I was pulling into a parking space at the grocery store when the
driver in the next parking spot threw open her door, causing me to
hit it with my front fender. There is minor damage to both
vehicles. Who is at fault? She says it is my fault for
hitting her door, and I say she shouldn't have opened the door
while I was parking next to her. She made a claim against my
insurance policy. What should I do?
I would recommend you make a claim against the other party's car
insurance policy. That way, with claims made by each driver
against the other's liability coverages, the insurance companies
involved will investigate and determine where fault lies and settle
the claims based on that. Keep in mind that the insurance
companies' determination and division of fault may
Parking lot accidents typically are he-said-she-said incidents
-- each driver has his or her own view of what happened and where
fault should lie. For minor incidents like this, police usually
won't even come to write up a report, but leave you to exchange
information and decide on your own about
Without seeing the cars and the damage, we're unable to assign
blame. We can, however, see how it would appear that the
party opening the door would be the one to bear the majority of
fault. As the person pulling into the parking spot, you can't
be sure when a person is going to open their door while the other
party should be aware enough of her surroundings to check for an
incoming car before opening her door.
Luckily for you, the law is normally in your favor with regards
to when a person should open a door. You didn't mention where
you live, but it should be easy for you to look into what state law
says about opening a car door.
Texas transportation code section 545.418
says that a person may not:
- open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to
moving traffic, unless the door may be opened in reasonable
safety without interfering with the movement of other
- leave a door on the side of a vehicle next to moving traffic
open for longer than is necessary to load or unload a
New York State
vehicle and traffic law section 1214
California vehicle code section 22517
basically says the same in that "no person shall open the door of a
vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is
reasonably safe to do so."
While you weren't on a public roadway, the same guidelines
should apply to the grocery store parking lot. This means
that the person opening the car door has the responsibility to do
so only if it's safe.
All that being said, it doesn't mean the insurance companies
will fully exonerate you from having any responsibility. The
insurers will want to examine the damage to each vehicle to help
determine the timing of events and decide if they will hold one or
both of you at fault.
If the person's door were fully open, then it's possible it will
be said you should have seen it and had time to stop. If the
person opened it into your fender, then it would appear that person
didn't take reasonable actions and look before opening their
If each driver is found a bit to blame, then depending upon if
your state has comparative or contributory negligence laws, you may
only be partially able to collect from the other party's insurance
policy for your vehicle's' damages or collect nothing at all.
Either way, I think you'll feel better making a claim and letting
the insurance companies fight it out as to who was at fault.
If your claim isn't paid out by the other party's insurance
company, you can make a collision claim against your own insurance
policy - if the damage is more than your deductible amount.
Remember your collision coverage benefits only start after your
deductible amount is paid. (See "Save your insurance for the big
Determining what kind of coverage to use for a claim can be
tricky. Try out our Crash-o-matic tool that lets you click on
six common accident scenarios to find out what type of insurance
coverage is needed to pay for the damage.