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Insurance Guide

Does the Highway Traffic Act apply to parking lots?

Published August 21, 2013
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Q: Does the Highway Traffic Act apply to shopping mall parking lots? If someone is driving across the aisles in a parking lot, which seems illegal, and hits someone driving down the marked aisle, are they considered to be at fault?

A: Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada replies:

Police operate under the HTA, while insurers and adjusters will review incidents using the lens of the Insurance Act/policy and the Fault Determination Rules.

Although police may not lay charges for a parking lot/private property collision, the insurer will examine how the collision occurred to assess who was at fault.

Insurance fault determination rules do apply in parking lots. Generally, if both vehicles were moving, it’s 50:50. If the impacted auto was stationary, it’s 100 per cent on the other driver.

Eric Lai adds:

HTA charges generally don’t apply to private property, such as mall parking lots. However, motorists are required under the Act to report collisions involving personal injury, or having property damage exceeding $1000, or if a dangerous condition results (eg. a broken gas line).

Criminal charges may apply if malicious damage, serious injury or death results.

Below is a summary of the fault determination rules applicable to parking lots. Information is from insurancehotline.com. Search “fault determination rules” for the full document.

Drivers in a thoroughfare (a lane that directly exits onto a road or highway) have the right of way over a driver in a feeder lane. A feeder lane is a lane in a parking lot that does not directly exit onto a road or highway, such as the lane between two rows of parked cars.

So, for example, if you were in a feeder lane turning into the lane that leads directly to the parking lot exit, you must wait for any traffic in that lane to pass before turning.

Drivers leaving a parking space must yield to any other oncoming traffic. You must wait for all traffic to pass before pulling out of your parking spot.

If you are driving, you are automatically at fault if you collide with a legally parked car. No matter the circumstance, if you hit a legally parked vehicle, you are at fault. On the other hand, if the car is parked illegally, the driver of that car could be at fault.

You must follow all signs in the parking lot. You are automatically at fault if you are in an accident as a result of failing to follow the directions of a traffic sign, such as a stop or yield sign, or if you fail to follow the directions of a police officer.

If you hit the open door of a car, the driver who opened the door is at fault. It is the responsibility of the person opening a car door to ensure that there is no traffic approaching before they do so.

Email your non-mechanical questions to Eric Lai at wheels@thestar.ca. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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