In Florida, a parking lot may be public or private. A public parking lot is one owned by the federal government, the state, a county or a city. A private parking lot is owned by a private landowner, such as the owner of a shopping mall. One or multiple parties may be at fault in a parking lot accident.
A law enforcement officer may come to the scene of the accident if one or more parties are injured. If nobody has been injured, a law enforcement officer may choose not to come to the scene of a car accident on private property.
No State Laws for Parking Lots
The state of Florida does not have a particular set of laws that governs the behavior of drivers, pedestrians and vehicles in parking lots. Cities and counties may have municipal ordinances regarding parking in public parking lots. For example, a public parking lot may have a rule that a driver may only use one parking space per motor vehicle. This is the case in Tampa, which also requires that the driver keep the car within the lines of the parking space.
Maintaining Parking Lots
An operator of a parking lot is expected to maintain the lot in adequate condition. Adequate means that the area is well-lit, the asphalt is not broken, the parking spaces are clearly marked, and there are spaces for people with disabilities to park near the front of the lot. If an operator breaches their duty, a party whom has been injured by their actions or by another driver due to the operator’s failure may file a negligence lawsuit against the operator. An injured party can sue multiple parties at once.
Exercising Ordinary Care
A motorist is expected to exercise a duty of reasonable care when operating a vehicle in Florida. For example, when driving in a Florida parking lot, they should drive at the posted speed limit or slowly, typically around 5 mph. They should obey the signs in the lot, such as to yield at certain spots in the lot.
A driver making a left turn is expected to exercise a greater degree of care than vehicles in other spots. If two cars collide when turning into the same parking space, the driver turning right generally has priority over the driver turning left. The driver of the car that is mostly in the parking space has a greater claim to the spot.
Rights of Way in Parking Lots
There are two types of lanes in a parking lot, thoroughfares and feeder lanes. A thoroughfare is bigger and leads to the street; a feeder lane is smaller and leads to a thoroughfare. A driver in a thoroughfare lane typically has the right of way over a driver in a feeder lane.
The driver should keep a reasonable distance between cars and give pedestrians the right of way. They should also have components on their vehicle, like taillights, in good working order so they can signal to other drivers. When drivers breach their duties, an injured party may file a negligence lawsuit against them.
Who Has Right of Way?
Typically, the driver in the through lane has the right of way, and the driver who is backing up does not have the right of way. A driver who is backing up should look to see if they are getting in the way of another driver or pedestrian.
At times, there may be multiple parties at blame for a motor vehicle accident. For example, if a driver was backing up into a blind area, and another party was acting as a lookout and failed to warn the driver who hit a pedestrian, three people might be found at fault: the driver, the lookout and the operator of the parking lot, if they maintained a lot in which it would be easy for an accident to occur.
Hitting a Parked Car
Typically, an individual who hits a parked car is the one at fault for the accident. A driver who causes damage to a vehicle in an apparent amount of at least $500 must immediately give notice of the accident by the quickest means of communication to the local police department. The party at fault should provide the location of the accident, their name and contact information, and the license plates of the vehicles involved.
Violating the Florida statute regarding this matter is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a non-moving traffic infraction. Florida law states that a police report is required if any of the drivers were under the influence of an intoxicating substance such as drugs or alcohol; the vehicles involved were completely ruined or had to be towed; a party was injured in the accident; a commercial motor vehicle was in the accident; or there was a death at the scene.
How Fault Is Determined
Florida is a comparative negligence state. This means that if the injured party is partly at fault for the accident, their recovery will be reduced by the percentage of their fault. A party's contribution to an accident does not completely bar them from any recovery.
Florida is also a no-fault state. This means that every policyholder must have $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP). The coverage pays for medical expenses no matter who is at fault for the accident.
Consequences for Parking Illegally
There are many wrong ways to park. Mistakes include: parking across the lines of two or more parking spaces; parking in an exit or entrance; parking in a loading zone; failing to pay for parking; using another person’s permit; using an expired permit; parking in an access aisle (a striped area); and using a parking spot for a disabled person when the driver does not have a disabled parking permit. A violation of a public or private parking lot rule regarding parking within the lines and parking in certain zones may cause the driver’s vehicle to be booted and towed. A public parking lot may also charge a fine for a violation of a rule.
Parking in a spot for a disabled person without a permit incurs severe penalties. The owner of the lot may remove the vehicle in violation, and the driver will be charged for the tow and the time spent in the tow lot. In addition, the driver may be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. The penalties are up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000. A disabled permit holder may not loan their permit to a family member.
Vehicle Storage in Parking Lots
Municipal lots typically do not allow vehicle storage on public property. A driver should read the rules of the parking lot to determine what is allowed. A driver who reserves a parking space in a private lot may be allowed to keep the car there as long as they pay fees.
Damaging Property in a Parking Lot
A parking lot may contain certain structures or property that a driver could damage, such as an electric vehicle charging station, a pay station or a parking structure that houses vehicles. A driver who does not exercise reasonable care with regard to such objects and causes damages to them will be liable for the damage. A lot operator may file a civil lawsuit for negligence to require the driver to compensate the city or a private owner of the lot for damages.
The operator of the parking lot may also require that a driver who damages property within the lot have their vehicle towed from the lot. Further, a private operator of the lot may ban the driver from the lot.
- 2021 Florida Statutes: Section 627.7407, Application of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law
- 2021 Florida Statutes: Section 627.736, Required Personal Injury Protection Benefits; Exclusions; Priority; Claims
- City of Miami Beach: Parking, Frequently Asked Questions
- Tampa Code of Ordinances: Chapter 15, Parking
- 2021 Florida Statutes: Section 316.1955, Enforcement of Parking Requirements for Persons Who Have Disabilities
- City of Hollywood, Florida: Handicap Parking
- Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: Disabled Person Parking Permits, Frequently Asked Questions
- 2021 Florida Statutes: Chapter 324, Financial Responsibility
- 2021 Florida Statutes: Section 316.065, Crashes; Reports; Penalties
- 2021 Florida Statutes: Section 316.066, Written Reports of Crashes
- 2021 Florida Statutes: Section 768.81, Comparative Fault
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.