Watch out: Dangerous Wheel Stops in Parking Lots

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We’ve all seen them. They’re a regular staple in most parking lots. Some of us have probably even scraped the bottom of our car on them as we pulled into a parking spot. Wheel stops. Often made of concrete, these long barriers located at the end of a parking spot are designed to prevent folks from parking on sidewalks, medians, or other restricted areas. Although these devices are designed to promote safety, when they are left unmaintained or placed negligently, wheel stops pose a serious risk of danger.

Wheel stops are responsible for many significant injuries to pedestrians in parking lots. To help visibility, they require contrast markings, preferably with retroreflective paint, so that they can be seen by pedestrians. If wheel stops must be used, then they should be painted a contrasting color, such as yellow, with white striping paint used for marking the parking space. The contrasting color helps the wheel stop to stand out and be conspicuous to pedestrians. They should also be centered on the space, properly maintained, and if used for angled parking, they should be aligned. This helps reduce the chance of exiting a vehicle and tripping on a wheel stop in the adjacent parking space.

If these precautions are not taken, wheel stops can cause life-altering injuries including, traumatic brain injuries, complex fractures, disfigurement, and even paralysis.

Because they are generally on the property of another at the time of their fall, a person injured due to a negligently placed or unmaintained wheel stop has a right to hold the property owner liable for damages.  This is known as premises liability.  Under Pennsylvania law, your reason for being on the property will play a big role in determining your rights against the property owner.

In premises liability cases, folks on a property are separated into 3 categories: invitees, licensees, and trespassers.  A property owner owes different duties to these 3 types of visitors.

Invitees, entering for business, receive the utmost care from property owners, who must maintain safety, warn of hidden dangers, and conduct regular inspections.

Licensees, like social guests, are warned of non-obvious hazards but with a lower duty of inspection than invitees. Owners must also avoid willful harm.

Trespassers, lacking permission, merit limited care: no willful harm, but no duty of inspection or warning unless the property attracts them.

Across the nation, victims of wheel-stop-negligence have recovered large sums of money as compensation for their injuries.  In February 2024, an Illinois woman received an $18 million verdict after she developed complex regional pain syndrome as the result of tripping over a wheel stop in her apartment building’s parking lot.  Similarly, in February 2020, a woman received a $410,000 settlement as compensation for serious injuries she sustained after tripping and falling over a wheel-stop located in a parking lot near an entrance of a day care center.

If you or someone you know has been injured because of a negligently placed or unmaintained wheel stop, give the professionals at Lupetin & Unatin a call—they won’t steer you wrong!

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