Who is at Fault in a Car Accident When Backing Up?

Want to know who is at fault in a car accident when backing up?

Coronavirus lockdowns in 2020 sharply reduced vehicle traffic. Most people thought the lockdowns would sharply reduce the number of car accidents as well. 

But, the opposite happened. Drivers developed some bad habits, like excessive speeding, as roads emptied. As a result, in 2021, traffic fatalities hit a sixteen-year high .

Whiplash is one of the most common low-speed car accident injuries. A slight amount of force snaps the neck back and forth. Whiplash is hard to diagnose. It doesn’t show up on most diagnostic tests, and the initial symptoms, like neck stiffness, aren’t very serious. However, if not promptly and properly treated, this injury could cause paralysis.

As outlined below, sometimes it’s easy to determine fault in a backing-up car accident. In other cases, this determination is much more complex.

Accidentally Backing Up Into Objects

The newest vehicles have back-up sensors that alert drivers if they’re about to hit a fence or another fixed object. Some vehicles even have onboard computers that automatically apply the brakes in these situations. However, if you’re one of the many, many people who drives an older car, you must back out of the driveway the old-fashioned way. You must turn and look.

In most cases, drivers are 100 percent responsible for these backing-up accidents, no questions asked. Admittedly, some objects, like children’s bikes, are hard to see. However, this difficulty usually doesn’t affect fault.

PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance, which is available in most states and mandatory in a few states, usually covers whiplash and other personal injuries associated with such crashes. These policies usually pay medical bills. They may pay a little toward lost wages as well. Full coverage policies also cover vehicle damage in these cases. If you have liability-only insurance, you’re on your own for vehicle repairs, and probably medical bills as well.

A driver’s insurance policy may also cover damage to the struck object. However, most people are on their own for these damages as well.

Backing Into Another Vehicle or Person

In most states, responsibility issues are much more complex if drivers back into other vehicles or persons.

At one level, there’s a moral responsibility. If Phil backs into his neighbor’s mailbox, he must pay damages (replace the mailbox). If Phil backs into his neighbor’s husband, he must pay damages (compensation for economic and noneconomic losses). The damages are higher because a person is worth a lot more than a mailbox.

At another level, there’s a legal responsibility. Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and avoid crashes if at all possible. However, unlike most trees and mailboxes, most cars and people are capable of movement. Therefore, these responsibility issues are complex. Legal doctrines, like comparative fault, affect legal responsibility.

Basically, this rule shifts responsibility from one person to the other one. Assume Tony is glued to his cell phone and he doesn’t see Alex backing up. Meanwhile, Alex is glued to his cell phone and he doesn’t see Tony behind him. Alex and Tony are each partially at fault for the crash. 

Comparative fault laws vary significantly in different states. So, a lawyer should always evaluate such claims. Even if a police officer said you were at fault for the wreck, you might still be entitled to compensation.  Since situations vary so much, it’s best to talk to a lawyer.  Book a free consultation with a local lawyer through AskLegally.

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