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Can a Private Property Owner be Held Liable for a Car Crash?

private property sign in front of grassMany car crashes happen on public roads, like interstates and highways, but a significant number happen on private property as well. Some examples of car accidents that occur on private property include parking lot crashes that happen outside of shopping malls, hotels and restaurants.

While many car crashes are the result of negligent driving, property owner negligence could also play a role. For example, poor road conditions, poor road designs or lack of signs could contribute to a private property car crash. Private property owners could also bear fault for car vs. pedestrian crashes or bicycle vs. pedestrian crashes.

Although Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, liability could come into play in a car accident claim, particularly if the crash happened on private property. If your damages exceed your insurance limits, you may be able to seek compensation from the at-fault driver and/or the property owner.

Schmidt Kramer’s licensed Harrisburg auto accident attorneys are here to assist you with seeking compensation for car crash damages.

Differences Between Public Property Crashes and Private Property Crashes

Generally, local governments and municipalities bear no liability for crashes that occur on their roads. There are times when these entities may hold some amount of fault for a crash, but these situations are rare.

However, private property owners may be more likely to bear some amount of fault for a crash that happens on their premises. For example, maybe the road or parking lot fell into disrepair and there are potholes everywhere, making it harder to control your car when traveling through the lot.

If the crash happened in a parking garage, it is possible narrow lanes or blind corners contributed to it. In this situation, the owner of the parking garage may bear fault for what happened.

If there is a blind corner on a road, it may have been reasonable for the property owner to put a sign warning about it. For example, some shopping malls are set up so those driving into the mall parking lot have the right of way and do not stop. Without signs indicating this, there could be a serious crash because someone expected the cars entering the parking lot to stop.

Bad or nonexistent lighting or unmarked construction are other examples of conditions for which private property owners could be held liable.

Property owners have a legal responsibility to take reasonable steps to keep visitors safe. While this responsibility is often thought of in the context of providing adequate security to prevent crime on the premises, this responsibility may also apply to preventing car crashes.

Extra Evidence for Private Property Car Crashes

Another difference between a crash on private property and one on public property is private property owners may have security cameras that captured the crash. This type of evidence could be crucial in some cases, particularly if there are no witnesses or the drivers have conflicting accounts of what happened.

Unfortunately, private property owners may not be forthcoming with evidence like this, particularly if they think they could be held partially at fault for the crash. They may even try to resolve the issue quickly by offering victims money at the scene.

It is important not to try to settle a claim at the scene. You never know how serious your injuries could be and you may need more compensation than a property can provide with a case offer at the scene.

You may not think the crash is that big of a deal because it happened at a relatively slow speed. However, even at slow speeds, you can suffer significant injuries that require extensive treatment. You may assume your injuries are minor only to later discover you need weeks of treatment to deal with ongoing pain.

Steps to Take After a Private Property Crash

If the property owner becomes defensive and does not want to help you document the crash, there is no need to get angry. Even if the property owner wants to file an accident report, you should call the police so an officer can come document the scene.

Contacting the Police

You are required by state law to call the police after a car crash that results in injury or damage to the vehicle that prevents you from driving it away from the scene. Failing to do so is not only illegal, it could hurt your chances of recovering insurance compensation.

Getting Treatment

Seeking medical treatment right away is also important. Maybe your injuries are not that serious, but it is better to have a doctor tell you that after a thorough examination than for you to make that assumption on your own.

If you assume your injuries are not that bad and wait to seek treatment, they could get worse. Waiting for treatment could also weaken your claim for compensation, particularly if your attorney seeks compensation from the private property owner.

Even though you will be seeking compensation from your own insurance company first through a no-fault claim, they might try to deny your claim if you wait to seek treatment. They may argue they are not liable because you were injured by something besides the crash.

Finding an Attorney

Contacting an attorney is one of the most important things to do after a crash, particularly if it happened on private property. Proving a property owner bears liability can be complicated and this is not something you should try to do on your own, particularly when dealing with a serious injury.

Documenting the Scene

If you can do so without putting yourself in harm’s way, take pictures of the scene. The property owner may try to cover up problems after you leave the scene to avoid accountability. You may also want to write down what you remember about the crash before you forget.

If you cannot take pictures at the scene, your attorney may be able to. You may be concerned it is too soon to call a lawyer, but if you were hurt in a crash, an attorney may be able to help. It is almost never too soon to call a lawyer. There are times when lawyers get calls from the scene of a crash or from a victim who is at the hospital and the lawyer is able to visit the scene not long after the crash.

Schedule a Free Consultation for Help with a Car Crash Claim

With three decades of experience, and more than $100 million recovered on behalf of our clients, Schmidt Kramer’s licensed attorneys are prepared to help victims of negligence.

We also take cases on contingency, so we do not charge upfront fees. We do not get paid for representing you unless you receive compensation.

Set up a free consultation by calling us today. We are ready to help you.

Schmidt Kramer. Licensed. Local. Lawyers. Call (717) 727-2089.