Who Is At Fault in a Car Accident When Backing Up?

The driver who was backing up may be at fault for the accident; however, this is not always the case. If the other driver engages in reckless driving or fails to use evasive driving tactics to prevent the accident, then both drivers may share fault for the accident. In some cases, the other driver – not the backing up driver – may carry most of the fault. Who is at fault and how much fault they carry depends on the circumstances and the applicable law.

Is the Person Backing Up Always at Fault?

Not always. If the person backing up backed into a parked car, then it’s highly likely that he or she will be found at fault for the collision. An exception to this might be if the other driver parked illegally, such as in a no-parking space that is a blind spot. Both drivers might be at fault if the other driver did not slow down the car, and doing so may have avoided the collision.

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

It depends. Illinois applies the modified comparative negligence standard to determine fault in a personal injury case such as a car accident. After evaluating the evidence, the jury (called the “fact finder”) will determine the percentage that you and the other driver are at fault for the damages or injury.

If the plaintiff is less than or equal to 50% at fault for the damages, then the plaintiff may recover compensation for his or her losses; however, the plaintiff’s final amount of compensation will likely be adjusted to reflect his or her percentage of fault for the accident.

For example, in the context of a car accident when backing up, it may be that the plaintiff – who was not backing up – technically had the right of way; however, the plaintiff was texting while driving, which reduces his or her response time. If had plaintiff been aware of his or her surroundings, the plaintiff could have stopped the car before the impact or slowed the car to minimize damages, the plaintiff may be partially at fault. In this scenario, the driver who was backing up may not be totally at fault for the accident.

How to Determine Who Is at Fault When Backing Up

Determining who is at fault when backing up requires taking a close look at the available evidence of the crash. Written or verbal statements made by you, the other drivers, and passengers, if any, will provide an idea of what occurred. Commonly, the versions of events given by each driver may differ in some respects; however, each will give basic facts that will help determine the sequence of events.

car accident lawyer may hire an accident reconstructionist to investigate the scene and the evidence, such as tire marks, and dents and scratches on the vehicles, and the driving conditions.

Who Is at Fault in a Parking Lot Accident When Backing Up?

The circumstances generally dictate who is at fault in a parking lot accident when backing up. Technically, the drivers not in parking spaces have the right of way, whereas the parked vehicles must yield to those cars. In that way, it may be likely that, in a backing up accident in a parking lot, the backing up driver could be found at fault. This may not be the case, however, if the driver of the other car was engaging in reckless or illegal driving tactics.

For example: Driver A pulls into the far back of the parking lot and sees that Driver B is pulling out of a parking space that’s way in the front of the parking lot. Driver A has been looking for a parking spot for 15 minutes and does not want to miss an opportunity for a good parking spot. Driver A speeds up dramatically to be the first one to the parking spot. Driver A collides with Driver C, who parked near Driver B and started backing out of the spot shortly after Driver A pulled into the lot. In this case, Driver A may have the right of way because Driver A’s car is moving. Because Driver A drove exceedingly recklessly – and illegally – by speeding through the parking lot to get a good parking spot, however, Driver A may be partially at fault.

In this way, even though the moving cars typically have the right of way in parking lots, the drivers of those cars also have a duty to act reasonably and to follow traffic laws.

Preventing Backing up Car Accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2019 report, these driver behaviors were the leading cause of fatal car and motorcycle accidents:  

  • Speeding,
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol,
  • Failure to yield the right of way,
  • Failure to keep in the proper lane,
  • Operating vehicle in a careless manner, and
  • Distracted driving.

With these common causes of car accidents in mind, there are preventative tactics that you can use to limit the chances of a car accident involving a backing-up driver.

Obeying the Speed Limit

You may feel pressed for time or like you are “just following traffic,” but speeding is still speeding, and it is the leading cause of fatal accidents across the board. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s 2020 findings, an “increase in speed from 40 mph to 56 mph” in its research greatly increased the amount of force on their test dummies and the likelihood of debilitating or fatal injuries. Speeding also significantly reduces your reaction time, increasing the chance of a collision with a car that is backing up.

Taking the time to note and follow the speed limit, while being aware of your surroundings, may limit the likelihood of a car accident, especially one that is fatal.

Don’t Drink and Drive

Despite awareness campaigns and new laws making driving while intoxicated illegal, drunk and impaired driving remains one of the top causes of fatal accidents. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s 2020 report, those aged 25 to 34 were most at risk of dying in an alcohol-related car accident.

Driving intoxicated while backing up may cause brain fog and blurred vision, and negatively impact your ability to act reasonably and make sound decisions (e.g., “I can probably make this if I speed up.”). This is hazardous for the driver and passengers in the car backing up and the other cars on the road. Intoxication can also cloud judgment, decreasing your ability to accurately assess the distance of cars when backing up. This can increase the likelihood of an accident occurring.

If you’re considering driving while intoxicated or under the influence, you’re strongly advised against doing so.

Yielding the Right of Way and Staying in Your Lane

Drivers are encouraged to use common sense when making judgment calls about whether it’s safe to back out of a parking spot or driveway. If there is an oncoming car, and it may be a close call if you backed out into the road at that time, you might want to yield the right of way to the moving cars.

In addition, backing up drivers might keep in mind that their decision to back out of a driveway impacts two different lanes of traffic. Double-checking to make sure that you don’t unintentionally back up into oncoming traffic can save a life and may avoid liability for an accident as well.

Driving with Care and Limiting Distractions

Sometimes life happens fast, and drivers, feeling the pressure of the day’s to-do list, may drive carelessly and multitask while driving to attempt to get ahead of the day. Drivers send and read texts and emails, eat their meals, and groom themselves while driving. While the driver may feel as though they are being productive, doing these tasks while operating a vehicle increases the risk of an accident.

To prevent backing up car accidents, you might instead save these non-driving tasks for when you arrive at your destination or do these before leaving. When backing up out of a driveway, for example, your view can change, meaning that you might want to check as you go to make sure you’re aware of your surroundings.

Rear-End Collisions and Fault

The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that there were 246,752 crashes in 2020. Of those, 31,735 car accidents involved a parked car. All other types of rear-end collisions accounted for just over 3,000 total car accidents.

In Illinois, determining who is at fault for a rear-end collision when no turn signal is used requires a similar type of analysis as that of an accident involving a backing up car. Factors such as who had the right of way, what the road and driving conditions were at the time, and the sequence of events leading to the accident help determine who is at fault. Both drivers have an obligation to drive responsibly.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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