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

Who is at Fault in a Car Accident when backing up

While most crashes occur as cars move forward, some car accidents and injuries happen as vehicles are backing up. Sometimes it can be confusing to understand who is at fault for a backing-up accident. North Carolina law generally puts the responsibility on the driver who shifts into reverse to back out of a driveway, parking space, or alley.

The driver of a vehicle shall not move backward unless such movement can be made with safety and without interfering with other traffic,” says N.C.G.S. § 20‑154. Additional subsections of the statute give judges the authority to fine and suspend the licenses of violators who cause $5,000 or more in property damage or serious bodily injury to a motorcycle or bicycle operator or passenger.

Because backing drivers tend to move slowly in reverse, they often cause minor damage when they back into another vehicle. But when they do cause serious harm, they often cause injuries to the occupants of other vehicles, according to a federal study of injuries and fatalities in motor vehicle backing crashes.

Our personal injury attorneys at Hardison & Cochran can review your backing-up car accident and help you evaluate your legal options. If you suffered a serious injury and the other driver was at fault, you may be entitled to pursue compensation for your medical bills and other expenses. Our law firm offers a free case evaluation.

The Driver Backing Up Is Usually at Fault

North Carolina law requires drivers to make sure it is safe to back their vehicles into traffic before doing so. When a driver fails to back their vehicle safely, and an accident occurs, the accident is treated as a failure to yield the right‑of‑way.

A driver who is backing up must yield the right-of-way to moving vehicles and wait until it is safe to back into traffic. In a backing-up collision with another vehicle, the driver who was backing up will typically be found at fault.

Drivers will likely be ruled at fault if they hit another vehicle while:

  • Backing out of driveways
  • Backing out of parking spaces
  • Backing out of alleys
  • Backing to execute three-point turns or side-road turns.

The Driver Backing Up Is Not Always at Fault

North Carolina law is very strict regarding individuals trying to recover compensation for injuries in car accidents. North Carolina applies the doctrine of pure contributory negligence to personal injury claims. This rule states that if the person who files a personal injury claim for a car accident did anything themselves that contributed to their injury, then the other party is not responsible. The plaintiff is not eligible for a financial recovery.

There are exceptions in which the driver of the vehicle that was backing up when a collision occurred may not be found at fault. These include the following situations:

The Other Car Was Illegally Parked.

If its driver had obeyed the law, the car would not have been there, and the accident would not have occurred.

The Other Driver Was Negligent.

There are numerous ways a driver can fail to behave with the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under similar circumstances. Any violation of traffic law is considered negligence: speeding, distracted driving, reckless driving, drunk or drugged driving.

If you can demonstrate that the defendant was negligent, you may be able to argue that the defendant had the last clear opportunity to avoid the backing accident and should be held financially liable.

Multiple North Carolina court cases have established the last clear chance doctrine as an affirmative defense available to a plaintiff who has been accused of contributory negligence. It asserts that the defendant could have avoided the accident if they had not been negligent.

The elements of the last clear chance doctrine are that:

  • The defendant discovered or should have discovered, the plaintiff’s position
  • The defendant had the time and ability to avoid the accident and injury
  • The defendant negligently failed to do so
  • The plaintiff was injured as a result of the defendant’s failure to avoid the accident.

Therefore, you might argue that:

  • The speeding defendant could have slowed down or stopped to avoid the accident. However, their excessive speed prevented them from effectively slowing or stopping their vehicle.
  • The defendant, who was driving distracted, could have avoided the accident had he or she been paying attention.
  • The defendant who was driving recklessly could have avoided the accident if the control of their vehicle had not been hampered by their recklessness. 
  • An impaired driver could have avoided a drunk driving accident involving a backing vehicle if the impaired driver’s drinking or drug use had not rendered them incapable of reacting effectively.

What If I’m Injured in a Backing-Up Accident?

Any time you are injured in a car accident, you should work to document the accident and have your injuries treated.

If you have been injured, you should either go directly to the hospital or see a physician within 24 hours of the accident. Call 911 and request an ambulance if anyone needs emergency care. Getting a doctor’s evaluation will begin documenting your injuries and the medical expenses that are the basis of an injury claim.

Provide the police officer with your driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance information, and policy number. Get a copy of the information the police collect from the other driver. Ask the police when their accident report will be available and get a copy as soon as possible.

Before leaving the accident scene, you or a companion should take photos of the two cars involved, their damage, and anything else that will depict what happened. Get contact information for witnesses to the car backing accident.

Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. If you have an insurance claim or need to pursue a personal injury claim after a North Carolina backing-up accident, you will should seek the help of a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to guide you through the claims process and advocate for your interests. Before you deal with insurers, speak to an attorney.

Contact Hardison & Cochran Lawyers Today

The personal injury lawyers at Hardison & Cochran care about what you’re going through after a backing-up car accident. We know North Carolina personal injury law and are ready to help you seek fair compensation after a serious personal injury.

Contact an experienced personal injury attorney at Hardison & Cochran. Rely on the injury attorneys that North Carolinians have turned to for 30 years.

Call us toll-free at 800-434-8399 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation. We are ready to help you.

About the Author

Managing partner Benjamin T. Cochran oversees the operation of Hardison & Cochran Attorneys at Law in addition to representing individual clients in cases involving workers’ compensation and personal injury law.

A lifelong North Carolinian, Cochran knew from his high-school days in High Point that he wanted to be an attorney. He received a B.A. degree in economics and African-American studies from the University of North Carolina in 1999 and then enrolled at the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University.

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