Don't let a car accident put a damper on your spirit — a level head may keep parking lot chaos from ruining your holiday shopping.

As holiday shoppers flock to their favourite stores, long lines at the checkout are inevitable. That also means that parking lots are filled with shoppers competing for spots.

How to Handle a Holiday Parking Lot Accident

While parking lot accidents are usually of the fender-bender variety, the first rule is the same: stay calm and check everyone in your vehicle for injuries. If you need medical help for yourself, a passenger or the other driver, call 911 immediately and consider the following:

  • Don’t assume or place blame. Even a simple “I’m sorry” could be taken as an admission of fault in a car accident, and finger-pointing usually only makes things worse.
     
  • Assess the damage to both vehicles. Take pictures of the damage and the positions of all cars involved. Take note of the road conditions and get the name and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident.
     
  • If your cars are blocking a roadway, move them out of the way if it’s safe to do so. Don’t do this until after you’ve taken pictures of the accident.
     
  • Assess the damage to both vehicles. Take pictures of the damage and the positions of all cars involved.

  • If you suspect the other driver is intoxicated or did something illegal to cause the accident alert the police. Keep in mind that police may not respond to an accident that takes place on private property unless there’s damage to the property, someone is injured, or the accident involves drugs and alcohol or an unlicensed/uninsured driver.
     
  • Exchange insurance information with the other driver, including your name, driver’s license number, phone number, your insurer’s name and phone number and your policy number.
     
  • Consider whether you should file a police report if there are no injuries. In Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia, a report is required when the combined damage to both vehicles exceeds $2,000. Most provinces don’t require a report to be filed when damages are less than $1,000.
     
  • If you hit a parked car, take photos of the damage to both vehicles, then try to find the driver or wait for them to return to exchange information. Be aware that leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense under Canada’s Criminal Code, punishable by imprisonment. Some provinces also impose steep fines or jail time for leaving the scene. If no one arrives, leave a note with your name, phone number, driver’s license number and license plate so that the driver of the other vehicle can contact you should there be any issues.
     
  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible and explain what happened. They can help you determine if you need to file a claim for an accident. Review your policy so you know exactly what you’re covered against.
     
  • If you feel any pain or suspect you might have an accident-related injury after the fact, see your doctor as soon as possible. Document any and all doctor visits, the nature of any diagnosed injuries and any treatments or medications your doctor prescribes.

Avoiding a Holiday Shopping Car Accident

While you may not be able to accident-proof yourself completely over the holidays, there are some things you can do to reduce the odds of being involved in a parking lot crash:

  • Time your visit to when the stores — and parking lots — may be less crowded. Consider shopping in the morning or later in the evening.
     
  • Don’t drive distracted. That includes when you’re cruising the aisles looking for a spot, pulling into a spot or backing out of one. Stay alert for cars and pedestrians at all times.
     
  • Don’t box yourself in between larger vehicles. That could make it harder to navigate your way in or out of a spot, potentially increasing the chances of dinging another vehicle.
     
  • Reverse into a parking spot so that it’s easier to see to your surroundings when it’s time to leave.
     
  • Turn on your running lights or headlights when parking in a garage. Do the same in parking lots if rain, sleet, snow or fog make it harder to see. Having your lights on can make you more visible to other drivers.
     
  • Use your mirrors and back-up camera to check for pedestrians and other cars behind. If you’re driving in wintry weather, be sure to clear your front and rear windshields and side windows so you have visibility in every direction.
     
  • If you want to avoid parking lots altogether this holiday season, consider taking a taxi, ride-share or public transit to the mall.
     

A parking lot collision — even a minor one — likely isn’t on your shopping list this year. Being prepared for big crowds and lots of cars can help you avoid a case of the holiday accident blues.

To ensure that you have the right car insurance coverage, call 1-877-749-7224 to speak with a RBC licensed insurance advisor.

 

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.