Who’s Liable for a Crash at a Shopping Plaza?

Who’s Liable for a Crash at a Shopping Plaza?Even though a large portion of Americans use online shopping platforms to buy items, many people still enjoy going to shopping malls and plazas. In fact, more than 100 million people visited a mall in 2018, which is about half of all adults in the United States. This means that shopping malls and plazas, like Parkway Place or Oak Park Shopping Center in Huntsville, may have a lot of traffic in such a small area.

Any type of car accident can occur at a shopping plaza. However, the most common crashes we have seen involving our clients are:

  • Storefront accidents: A storefront accident is when a vehicle crashes into the front of a store. This typically happens when a storefront is facing a busy road or parking lot, and does not have safety features like bollards in front of it.
  • Parking lot accidents: Two cars vying for the same spot, cars moving forward or in reverse, children darting out across the lot, drivers ignoring stop signs – the ways you can be injured in a parking lot crash are innumerable.
  • Entering/exiting accidents: These collisions may happen when a car is trying to exit a lot, space, or plaza at the same time as another car is trying to enter. If they do not pay attention, they may collide.
  • Accidents with delivery trucks: Delivery trucks are frequent visitors of shopping plazas as it is their job to deliver the items and products to the stores and restaurants. One of the more common risks involves cars trying to pass a delivery truck parked in front of a store, while an unsuspecting pedestrian crosses in front of the truck.
  • Pedestrian accidents: In general, pedestrians are at greatest risk of injury in shopping plazas. Drivers don’t always pay attention to crosswalks, and children may run out on their own.
  • Bicycle accidents: Cyclists, like pedestrians, can be difficult to spot. In any collision – even at a lower speed – the cyclist is most likely to sustain severe injuries.

Causes of shopping plaza accidents

When there is a lot of congestion and traffic in one small area, the chance of an accident increases. Driver error/negligence is the most common cause, such as failing to reverse slowly or being distracted by your phone while you drive or park. At the holidays, reckless behavior may be more common, too; everyone wants to get into the shops, and no one wants to park in “that” lot.

But the truth is that not all collisions are the result of driver negligence; the actual construction and design of the lots, entrances, and exits can also play a role. You could be in a shopping plaza accident because of:

  1. Poor visibility and lighting
  2. Inclement weather conditions
  3. Poor parking lot design
  4. Missing traffic signs or signals
  5. Dangerous entryways from highways or roads
  6. Inadequate numbers of crosswalks

Not all shopping plaza incidents involve vehicles

In some cases, people can be seriously injured by other shoppers, too. We’ve all seen stories about people being crushed in the front of a Walmart on “Black Friday,” but that’s not the only time folks are at risk. If a plaza has a lot of dark spaces or not enough security, people can be injured as a result of a crime.

And of course, there is always a risk of a trip, slip, and/or fall. Uneven walkways, unsafe banisters and stairs, even potholes in the parking lot can make for unsafe conditions for shoppers.

How to prove liability in a shopping plaza accident

While shopping plazas are common locations for cars, delivery trucks, bicycles, and pedestrians, some people still forget to pay attention and focus on their surroundings when driving through these compact areas. Therefore, when these accidents occur, there may be various people who are liable.

Our Huntsville personal injury lawyers at Martin & Helms will investigate thoroughly to determine what caused your accident, who is liable, and the losses you suffered. Some of the evidence we will look at to find out this information includes video footage, photographs, medical records, police reports, property damage, and witness statements. Our lawyers will even go to the scene of the crash to get a better understanding of what could have happened on the day of your accident.

Our team firmly believes these accidents are preventable if drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel, drive carefully, and remain focused. Therefore, we will do everything we can to ensure that the responsible parties are held accountable for their actions.

Can a store or shopping plaza be liable for an accident?

Yes, but it’s complicated. A property owner owes their visitors the highest duty of care, but many shop owners do not own the land underneath their businesses; that may belong to a local government or a developer. So while the local drugstore may be liable if you fall on the sidewalk outside of their store, or if you are injured in a crash because someone swerved to avoid a shopping cart that wasn’t taken in, they may not be liable if ownership and/or maintenance of the parking lot falls to another entity.

This is one of the reasons why working with an attorney is a good idea. When there are potentially multiple liable parties, the case will get complicated. Alabama’s premises liability laws are not so straightforward – and based on our experiences practicing law, there will be a lot of finger-pointing by insurance companies.

Besides – you don’t have very long to file a claim. Under Alabama code 6-2-38, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim for your injuries. If you don’t file in time, you could be barred from collecting the compensation you deserve. So the best thing you can do for yourself and your case is to work with an attorney.

The Huntsville personal injury attorneys of Martin & Helms represent those injured in car accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, and more. We have the experience, knowledge, and skills to find out the details of your accident and hold the negligent parties responsible. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We have offices in Huntsville and Decatur, and proudly serve Athens, Madison, and all of North Alabama.