Parking Lot Right-of-Ways in California: What to Know

by Staff | June 16th, 2023

Originally published December 6, 2021.

Auto accidents can happen at any time and anywhere. Due to the busy nature of parking lots, minor accidents are quite common. There are over 50,000 accidents in parking lots and parking garages every year. This is usually because one or more drivers are not paying proper attention to what is happening around them.

In extremely busy parking lots with high volumes of pedestrians and other vehicles, it’s easy for drivers to become confused about who has the right of way. Read on to learn more about California’s right-of-way rules and how they apply within parking lots.


In California, the default rule for parking lots is that the driver who is in the flow of traffic has the right of way. This means the driver traveling in the main lane has the right of way over individuals pulling out of parking spaces or feeder lanes. Feeder lanes have the right of way over vehicles backing out of a parking spot.

A driver exiting a parking space is responsible for stopping, checking for oncoming traffic, and pulling out of the space only when they have sufficient time and room to do so safely.

At an uncontrolled intersection in a parking lot, the first car to stop at the intersection typically has the right of way. All parties should stop and then proceed slowly in the order in which they arrived at the intersection.

If two drivers arrive at an intersection at the same time, the driver on the left should yield to the driver on the right. Remember to use your turn signals even in a parking lot to communicate with other drivers.

Some parking lots have one-way lanes with directional arrows; for the safety of all drivers, it’s critical to pay attention to these markings and travel in the direction indicated.

If two drivers are vying for the same parking spot, a driver crossing a traffic lane must yield.

Just like on the road, pedestrians have the right of way in parking lots. You must yield to pedestrians who are crossing in the parking area, especially at designated crosswalks.


Fortunately, most of the parking lot accidents are at slow speed and tend to be minor incidents. The types of accidents that may occur in parking lots are:

  • Driving the wrong way down a one-way lane
  • Backing out of a parking space without looking
  • Rear end collisions due to cars stopping suddenly
  • Driving at unsafe speeds
  • Turning sharply in front of oncoming vehicles
  • Driving through a crosswalk or stop sign
  • Distracted driving due to looking for an open parking space rather than the road ahead

The chances of serious injuries increase when the accident occurs at high speeds or involves a pedestrian. A pedestrian involved in a collision with a vehicle may suffer a range of injuries from the relatively minor, like bruises, to catastrophic, like a serious injury to the head or back.

What to Do After an Parking Lot Accident

If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident in a parking lot, make sure you:

  • Take photographs of the scene, the position of the vehicles, and any injuries you have sustained.
  • Record the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any independent witnesses.
  • Get the other driver’s name, address, license number, and insurance details.
  • Visit your doctor as soon as possible and seek medical advice on any injuries, however minor they may seem.
  • Notify your insurance company of the accident.

If you suffer an injury in a parking lot accident, it’s best to seek legal advice from a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. They can safeguard your rights and pursue a compensation claim on your behalf.

CAN THE OWNER of the parking lot BE LIABLE?

In California, property owners may be held liable for injuries caused by the dangerous conditions of their properties, and this includes owners of parking lots. A parking lot owner may be liable for many reasons, including:

  • Failing to make necessary repairs (such as fixing potholes)
  • Failing to mark directions of travel in lanes
  • Failing to mark crosswalks for pedestrians
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Failing to provide sufficient staff or staff training (such as what staff should do in the event of an injury or accident)

If you were in a parking lot accident and think you were a victim of a parking lot owner’s negligence, your best is to contact an experienced parking lot accident attorney as soon as possible. Your ability to obtain adequate compensation might hinge on the decision.


If you have suffered an injury in a parking lot due to the negligence of another driver or the parking lot’s owner, contact our firm and seek legal advice to protect your rights. You may be eligible for damages if, for example, another driver failed to yield the right of way, resulting in your injuries.

California car accident lawyers at Berg Injury Lawyers offer a no-obligation, free attorney consultation and help you pursue the compensation you are entitled to. Contact our law firm today to get started.