- Write down as many details about the accident while it is still top of mind. The more time that goes by after the accident, the more likely it is that the victim will forget important details.
- Victims should not accept an initial settlement offer, since it is likely to be a modest offer.
- Drivers should avoid apologizing, as this can be interpreted as admitting guilt. People often say that they are sorry if they are trying to be polite, not realizing that it can be used against them by the other driver or the insurance company.
- The accident should be reported to the insurance company. Even if the accident caused only minor damage, it is important to notify the insurance company as soon as possible. The sooner the victim reports the accident to the insurance company the better, particularly if the injuries are not obvious right away. This will help ensure that the victims receive financial compensation for his or her injuries as soon as possible.
- Victims should seek immediate medical attention for any injuries, even if they seem minor. Certain trauma, such as internal injuries or head injuries, can be masked by the adrenaline that is coursing through the body immediately after the accident. These injuries can become more serious if they are not diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
- An experienced car accident lawyer should be contacted. It is highly recommended that car accident victims contact a car accident lawyer before they speak to their insurance company.
Proving Liability in an Accident That Occurred on Private Property
When a car accident happens on a major highway, residential street, or any other public road, the state is not usually held liable for accidents that occur, even if there were potholes or other conditions that may have been a factor in the accident. However, when a car accident occurs on private property, the property owner may be liable for the car accident and the resulting injuries. For example, if an accident occurred in a parking lot because of a blind spot or missing signage, the owner of the parking lot may be held partially liable for the accident. In some cases, property owners are willing to assist and will provide security footage, incident reports, and any other information that can help the case. Other times, however, property owners may refuse to offer assistance if they think they will have to pay a large settlement amount.
In some cases, when an accident happens in a parking lot, the responsible party may flee the scene to avoid being held liable for the accident. Oftentimes, this happens when the at-fault driver has little or no auto insurance. When this happens, the property owner’s premises liability insurance may cover some or all of the damages simply because the accident happened on his or her property.
How can a Car Accident Lawyer Help Victims?
A car accident lawyer can help accident victims in a number of ways. A lawyer can assist clients with the claims process, which can be overwhelming, particularly if the accident victim is recovering from serious injuries. In addition, a lawyer will obtain copies of police reports, medical records, and other information that will help with the case. Car accident lawyers also understand that insurance companies will use a range of tactics to avoid paying a large settlement. In fact, insurance companies will do whatever they can to pay the smallest amount possible. Car accident lawyers know how to navigate the claims process and help clients avoid common pitfalls.
To recover damages for the accident, the victim may have to prove that the property owner was negligent, and that the negligence caused the injuries. An experienced car accident lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation, determine whether negligence was involved, and obtain the best possible financial settlement. Ultimately, car accident victims are more likely to receive a significantly higher settlement amount when they have a skilled car accident lawyer on their side.
Damages Victims are Eligible to Receive
Victims of car accidents that occur on private property are eligible to collect the same damages as if the accident happened on a public roadway. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the victims may be eligible for the following:
- Ambulance fees
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Physical therapy
- In-home nursing care
- Medical accessories such as crutches and wheelchairs
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Death benefits for survivors if the accident causes fatal injuries
Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Obtain Financial Compensation for Victims of Car Accidents on Private Property
If you were injured in a car accident on private property, you are urged to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. We understand how overwhelming these accidents can be, particularly if the property owner denies any wrongdoing. Our skilled legal team will conduct a thorough investigation and determine who is liable for your injuries. We will continue to fight for you until we secure the maximum financial benefits you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.