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Parking Lot vs. Roadway Crashes: Challenges, Liability, and More

parking lot vs roadway crashes

Whether your crash occurred on a country road, busy highway, or parking lot, don’t assume the case will “work itself out.” If you’re at all familiar with insurance, you know they’re more than eager to deny your claim or write you a check for an amount far less than what you need.

A dedicated attorney will help determine liability and work to get the compensation you need. Reach out to our Denver car accident lawyers online or call (720) 594-6256 to schedule a free consultation.

In the meantime, keep reading to learn more about parking lot vs. roadway accidents in Colorado.


Any type of crash is a headache, but several nuances exist in parking lot accidents that make these collisions particularly challenging for victims.

You’re more likely to experience serious damage in a road crash, but certain issues – right-of-way, liability, and hit-and-runs, to name a few – are far more common in parking lot accidents.

That brings us to our first major challenge in parking lot accidents: determining liability through right-of-way.

1. Right-of-Way Isn’t as Easy to Determine in Parking Lot Crashes

Let’s say you’re driving on E470 towards Aurora. You get off on your exit and know you have the right-of-way because the green left-turn arrow is flashing. You start to turn left, but suddenly, a car on the other side of the intersection pulls out and crashes into the front of your car.

parking lot vs roadway crashes intersection

In this scenario, the other driver is liable for the collision because they hit you while you had the right-of-way.

Right-of-way is usually more straightforward in highway and roadway collisions because of traffic laws, like the left-turn arrow law.

Those laws don’t exist in parking lots. There are no green arrows or turn lanes, but generally, the car traveling down the parking lane will have the right-of-way. The “parking lane” (also known as the “thoroughfare”) is the long, straight “road” that runs perpendicular to the rows of parking spaces. That’s easy enough, but let’s look at a few scenarios where right-of-way becomes a little more murky.

2. Right-of-Way in Parking Lots: Backing Out of a Space

Anyone trying to back out of a space must watch for vehicles traveling down the parking lane. Remember, cars in the parking lane have the right-of-way. If you don’t look behind you and back out of a spot, and are then rear-ended by a car traveling down the parking lane, you could be held liable because they had the right-of-way, not you.

Sometimes, two vehicles collide into each other when backing out of separate spaces. In this scenario, both drivers could be held liable for failing to check behind them properly.

3. Right-of-Way in Parking Lots: Crossing Over White Lines to Get to an Exit

Many people do this to save a few seconds, and even though it technically isn’t illegal to drive over empty parking spaces, it’s risky behavior that could cause an accident. Let’s say you’re in a fairly full parking lot, with about 80% of the spaces taken. You get in your car and notice that the spot in front of you is empty. You look behind you and see a line of cars waiting to exit, so you decide to pull forward instead.

Vehicles are parked on either side of the empty space, and as you pull forward, another vehicle pulls in to the spot and hits the front of your car. In this scenario, you would likely be liable for the accident because the other driver had the right-of-way for that spot.

Generally, slowly backing out of a spot is safer than pulling forward through an empty space, especially if cars are blocking your view in the front.


Right-of-way is the most common factor for determining liability in both parking lot and roadway accidents, but it’s not the only one. Here are two other factors that you and your attorney can evaluate to help determine fault:

1. Who Was Moving

  • In the case of a parking lot crash: If only one car was moving at the time of the collision, the driver of that car will generally be held liable. Of course, there are unique situations where this doesn’t hold up. For example, if one car was parked illegally in a spot, or parked in the middle of the thoroughfare, someone else could hit them, and even though the person who hit them was the only car moving, they may not be liable.
  • In the case of a roadway crash: It’s fairly easy to determine liability by identifying who was and who was not moving legally at the time of the crash. For instance, drivers who proceed forward when their light turns green in the proper lane are moving legally. Drivers who speed forward after the light turns red or switch lanes in the middle of an intersection aren’t moving legally.

2. The Type of Accident

parking lot vs roadway crash fault
  • In the case of a parking lot crash: As mentioned earlier, fault in backing-up collisions usually falls on the driver who was backing out of the space. In the event of a pulling-forward crash, the driver who pulled out of the parking space will also generally be held liable.
  • In the case of a roadway crash: Rear-end accidents that occur on highways and other roads are almost always the fault of the driver in back. Note the words almost always: there are some situations where the driver in front causes the person behind to rear-end them. For example, if the driver in front goes from driving 50 mph to slamming on their brakes without warning, they could be liable even though someone else hit them.

In a parking lot or roadway crash and wondering who may be liable? We can help.

In this post, we’ve mostly discussed differences in parking lot and roadway crashes. Their biggest similarity? Insurance. All insurance companies are notorious for denying claims, grossly undercutting value of property, and putting people through headache after headache, even when the accident wasn’t their fault.

The personal injury attorneys at Zaner Harden Law remove the frustration. Unlike the insurance company, we fight for you and your best interests. 

Contact our Denver Car Accident Law Firm Today For Help

For more information please contact Zaner Harden Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free initial consultation with a Denver car accident lawyer.

Zaner Harden Personal Injury Lawyers

1610 Wynkoop Street, Suite 120. Denver, CO 80202
(720) 613 9706

Where We Are

We are located across the street from Union Station in downtown Denver and offer validated parking for all our clients. We also have offices in Boulder and Colorado Springs.