Who is responsible for accidents within gated communities?
Question: I live in a gated community. Who is responsible for accidents within gated communities?
The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code (Title 75) still applies to motorists within a gated community, to the extent it can. In other words, in the absence of yield or speed limit signage, part of the Code would not be applicable. The “default” law is very simple: one must operate a motor vehicle in a reasonably safe and prudent fashion. If the community is populated with children, for example, and it is Summer time, driving more than 15mph would probably be imprudent, even in the absence of a 15 mph speed limit sign. Some code violations would be the same inside or outside, such as the prohibition against driving while intoxicated or failing to use turn signals.
The problem we typically see in parking lot and gated community cases is, when the police do respond, the police reports often lack clear diagrams of the scene (perhaps it is hard to identify road names) and there is often no assessment of fault even when it seems warranted. The police report is more a matter of documenting that there was an accident than a report of how it happened and who violated which law to cause it to happen. In part, this may be due to the lack of traffic control devices, making the issuance of a formal citation hard to support if there were a court hearing.
Here are some tips if you are involved in such an accident:
- Call the police. It is best that there be a report, even if it is less formal than a collision on a public roadway.
- Take photos of the damage to your vehicle AND to the other vehicle, even if only with the use of your cell phone.
- If at all possible, do not move the vehicles before the police arrive.
- Look for witnesses and if you find them, ask for their name and phone number. Independent fact witnesses are particularly crucial in this type of a case, where it is difficult for the police to assess fault based on the physical evidence with minimal traffic control devices.
- If you are hurt, tell the police you’re hurt. Don’t be embarrassed. It is important first and foremost for your health and also for purposes of potentially making a third party liability claim.
In general, drive with due care and caution for other members of the community—pedestrians and fellow motorists alike—no matter what time of day it is and no matter how much traffic appears to be out and about. That rule of thumb will serve you well. It is rare to be found liable for driving too warily or too slowly.