Backing up to pull out of a parking spot or for any other reason suggests other vehicles have the right-of-way, but that does not mean an accident automatically is the fault of the person backing up. Many factors could make it possible for another vehicle’s driver to be partly or wholly at fault for causing an accident with a driver who was backing up.
Most drivers back up when they are exiting a parking spot. That accounts for only 1% of the total driving time that most people obtain. So, backing up is the least developed driving skill that most people possess. Whether the person backing up is at fault often comes down to determining if the driver backing up made a mistake.
How to Determine Who is At Fault When Backing Up
Backing out of a parking spot might result in a collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian. Backing into a stationary object would result in an automatic declaration of fault on the part of the motorist by an auto insurer, as would backing into a parked or stopped vehicle.
But a moving vehicle or even a pedestrian on the move could be partly or fully at fault for causing an accident. If the person driving the vehicle were intoxicated and speeding, that could place most and possibly all fault on that individual. The same could be said of a pedestrian who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A vehicle’s condition also could cause someone else to be liable other than the driver who was backing out of a parking spot. The other vehicle might not have had working headlights. Or maybe the driver was traveling without lights on while driving at night. That could cause an accident with a vehicle that is backing out of a parking spot.
There are many other ways in which fault could be challenged. If the other motorist was violating traffic laws in any way or otherwise operating a vehicle unreasonably, that could be grounds for negligence that resulted in an accident.
The potential for drawn-out legal complications makes it important to determine fault whenever possible.
Fault for Parking Lot Accidents When Backing Up
Parking lots are where most people are likely to experience an accident while backing up. It also is where people are most likely to be struck by someone who is backing out of a parking spot. Like roadways, many parking lots have designated travel lanes. Parking lots have two general systems for directing drivers. Those two systems are thoroughfares and feeder lanes.
A thoroughfare is a lane of traffic that eventually connects to a roadway. It is a primary way to exit a parking lot and enter the roadway. A feeder lane merges into a thoroughfare and does not exit onto a roadway. The manner in which the parking spots are laid out and lane markings help to guide the flow of traffic. While lane markings do not carry the weight of law, reasonable drivers abide by them.
Parking lots often have traffic controls, such as stop signs, that motorists should abide. Because the traffic controls are on private property, they do not carry the weight of the law. However, reasonable drivers typically observe them. The way in which a parking lot is laid out, how its traffic normally flows, and how a reasonable motorist would act all help to place equal responsibility on both drivers.
A motorist could back out of a parking spot in a reasonably slow and safe manner. If a motorist comes from a direction of travel that is opposite what lane markings indicate, an accident might be that driver’s fault. Comparative liability at least could reduce the potential liability for the driver who was backing out of the parking space.
There are many ways in which a motorist would drive unreasonably and cause an accident with someone who is backing out of a parking spot.
Accidents While Backing Up Can Cause Injuries or Death
Many people might assume an accident in a parking lot or while backing out of a parking space would amount to no more than an inconvenient fender-bender. But the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that accidents while backing up cause more than 12,000 injuries and about 200 deaths every year.
NHTSA also says that large commercial trucks account for about half of all accidents that occur while backing up. The potential for a large commercial truck causing an injury while backing up is much greater than with a private passenger vehicle. Those are in private passenger cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans are more susceptible to suffering injuries or death when they get into even low-speed accidents with big rigs.
Private passenger vehicles are lower and weigh less than commercial trucks. That means they take the brunt of the damage when either striking or when struck by a truck while it is backing up. Those same passenger vehicles could be very deadly toward motorcyclists and pedestrians, though.
Most private passenger vehicles weigh about 4,000 pounds. A motorcycle weighs closer to 600 pounds. And a pedestrian much less. Pedestrians include anyone who is riding a bicycle, skateboard, or even a scooter. And they are especially susceptible to injury or death when struck by a vehicle while it is backing out of a parking spot.
How to Determine Fault if You Were Struck by a Driver Backing Out of a Parking Spot
It generally is much easier to prove fault when another driver backs into a vehicle. The best way to prove who is at fault in a backing-up accident is to show:
- Who had the right-of-way.
- Whether a vehicle was stopped or moving.
- Type and location of vehicular damage.
- Statements for witnesses.
- Video footage when available.
An experienced Chicago car accident attorney could help to build a strong legal case against the other party. An attorney could help to determine if a person backing up was at fault for an injury accident.
What to Do Following an Accident
Knowing what to do after the crash could help to lessen the extent of personal injuries that might occur. It also could help to build a strong case against an at-fault driver and net a faster and larger insurance payout.
Even a low-speed accident that does not cause injury could be upsetting, but it pays for victims to stay calm and carefully assess the situation, including the health of everyone involved in an accident.
The first thing to do following an accident is to check for signs of injuries and obtain medical treatment as soon as possible. If an obviously serious injury occurs, an ambulance should take that person to the nearest emergency room. If emergency medical treatment is not needed, then both drivers need to exchange insurance and contact information.
After exchanging information, both motorists should take photos of the accident scene. That could help to show the position of either vehicle and the amount of damage that occurred. A skilled and experienced specialist can observe the damage and help to determine fault based on crash reconstruction facts.
If there are any witnesses in the vicinity who are willing to testify, obtaining their contact information is crucial to building a strong claim. Many parking lots have video surveillance, which could help to pinpoint fault when an accident happens while backing up.
When all the evidence, witness information, and medical records are gathered, it is much easier for victims to file successful insurance claims and hold at-fault parties liable for damages.
How Comparative Negligence Might Affect Claims
Driver error and negligence account for most auto accidents. Humans being fallible beings, it makes sense that both drivers could make errors that cause an accident. The potential for both drivers to cause an accident makes it much harder to answer the question: Is the person backing up always at fault?
That is why Illinois applies comparative negligence that could affect liability and settlement amounts. Comparative negligence enables a defendant to argue that the plaintiff is at least partly responsible for causing the accident.
A plaintiff might have been drunk and drove into the pathway of a car that was backing out of a parking spot. The plaintiff might have been driving without using the headlights at night. Whenever the plaintiff does something that contributes to causing the accident, comparative negligence could apply.
Illinois law allows a court could reduce a settlement amount by a percentage equal to the plaintiff’s comparative negligence. This means that if a plaintiff is found to be 20% at fault for the injury accident, he or she will lose 20% of the total amount of damages awarded. If the fault is equal, neither party is liable for damages. That means there would be no insurance settlement coming for either party for injuries suffered.