Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers
Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers
Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers

Pedestrian Hit by Car Backing Up

Off-Road Dangers for People on Foot 

It happens far too often, a pedestrian hit by a car backing up because the driver was either not paying attention or driving recklessly. Such accidents often happen off the beaten path in normally pedestrian-friendly zones like parking lots and on sidewalks. Regardless of where they happen though, they can be every bit as devastating as pedestrian accidents that happen in roadways and crosswalks. In fact, certain populations (children and the elderly) are not only at a much higher risk than the rest of us for getting hit by a car while it's backing up, but they're also much more likely to suffer serious, life-threatening injuries in such an accident.

In order to better understand the danger we are all in, let's take a look at some of the most common types of and reasons for these terrible "back up" accidents.


The Serious Danger of Being Struck by Driver Backing up

Unfortunately, these types of accidents are often physically devastating even as most often occur at slow speeds (typically under 15 miles per hour).

Indeed, because the driver doesn't register the impending danger until they hear (or feel) the impact, they're often not prepared to stop. This means that the vehicle involved almost always continues for some distance after the initial impact. This could lead to the victim being:

  • Trapped under the vehicle
  • Dragged for several feet
  • Struck by the vehicle's tire (especially in accidents involving large trucks)
  • Crushed against an obstruction (like a light or sign pole)
  • Such damage can result in amputations, crushing injuries, severe lacerations, and head trauma—all of which can be life-threatening. Additionally, if a victim is trapped under a car, it may cost rescue teams vital time as they extricate them—delaying lifesaving first aid treatment for minutes.

    Why is it so Common for Pedestrians to Be Hit by Cars Backing up?

    As mentioned above, these types of auto vs. pedestrian collisions are almost always the fault of the driver. However, there are a number of contributing factors that can increase the risk of a driver hitting a pedestrian while backing up.

    How Do these “Back-up” Types of Accidents Occur?

    Almost all accidents that involve a pedestrian hit by a car backing up share a tremendous amount in common. In fact, they almost always occur in the same manner. A person is standing, walking, or paused behind an automobile and the driver simply drops the car into reverse and steps on the accelerator. On rare occasions, vehicles are left out of gear (sometimes even after the driver walks away) and the car rolls backward but these cases are exceedingly rare. In a vast majority of accidents in which a pedestrian is injured by a car backing up, there is a driver behind the wheel at the time.


    But why do people get hit? The person on foot may be in one of the driver's blind spots or the driver may not even have looked behind them. Either way, in the driver's mind, the pedestrian doesn't exist.



    How Can You Protect Yourself from Being a Pedestrian Hit by a Car Backing Up

    There's very little a person can do to avoid being hit by a car backing up other than try to dodge out of the way when they see the car coming. By that time it's often too late.


    Ideally, you should stay very vigilant and avoid walking behind parked cars that have their engine on or their backup lights illuminated. But, if you find yourself behind a moving car, there are still a couple of actions you can take to avoid being hit by the car.


    One tactic suggested by The NYPD and other policing agencies based in high-population-density zones is to "come into contact" with the vehicle prior to impact. This means that as a pedestrian you should immediately strike (or toss something at—if your hands are full) the vehicle in question while trying to dodge out of the way. This minor impact is often all it takes to let the driver know there is someone behind them.


    If they're not impaired or significantly distracted, this forewarning should give the driver enough time to apply the brake and avoid a serious collision.


    You can also try yelling in order to catch the driver's attention but this should only be secondary. Human nature is to look around for the source of the shout, not to step on the brake pedal.

    The Serious Danger of Being Struck by Driver Backing up

    Unfortunately, these types of accidents are often physically devastating even as most often occur at slow speeds (typically under 15 miles per hour).


    Indeed, because the driver doesn't register the impending danger until they hear (or feel) the impact, they're often not prepared to stop. This means that the vehicle involved almost always continues for some distance after the initial impact. This could lead to the victim being:

  • Trapped under the vehicle
  • Dragged for several feet
  • Struck by the vehicle's tire (especially in accidents involving large trucks)
  • Crushed against an obstruction (like a light or sign pole)
  • Such damage can result in amputations, crushing injuries, severe lacerations, and head trauma—all of which can be life-threatening.


    Read More: Common Injuries When Hit by a Car

    Why is it so Common for Pedestrians to Be Hit by Cars Backing up?

    As mentioned above, these types of auto vs. pedestrian collisions are almost always the fault of the driver. However, there are a number of contributing factors that can increase the risk of a driver hitting a pedestrian while backing up.

    Negligence While Backing up

    If the driver fails to exercise due caution while in a situation in which pedestrians could be nearby, they may be found legally negligent. Such cases involve drivers who:


    • Fail to adjust or use rear-view mirrors
    • Fail to look over their shoulders
    • Fail to accelerate or brake in a prudent manner
    • Fail to look in the direction they are traveling while backing up


    Negligence behind the wheel is very specifically laid out in the California Vehicle Code. Indeed, these regulations make it unlawful for an operator to drive in a manner that puts others at risk. Such regulations mandate:

    • Traveling at a safe speed
    • Using headlights when necessary
    • Maintaining a safe automobile (to prevent mechanical failure)
    • Yielding the right of way (especially to pedestrians)
    • And always operating in a prudent manner no matter the road or weather conditions

    Any violations of these laws could automatically make a drive liable in a situation where a pedestrian is hit by a car backing up.


    By extension, if a mechanical failure contributed to the collision—such as emergency brake failure—the car's owner (even if it's not the operator) could potentially be held at least partially liable for the accident if they knew about the potential problem and failed to repair the damaged or defective components in a timely fashion.


    Consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol before getting behind the wheel can be considered negligent behavior as well. In fact, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says that Alcohol involvement—for the driver and/r the pedestrian—was a factor in 49% of all fatal pedestrian crashes in 2013.

    Carelessness While Backing up

    If a driver doesn't simply hop in their car, drop it into reverse, and step on the pedal, there are still a number of things they could do wrong that would contribute to a pedestrian being hit by their car backing up.


    Drivers often misjudge distances while using mirrors and assume they have enough room to maneuver without striking the pedestrian behind them.


    Additionally, if they step too heavily on the accelerator and the car jerks backward, there may be little or no time for a pedestrian to attempt dodging the vehicle.


    If a driver signals for a pedestrian to cross behind their vehicle but then moves (potentially assuming the pedestrian is going to wait anyway) their impatience could cause a collision.


    Pedestrians should always be wary of drivers—even when they clearly have the right of way.

    Distraction While Backing up

    Distracted driving isn't a new danger—people have been operating vehicles unsafely because of divided attention for as long as cars have been around and WAY before cell phones existed. However, the number of distractions we face in the car every day has dramatically increased in the last 30 years. Indeed, in 2013 there were nearly half a million accidents involving distractions.


    Distraction may not be the immediate cause of many pedestrian accidents but it often plays the role of the primary contributing factor. In cases in which a pedestrian has been hit by a car backing up, distractions inside the vehicle (such as hot coffee, cell phones, or passengers) could very well have:


  • Taken the driver's eyes off their rear-view mirror for an instant
  • Caused them to lurch or jerk the wheel or stomp on the accelerator
  • Kept them from looking behind them before shifting into reverse
  • Kept drivers from "registering" pedestrians behind them even though they "see" them
  • Common Locations Where Pedestrians are Hit by Cars Backing Up

    Most fatal pedestrian accidents involve people being hit by automobiles while crossing outside of crosswalks or being struck while walking/jogging along the side of the road (or even on sidewalks). Just 10% of fatal pedestrian accidents happen outside the roadway. However, a significant portion of non-fatal injurious pedestrian accidents occurs in these high-risk locations.


    Indeed, specific types of accidents (such as when a pedestrian is hit by a car backing up) are much more likely to occur in unregulated locations in which pedestrians come into close contact with automobiles. Such high-risk danger zones include:

    • Public parking lots and lane
    • The ends of driveways
    • Common use off-road locations (such as campgrounds, trails, and parks)
    • Bike lane
    • Crossing islands

    Common Types of Vehicles Involved in "back up" Pedestrian Accidents

    While any vehicles could potentially be a deadly weapon when pedestrians are involved, nationwide statistics show that certain types of vehicles are more commonly involved "back-up" collisions. These include:

    • Box truck (delivery trucks)
    • Sanitation trucks
    • Large vehicles (such as big pickup trucks and large SUVs)
    • Vans or buses

    Size appears to be a major contributing factor as to why these types of vehicles are more likely to injure a pedestrian while backing up. Anecdotal evidence collected after such accidents all across the country point to one major hazard:  drivers of these vehicles don't often see pedestrians.


    Because of their large size and configuration, such vehicles have multiple "blind spots" which are also often much larger than those drivers have to deal with when operating smaller vehicles like sedans. That's why many of these vehicles have "back up" alarms installed that are automatically triggered when the vehicle is shifted into reverse.


    Another size-related contributing factor that enhances the severity of these types of accidents is the decreased feedback loop with which these drivers have to contend. Because of the mass these larger vehicles possess, drivers often miss physical clues that they've collided with pedestrians. These clues include:


    • The sound of the collision (the "thump" that lets us know something is wrong)
    • The physical vibration passed through the vehicle's frame when it collides with something
    • The shout, scream, or speech of the pedestrian as they try to get the driver's attention


    Because this audio and tactile feedback are essentially absorbed by the vehicle, the driver's reaction time is seriously impaired and what could have ended as a not-so-serious "bump" could very well end up as a life-threatening pedestrian collision.

    Who is at Fault When a Pedestrian is Hit by a Car Backing Up?

    California is a comparative negligence state. That means that each party involved in an accident can essentially be assigned a portion of the fault. The legal system will look at the actions (or inactions) of each party and determine to what extent each individual was negligent in their duty to avoid the accident. That negligence factor is then converted into legal liability. That liability is what it used to determine who should pay for expenses incurred because of an accident (such as medical bills and property losses) and how much they should pay.


    While there is never really any "good news" in an instance when a pedestrian has been hit by a car backing up, California places the burden of care squarely on the driver's shoulders. Indeed, there are several laws on the books dictating how drivers should act while behind the wheel and almost every one of them is written so that drivers must:


    • Always be wary of hazards in their path
    • Always be on the lookout for pedestrians
    • (Almost) always yield the roadway to pedestrians
    • And always operate their vehicle in a safe and prudent manner


    All of that means that usually when a pedestrian is hit by a car backing up, the driver is at fault. Whether that accident happens in a public parking lot, at the end of a private driveway, or in another "off-road" location (such as a campsite, trail, or walkway), the driver bore the responsibility of looking out for foot traffic.

    What Can You Do if You Are a Pedestrian Hit by a Car Backing Up

    In most cases, victims who have been hit by a car while backing up can seek financial compensation in the form of an insurance settlement. This financial payout is often the quickest and easiest way to get reimbursed for:


    • Medical expenses
    • Lost wages
    • Property losses
    • And pain and suffering


    California law requires drivers to carry liability insurance in the amounts of:


    • $5,000 for property damage
    • $15,000 for injury/death to a single person
    • $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person


    However, if a driver doesn't have insurance or their insurance policy's limit is too low to cover all of your expenses, there are other options available to you:


    • You can file an insurance claim with your own company
    • You can file a personal injury lawsuit in California court


    In either case, you shouldn't have to pay accident-related expenses out of pocket. Speak with an experienced California pedestrian accident attorney today in order to learn about all the recovery options available to you.

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