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Don’t let your auto insurance rate get dinged in a parking lot accident

Justin Stoltzfus

When it comes to traffic safety, one issue looms large in the rear-view mirror: parking lot accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that these off-street bang-ups account for about 14 percent of all damage claims in the United States annually.
While most parking lot collisions don’t produce the tragic injuries that high-speed crashes do, they do lead to damage — and auto insurance claims. There’s no silver bullet for avoiding these unpleasant situations. But safety pros do have some tips for leaving the lot without a ding or a dent.
According to AAA, drivers should do the following while navigating parking lots:

  • Look out for pedestrians. Look three ways before moving: up front or behind, and to both sides. Keep an eye out for children, who often are not paying attention.
  • Stay focused. Distracted driving is dangerous in parking lots, too. That means not using your cellphone while pulling in or out of parking spaces.
  • Stay visible. Turn on your headlights. You want pedestrians and other drivers to see you.
  • Wear your seat belt. Even if you’re driving at a low speed, a collision still can cause injuries.
  • Avoid the chaos. Shop during less busy hours. Park away from the entrance (in a well-lit area) to avoid the competition for prime spots.
  • Be patient. Road rage can happen in parking lots, just as it can in rush-hour traffic. If you get in a parking lot jam, remain calm instead of driving aggressively.

Even if you do all of the above, parking lot accidents do happen. When they do, here are some tips for handling the situation:

  • Stay calm. Don’t allow your emotions to cloud your judgment after a crash. Focus on staying proactive and collecting the information necessary for an equitable outcome.
  • Get vehicles (and passengers) to safety. Clear aisles if possible to avoid compounding the problem with additional accidents and traffic jams.
  • Call the police. Getting a police report on file is best for most accidents, even though the offending driver may object.
  • Call your auto insurance company. The sooner the insurer knows about a claim, the better. Delays can make it difficult to remember the facts of the situation and complicate the claims process.
  • Document the crash thoroughly. Photo evidence is best. If there is any visual damage, try to capture it with your cellphone camera. Get the names, contact information and auto insurance information for all drivers involved — and get the phone numbers and addresses of any witnesses.

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