Who Is at Fault in a Driveway Accident?
There are two different types of accidents most of us think about when we hear the terminology “driveway accident.”
For some, a backover incident in which a motorist runs over another individual may come to mind. For others, an incident in which a motorist who was driving in reverse and backs into an active lane of traffic and collides with another driver’s vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian may come to mind. A motorist may also pull out headfirst into an active traffic lane and do the same.
Each of the driveway accidents described above happens all too often. Let’s explore why they occur, the catastrophic results they can have, and what goes into determining fault in such cases.
What Are Backover Incidents?
Backover incidents are a type of collision that involves an individual being run over by a vehicle as it drives in reverse. Data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that the largest proportion of victims in these backover crashes is between 12 and 23 months old.
Those same NHTSA statistics show that at least 50 children are backed over by motorists each week. At least two of them lose their lives in such incidents. At least 70% of these backover incidents happen when a child’s relative is behind the wheel of the vehicle, making it clear that most of these incidents occur in residential homes’ driveways or perhaps at schools.
Safety analysts suspect that backover incidents are one of the main reasons why the leading contributor to child fatalities are automobile accidents.
What Are Main Contributors to Backover Incidents?
Most backover incidents are attributable to blind spots. The higher a vehicle sits, the bigger its blind spots are—both in front and behind the vehicle and to either side. In fact, one NHTSA statistic shows that at least 60% of backover incidents involve large sports utility vehicles (SUVs) or pick-up trucks.
Backover incidents have been one of the main reasons safety groups have aggressively advocated for installing rear cameras on vehicles in recent years. While these efforts resulted in the federal government requiring auto manufacturers to equip their vehicles with these cameras from 2018 forward, many automobiles are still circulating on the road without this potentially life-saving safety equipment, which explains why this type of driveway incident still occurs today.
What Are Driving in Reverse or Pull Out Driveway Accidents?
You may encounter many driveways in downtown or suburban areas in Gulfport or nearby rural areas. Driveways aren’t generally just in residential areas, but commercial and agricultural zones have them too.
Generally, any situation in which there’s a single, narrow patch of land attached to a building where a motorist can reasonably expect to get in and out of their car comfortably away from active traffic could be considered a driveway. Motorists may have one way out of that space, to either back out or pull out headfirst into a heavily trafficked roadway.
Some factors that are key to avoiding an accident in these situations include:
- Scanning: Both the motorist in the driveway and the ones traveling down the road must be on the lookout for one another. The best way to do this is by constantly looking ahead for movement and anticipating what may occur.
- Timing: A motorist departing their driveway must carefully time their pullout to ensure that they have ample opportunity to enter active traffic lanes and turn their car to avoid being struck and join active traffic.
- Visibility: Motorists traveling in active traffic lanes and also ones backing out must account for factors that may impact their ability to take note of each other, including bends in the road, shrubbery, and elevation.
Speed limits and braking distances matter too. Motorists coming out of driveways are bound to be moving significantly slower than motorists in active lanes of traffic. Both motorists must account for this when timing their departure from a driveway, especially if visibility hazards also exist.
Even if both motorists are regularly scanning an area, there may not be ample opportunity for a motorist traveling in an active lane to come to a full stop, depending on when they notice a potential hazard. A motorist can come upon a blind driveway, for example, fairly quickly. If a driver is departing their driveway simultaneously, they may have little opportunity to brake to avoid striking them.
Determining Fault When Driveway Accidents Occur
Whether one’s talking about a backover incident, pullout accident, or an accident caused by someone driving in reverse, all of these can seriously maim victims or result in death. Medical bills, rehabilitation, and caregiving expenses can be costly when you survive a crash such as this. Funeral costs and the loss of a loved one’s future income to sustain a family can be financially crippling if they pass away in an unfortunate accident such as a driveway accident.
Liability in Backover Driveway Accidents
You may initially assume that your only option for holding someone accountable for your child’s injuries or passing in a backover incident is to perhaps uncomfortably hold the driver (who might be a family member or friend) liable for what happened. While pursuing an auto insurance or homeowners’ claim is certainly an option, that’s not the only option you may have.
If the incident happened at a school or other facility, then you may be able to file a claim against that entity for the accident. You may need to prove that their negligence, such as failing to keep kids safe in a certain area or adequately supervise them, resulted in the child getting loose so that they could be struck, though.
You may also have a valid reason to pursue a lawsuit against an auto manufacturer or an auto parts company if you can prove that their equipment failed, contributing to the crash. For example, if a backup camera or the vehicle brakes didn’t function as they should have, you may be able to hold equipment manufacturers liable for the incident.
Liability in Pull Out or Backing Up Driveway Accidents
The key to determining who was at fault for driving in reverse or pulling out incidents is knowing who had the right of way. Motorists traveling in an active lane in traffic generally have the right of way here in Mississippi. Following that logic, liability often rests on the shoulders of the motorist departing their driveway if a crash were to occur.
At the same time, all motorists must adhere to the rules of the road, including:
- Maintaining their lane
- Adhering to posted speed limits (and adjusting their speed to road or weather conditions)
Motorists departing their driveways who can show proof that the other driver acted recklessly may be able to shift liability to the other driver involved instead.
Where To Turn for Help Following a Driveway Accident
Liability is not always clear following an accident, as you’ve likely seen in the above examples. Prospective clients who reach out to us here at Corban Gunn, Attorney at Law often ask us how we might add value to their case.
We can help you determine who is at fault for your Gulfport accident. While you may have initially assumed you didn’t have any legal options, we look at cases through a different lens. We may determine that you have a valid claim against someone else, whether it’s the other motorist involved, a property owner, an auto manufacturer, or someone else.
You can also count on our lawyers to push back when insurers undoubtedly try to deny liability in your case. This is key to ensuring that you receive the compensation that you deserve in your case.
Your initial consultation with our attorneys is complimentary. Tell us a bit more about your case so that we can schedule to meet with you.
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