Most car accidents happen at busy intersections, highways, or winding country roads. But what happens when there’s a car accident on private property? It’s a scenario that many of us have never considered, and yet it can present a unique set of challenges and legal complexities.
If you’ve been in a car accident that took place on private property, you may find your rights to compensation differs from those of an accident on public roads. In this blog post, we’ll explain some of the legal intricacies of private property car accidents and how an attorney can help you navigate the legal challenges.
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Common Injuries in Private Property Car Accidents
Because car accidents on private property tend to occur at a slower speed, some people assume that these accidents don’t cause major injuries. Whether the accident occurs on a narrow lane or in a parking garage, it can still cause injuries and medical issues that need treatment. After all, the human body is vulnerable to various forces and impacts, no matter the speed. Here are some of the most common injuries seen in private property car accidents:
- Whiplash: Probably the most well-known injury in a slow speed accident, whiplash happens when the head and neck are suddenly jolted forward and backward due to impact. This causes strain and sprain to the neck muscles and ligaments. Symptoms include neck pain, stiffness, headaches, and difficulty in neck movement.
- Soft tissue injuries: Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains, and bruises, are common in private property car accidents. These injuries affect muscles, tendons, and ligaments and can lead to pain, swelling, and a limited range of motion. Ankles, wrists, and shoulders are particularly susceptible to soft tissue injuries.
- Concussions: While less common in accidents on private property, head injuries can still occur, especially if the head strikes a hard surface like the windshield. Concussions can result in symptoms like headaches, dizziness, confusion, memory problems, and nausea.
- Back injuries: In slow-speed accidents on private property, the impact may be absorbed by the vehicle’s seat, reducing the likelihood of severe spinal injuries. However, back sprains, strains, and herniated discs can still occur, leading to back pain, numbness, or tingling in the extremities.
Whether you notice your injury right away or not, it’s always best to seek medical treatment after a car accident on private property. This will help you in your healing as well as help protect you legally. Some places limit the amount of compensation you might receive if you don’t see a doctor in a timely manner.
How Is Private Property Different?
While it might seem like private property car accidents should be the same as those that occur on public roads, there are some major differences. In the case of a private property car accident, the property owner may be pulled into the case, especially if the condition of the property contributed to the accident.
Another issue to consider is how the rules on private property differ from the rules of the road. Still, drivers are legally required to do their best to drive safely. If the garage has a speed limit of 15 mph but you were going 20 mph, that might affect whether you’re eligible for compensation. Other property owners require a permit or liability waiver to drive on their property. These will impact your case.
Car Damaged on Private Property
If your car is damaged on private property, whether it was a residential driveway or parking lot, it can be both frustrating and inconvenient. The first thing you should do is prioritize your safety and the safety of those involved. If there are any immediate dangers or potential for further collisions, move to a safe location and alert others in the vicinity.
Whether it’s a fender bender or more serious damage, make sure to take detailed photographs or videos of the damage. Collect the information of the parties involved, as well as contact information of witnesses. Report the incident to the property owner as soon as possible and give them a clear account of what happened.
Contact your insurance company and review your policy to understand the coverage you have for accidents on private property. Some policies have specific provisions or limitations. If you believe the property owner’s negligence was at fault, you’ll want to contact an attorney as soon as possible. They can assess the circumstances and advise you on potential legal action.
Private Property Car Accident Laws
In private property car accidents, there are a few Utah laws that will affect the outcome of your compensation. First of all, the private property owner may be held liable if negligence can be proved. This is different than in an accident on public roads, where the government typically cannot be held liable.
Some other Utah laws to be aware of include:
- Statute of limitations: As with all kinds of personal injury lawsuits, you have four years to file a lawsuit for a car accident on private property.
- No-fault state: Utah is a no-fault state. This means that anyone involved in a car accident must submit a claim to their own personal injury protection (PIP) first. Only if your injuries are significant can you file a third-party liability claim.
- Comparative negligence: The state of Utah uses comparative negligence to determine liability. This means that you can only be compensated if you are less than 50% at fault for the accident.
Car Accident on Private Property with No Insurance
What happens if you get in a car accident on private property with no insurance? If you’re the one at fault and you have no insurance, you will have to pay for your expenses out of pocket. If the other driver was at fault and had no insurance, you could file a lawsuit against them for your medical bills and expenses if the injuries are substantial. Utah requires PIP insurance, and if you don’t have coverage, you may also face legal consequences, which can include license suspension, fines, jail time, or having your vehicle impounded.
Is the Property Owner Liable?
Not necessarily. However, private property owners have certain responsibilities when it comes to maintaining a safe environment for visitors and tenants. If an accident occurs due to hazards on the property, such as narrow roads, tight corners, inadequate lighting, potholes, or obstacles, the property owner may be held partially or fully responsible for the accident. In these cases, a car accident attorney can help you prove your liability. In other cases, the fault is simply between the two drivers with no involvement from the property owner. An experienced lawyer can help you make your case and determine liability.
How to Determine Liability
Determining liability in a car accident on private property can be more complex. On public roads, there are established traffic laws that help determine fault. However, on private property, liability is often determined based on negligence and the specific circumstances of the accident. Insurance coverage may also vary, as some policies may not extend coverage to accidents that occur on private property. An experienced attorney can help you identify who is likely liable and help you prove your case.
What to Do After an Accident on Private Property
For the most part, you should take the same steps following an accident on private property as you would on public property. Here’s what to do after a car accident on private property:
- Call the police and report the accident. It’s important to have the police document the accident.
- Exchange information with the other driver.
- Document the accident thoroughly, including the property surrounding the accident.
- Contact the property owner. In an accident on public property, this step isn’t necessary. However, even if the property owner is not at fault, it can be useful to communicate with them. They may even have security camera footage of the accident that can help your case.
- Seek medical help as soon as possible. Document your injuries and keep all records.
- Contact an experienced attorney. They will listen to your account and be able to advise you in all steps of the case.
How an Attorney Can Help You
Every car accident on private property is unique, and comes with additional legal complexities. A personal injury attorney is there for you and can help you in the following ways:
- Investigate the accident, specific rules of the private property, as well as potential negligence by the owner.
- Gather evidence for your case. Collect and keep track of police reports and all medical documents.
- Negotiate with the insurance.
- Take your case to trial, if necessary.
- Advise you on your rights as well as steps you should take for the best outcome.
- Identify the potentially liable party and help you prove fault.
Hit and Run Private Property
Hit-and-run accidents on private property are a little bit different than those on public roads. As anywhere else, a hit and run on private property that involves a death or serious injury is a major crime and 911 should be called right away. However, in the case of a minor accident where no one is injured, the police may not come to the scene of the accident. Security camera footage from your house or property may help you catch the perpetrator even if the police do not come. If your car sustains damage after a hit and run on your private property, it’s always a good idea to speak with an attorney before you call the insurance company.
Private Parking Lot Accident
Many accidents in private parking lots involve one car that is parked and one car that is moving. In that case, the driver is usually at fault. But some private parking lot accidents are not nearly as clear cut. Whether it’s two cars trying to occupy the same space or a car backing out into moving traffic, determining fault can be challenging. Since most parking lots are privately owned, they don’t have the same laws as public roadways. However, all drivers have a duty of care to drive carefully through the parking lot. If someone is speeding or not paying attention, they may be held liable for the accident.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident on private property, Harris, Preston, and Chambers are here to help. We’ll take on the work of investigating the accident and building a case so you have the best chance to get the compensation you deserve.