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What Happens When an Auto Accident is on Private Property vs Public Property?

Overall, getting in a crash on private property is similar to getting a crash on public property. It is important to call the police, contact security on-site, and be aware that the private property owner could be partially liable for the crash.

The moments after a car crash can be confusing, stressful, and scary. Thinking clearly can be difficult, even if you are not seriously injured at the time. Worse, it is not uncommon for the at fault driver to put some pressure on you to not do anything, especially if the damage at the scene does not seem severe.

Still, there are always steps you should take to protect yourself and your family. However, these steps may differ depending on whether you are on private or public property.


What are the rules in Florida for private property if there is an accident?

Some people may view the term “private property” and think to themselves that they rarely drive on private property. However, most drivers are not auto accidents on private property in parking lots are not abnormal, and yet cause multiple problems not present on public property crashes.

As property is “private,” you are no longer in an area with full police jurisdiction. Furthermore, you are usually a business invitee in parking lots, meaning that the business is required to verify that the parking lot is safe and usable by the general public.

How does it affect getting the police involved?

Regardless of whether you are in a public or private area, you should still attempt to call the authorities. Depending on the level of damage or injury that occurred, they may or may not come, but you should still try.

If they do come, you will likely not get the full police report that you would get on public property, but you will get an incident report that will document what damages you went through. Some form of documentation from an unbiased agent is better than no documentation whatsoever.

Does this affect insurance claims making it harder for coverage because its private property?

The good news is that you can still file for PIP and PDL insurance in crashes on private property.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) pays for your injuries, while Property Damage Liability (PDL) pays for your property damage. As Florida is a no-fault state, the insurer should pay both of these coverages to you when you make a claim.

However, it is important that you get a record of the crash when it occurs on private property. Insurance companies are not fans of approving claims if there are no records, so make sure you get an incident report from the police, or, at the very least, a report from security on site.

Are you less likely to win a case if it’s on private property?

No, you are not less likely to win the case if it occurred on private property. However, one wrinkle that occurs when you crash on private property is that the property owner could be partially liable for your damages. In public property crashes public jurisdictions are usually immune from liability.

If the only reason the driver at fault crashed into you was because a stop sign fell over, the property owner may actually be liable for the crash. Even if the owner is not liable for the crash, it is certainly likely that the opposing side will attempt to argue that they are, and they will likely get more credence as a private property owner may indeed share in the liability.

Overall, such possibilities should not derail a case, but it certainly makes it slightly more complicated. It is also more important to survey an area and name the property owner a defendant if they indeed do share some responsibility.

Are the steps you take after a car accident on private property different from public property?

Most of the steps are identical. You should still call the police, collect information, refuse to admit fault, take pictures of the accident site, and make sure all people are uninjured.

As mentioned, the police will likely file an incident report rather than a full police report. Partially because of this, an additional step you should take on private property is to contact any security personal on the premises. Most parking lots connected to commercial buildings have these, and by contacting security, you will find that they likely will also make an incident report.

This is important, as it is another piece of evidence that you can use to assist you in your case, especially since you will not have the benefit of a full police report.

Who is responsible for damages? Who is liable?

The person who is negligent for the crash is liable. However, you can sue the party that owns the private property for poor road paving or sign placement.

It is important to review your case to determine whether the opposing driver’s negligence was solely caused by their own actions, or whether the business owner should also share in some of the blame.

Is it worth getting a lawyer if it’s on private property? How can they help?

It is extremely important to get a lawyer for cases regarding private property. Whereas normal car accident cases are complex enough, auto accident cases on property open up a whole new can of worms.

In cases like this where you may have multiple liable parties, and where you may have to work with private security, and with less detailed police incident reports, a lawyer can help navigate the waters in the area.

Going without a lawyer means going against insurance companies who are experts in their field and know how to protect their clients’ private premises. Getting an expert on your side helps make sure that you are properly represented, and that you get the full amount of justice and money you deserve.

public vs private property laws in Florida


What are the rules in Florida for public property if there is an accident?

Public property is under the control of the government, meaning that the police have full jurisdiction over the area. In addition, the city, or jurisdiction that controls the area, is generally immune from negligence claims regarding auto accidents.

How do these laws affect the police getting involved?

As the police have full jurisdiction over public roadways, they may issue citations, and provide full police reports of the car crash. These police reports are thorough and give a more in depth view of what happened during the crash.

While they are not generally allowed in as evidence, the police officers do use these reports to refresh their memories, and a detailed report can essentially be the best evidence of your case through a police officer witness. Having a police officer come to the scene of a crash when it is on the public roadway is therefore extremely important.

Does this affect insurance claims?

The good news is that if you call the police for a public property crash, you will almost always get a response. When the police arrive, they will produce a crash report which will be helpful in determining fault, as the police themselves will make a recommendation of fault. This crash report is extremely helpful to insurance companies, especially if the report finds that you were not at fault.

Who is responsible for damages? Who is liable?

On public property, the city or jurisdiction you’re in will generally have public immunity, meaning you will only have to be worried about the liability of the other driver. This will certainly make things easier, as you will only have to watch out for that particular driver’s negligence rather than the owner of the roadway as well.

In the end, the most important difference between public and private property comes down to the fact that you should contact both the police and private security when on private property, and that the private property owner might be liable.

Contrast this with public property, wherein you just need to contact the police, and focus on the driver that hit you.

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