Backing up accidents are a specific type of vehicle-pedestrian accidents in which the driver runs over a person as they are backing up. These accidents can happen in any situation in which a driver is backing up their vehicle; however, they are most common when a person is backing out of their own driveway.
The majority of backing up accidents involve victims who are young children, aged one to two years old. Child victims may be a neighbor or a close family relative of the driver; they may even be the driver’s own child.
Some common examples of other circumstances or locations where backing up accidents frequently occur include:
- Parking lots, such as gas stations or retail centers;
- Near senior care homes; and
- Near schools or day care centers.
Backing up accidents generally involve very serious injuries, and sometimes fatalities. This is especially true when small children are involved in an accident.
Because backing up accidents are a type of vehicle-pedestrian accidents, it is helpful to further discuss who could be considered a pedestrian in a vehicle-pedestrian accident. In all fifty states, a pedestrian is defined as an individual who is traveling on foot, whether walking or running. Some states maintain a broader definition of the term “pedestrian,” which extends to include individuals who ride on:
- Roller skates;
- Bicycles; or
The term can also include anyone using a wheelchair.
Who Can Be Held Liable For a Backing Up Accident?
Generally speaking, the driver of the vehicle can be held liable for injuries or losses caused by a backing up accident. Two examples of legal theories that can be used include reckless driving and/or negligence.
Reckless driving refers to driving a vehicle at a speed, or in a manner, that shows an utter disregard for the safety of people or property. Another way of putting it is that a reckless driver is aware that they are driving dangerously, but chooses to continue doing so despite the risk. States differ in their classification of reckless driving; reckless driving is considered to be either a misdemeanor criminal offense, or a misdemeanor traffic offense, depending on the state. Some states refer to the violation of reckless driving as “careless driving.”
A person is said to be negligent if they acted carelessly, given the circumstances of the situation. Negligence has four parts that must be shown in order to recover damages for injuries sustained as a result of the negligent behavior:
- Duty: Duty refers to the responsibility one person owes to another person. Generally speaking, people going about their day owe a duty of “reasonable care” to each other. Reasonable care is the amount of care that an ordinary and prudent person would use in the same situation;
- Breach: A breach occurs when a person’s level of care falls below the level required by their duty;
- Causation: The breach of duty must result in injury. The legal test for causation is complex; to simplify, the basic test is ‘but for’ one party’s actions, the injury would not have occurred; and
- Damages: There must be some sort of quantifiable harm that occurred. The specific type of injury can vary from property damage, to emotional stress and lost wages.
An example of reckless driving or negligence would be if a person is backing out of their parking space much too quickly. It is possible for them to be found liable for any resulting accident. Another example would be when a person fails to make reasonable checks of their surroundings before driving in reverse.
In some particular cases, the manufacturer or producer of the vehicle may be held liable for a backing up accident. An example of this would be if the vehicle has a parking brake failure which causes it to roll down a driveway. Another example of this would be if there is a malfunction with the gas pedal, which causes the vehicle to accelerate in reverse without the driver’s control. The vehicle’s manufacturer could be held liable under the defective product legal theory.
What Are The Legal Remedies For A Backing Up Accident Claim?
If a pedestrian is lawfully walking when the accident occurs, the pedestrian may be able to sue for negligence. In order to have a successful claim, the pedestrian will need to prove that the driver owed a duty of care, which they breached. The pedestrian must also show that the breach was what caused their injuries, and that they sustained damages or monetary losses from that injury.
It is important to note that pedestrian recovery may be limited in some states. An example of this would be how in a “contributory negligence” state, an injured pedestrian may be barred from recovering damages if they themselves are negligent. Some state laws have determined that if a pedestrian is more than 50% negligent, and the driver is less than 50% negligent, the pedestrian may not recover any damages from the motorist.
Comparative negligence states have determined that the amount of recovery is reduced by the extent to which the pedestrian was themselves negligent. An example of this would be if the pedestrian was 50% negligent; they would receive 50% less in damages than they would have if they had not been negligent at all.
Claims for vehicle-pedestrian accidents, such as backing up accidents, are generally considered to be a type of personal injury claim. Personal injury claims are legal actions in which a person has suffered:
- Physical, mental, and /or emotional injuries; and/or
- Property damages.
If the injured party files a claim or lawsuit, they will most likely be requesting some form of financial compensation from the responsible party. This compensation is also known as compensatory damages, because they are compensating the recipient for the injuries they suffered.
For a claim for a backing up accident, legal remedies will most likely include a monetary damages award. The awarded amount will usually be sufficient to cover losses such as:
- Medical bills;
- Hospital expenses;
- Property damage; and
- Other costs, such as loss of income from missing work because of the accident.
In cases involving wrongful death, other associated expenses may be compensated for as well. An example of this would be funeral costs.
Do I Need a Lawyer For a Backing Up Accident Lawsuit?
If you have been involved in a backing up accident, you should consult with an experienced and local car accident lawyer as soon as possible. State laws can vary widely in terms of what constitutes a pedestrian, as well as personal injury and negligence law. A local attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your state’s specific laws, and how those laws may affect your legal options moving forward.
Whether you are the driver of the vehicle or the pedestrian, an attorney can help you gather evidence to support your claim in court. Examples of evidence can include witness statements, copies of medical bills, and photographs from the scene of the accident. Your attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, while protecting your legal rights.
If you are the injured party, your attorney will work towards a suitable damages award for you. If you are the driver involved in the backing up accident, your attorney can help determine whether any legal defenses are available to you, based on the specifics of your case.