The Louisiana statutes that regulate operation of a motor vehicle do not necessarily apply on private lots, like parking lots at malls or grocery stores. However, if you are involved in a crash on a private lot, insurance laws still apply; private lot crashes are still investigated, and a driver is still subject to citation.
Generally, in most jurisdictions, an officer will respond to a reported parking lot crash. The officer will interview the drivers and passengers and investigate the dynamics of the crash. He will prepare a report designed for private lot crashes, which is a different, less detailed report than the Louisiana Uniform Motor Vehicle Crash Report that L.E. prepares when a crash occurs on a public road.
The report for a private lot crash is essentially a formal means by which the details of the crash regarding the vehicles, drivers, owners, occupants and insurance can be documented. The officer will also take pictures and will include a narrative regarding his own observations of how exactly the crash event happened. The officer does not really “determine fault” and citations generally are not issued; however, citations can be issued.
Operating a motor vehicle in Louisiana requires valid insurance. If you are involved in a private lot crash and the investigating officer determines that you do not have valid insurance on the vehicle, then you may be cited.
Louisiana State Commissioner of Insurance James J. Donelon explains on his website: “Procedures may vary somewhat from place to place, but generally speaking, the law enforcement agency with authority in the area where the parking lot is located will respond when you have an accident there. The law enforcement official will write up an accident report even though the state laws that govern public roadways do not apply in a private parking lot. This means the officer cannot issue citations to the drivers for moving violations such as speeding, but the officer can still take action against a driver for not having liability insurance.”
Further, if you operate your vehicle in an unsafe manner on a private lot, you could be in violation of Louisiana Statute 14:99 Reckless Operation of a Vehicle. LA R.S. 14:99 states that reckless operation is the operation of any motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel or other means of conveyance in a criminally negligent or reckless manner. Because this is a criminal statute, it is applicable everywhere, including private parking lots or private roads.
Each year, during the Christmas season, we respond to an increased number of private lot crashes. Drivers should know that although many laws do not technically apply on private land, some do, including criminal statutes.
The one law that should govern all of us when we drive is the law of common sense. Busy parking lots are filled with cars moving in and out of lanes and parking spaces at every conceivable angle, pedestrians’ walking looking at phones or shopping lists and children running about. Please be careful this Christmas season.