Businesses with parking lots will usually place a sign reminding patrons that they are both parking at their own risk and that the owner of the parking lot is not responsible for any damage to vehicles that might occur. This is known as a disclaimer and is the parking lot owners’ attempt to lessen their liability for any loss or damage that might occur to the vehicles parked there.
However, many people assume that if anything happens to their vehicle while in the parking lot it is the owner’s responsibility to cover the cost of the damage to vehicle. The truth is that in most instances the parking lot owner is not responsible. But there are some exceptions.
Table of Contents
Where the Law States the Owner is Responsible for Damage to Vehicles
In some states, there are laws in place that say the parking lot owner is responsible for damage to vehicles parked there. This is true even of parking lots that provide park and lock services, where the vehicle owner keeps their keys.
If the Parking Lot Has a Valet
When parking in a lot where a valet is in attendance, patrons have the right to expect that their vehicle will be safe and secure. They can expect to have their vehicle returned to them in the same condition in which it was left.
In legal terms, parking your car in a parking lot with a valet means that you are temporarily transferring possession of the vehicle to the valet, which is known as a bailment. The person parking the car (the owner of the car) is the bailor and the valet is the bailee who will be holding the property in the trust.
The bailor should have the property returned in an acceptable manner because the bailee has a duty to safeguard the property and exercise reasonable care.
If Damage to Vehicles was Caused by the Parking Lot Owner’s Negligence
Parking lot owners cannot disclaim their responsibility if damage or loss was caused by their negligence. For example, if they did not adequately protect the vehicles from potential criminal conduct. This could be by not installing barriers or fences.
Another example is if the car was damaged by hazards in the parking lot and the owner did not warn about them. This includes a poorly maintained parking lot, accumulation of ice, poor visibility, or inadequate design.
Can You Do Anything to Lessen Your Responsibility?
If you are a parking lot owner and you are worried about liability, there are things that you can do to protect the vehicles parked in your lot. The experts at Parking Lot Pros say that one of the easiest ways to prevent negligence is to ensure you keep up with pavement services and have your parking lot regularly maintained.
This will prevent any issues such as cracks and potholes from developing, which can damage vehicles and even cause injury to those using the parking lot. It is also important to ensure that customers are warned of any hidden hazards in advance.
If your parking lot is monitored by an attendant or valet, it is your responsibility to ensure that cars parked are safe and secure. Installing high fences around the parking lot and barriers that must be operated by the attendant will help.
Owners of parking lots may or may not be responsible for damage caused to vehicles in a parking lot, but it depends on the state and the circumstances in which the vehicle was parked. To avoid responsibility because of negligence, parking lot owners should warn customers of potential hazards and take steps to limit such hazards.