When a car accident occurs on the highway or public road, we all know we need to call an ambulance if it’s bad, and then call the police and exchange insurance information with the other driver. But what if an accident happens while you’re in the parking lot of an apartment complex, or when you’re backing out of a parked spot? A lot of things change when you’re involved in a car accident on private property, and we’d like to talk about those complications in this article.

First Thing’s First: Report the Accident

Even though the accident occurred on private property, you still need to report the accident to the police. When the police arrive to the scene, they’ll let you know that they can’t determine fault or issue a citation; they don’t have jurisdiction on private properties. The police officer might even refuse to fill out an official police report, too — he or she might simply document the incident instead. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, contact your insurance company immediately. A representative from the claims department will let you know exactly what you need to do. Cooperate with the representative and take a ton of photos of the accident — photos can be a huge help when it comes to solving automobile accidents and determining fault. Tell the insurance company exactly what happened at the scene. You should also contact the owner of the private property and tell them what happened; the insurance company might need to talk to them about blind spots, stop signs, and speed limit signs posted around their property. If the property owner employs a private security officer to patrol the area, you should contact that person immediately as well. If the complex does have a security guard, he or she should have no problem with writing a report with the details of the incident.

Determining Liability

When a car accident happens on a public road the state generally assumes no liability to either party, but when it’s on private property, things can change. Both of the parties can be found liable and “at fault.” The owner of the property can even be found at fault for various reasons. For example, if a parking lot has an intersection but no stop sign to let people know who needs to stop and where, the owner can be liable for some or all of the damages. Blind spots in the lot can also lead to liability being placed on the owner.

As a result, property owners will typically become involved in the case and outcome. Depending on the situation, this can be a blessing or a curse. It can be a blessing if the owner is quick to show security footage of the accident — footage that can prove that you’re not at fault. He or she might even be willing to write a report to provide additional details about the accident. It can be bad news, though, if the owner becomes defensive and tries to push back against your insurance company in order to avoid having to contribute to a settlement.

Things can get even hairier if your vehicle happened to be hit while you weren’t present and the driver fled the scene. This situation should result in a “win” on your end because the insurance company should claim uninsured motorist coverage, but again, the owner of the property might be contacted and decide to fight back to avoid any liability.

What to Do

Again, the first step is to contact the police. If the officer refuses to write an official report, keep asking — assertively and politely. Take photos of the accident and contact the owner of the property. If the accident warrants an attorney, don’t hesitate to get in contact with one. An attorney can help you with the police as well as with your insurance company.

Accidents are always difficult, no matter where they occur. The best offensive is often a good defense — and the best defense you can have is driving defensively at all times, especially when on private property. Defensive driving courses can help you learn how to spot a bad driver before disaster strikes, and they can help you become the best driver you can be.

Nowadays, defensive driving courses can even be taken online. To find a defensive driving course, search for an online traffic school that offers courses for your state of residence. Enrolling in traffic school can even help you get out of a traffic ticket and earn you a discount on your car insurance.