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Vehicle back-up accidents in Washington State

Backing up a vehicle seems simple, but the law requires it be carefully done without negligence to protect people and other vehicles in the area.

Backing up a car, SUV, van, pickup, large truck or bus can be tricky and requires concentration, awareness and skill. Unfortunately, all too often people are in a hurry, misjudge the location of stationary objects around their vehicles or fail to check for moving pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles or other vehicles passing behind. When a driver backs up negligently and hits someone else, the driver is legally responsible for resulting injuries, financial losses and property damage.

Negligence behind the wheel

Washington law defines negligent driving as the breach of the duty to exercise ordinary care in the operation of a vehicle. Backing up a vehicle can happen on the street, in a parking lot or ramp, or from a driveway. The act of backing up can be tricky, but most people can agree about what the failure to take ordinary care often means in this situation. For example:

  • A driver’s total reliance on a back-up camera or an alarm system without also using mirrors and looking back over the shoulder to scan the area
  • Failure to watch carefully for difficult-to-spot movement, especially from a taller vehicle, such as that of a running child, passing bike or low sports car
  • Moving backward too quickly to stop for an unexpected pedestrian or passing vehicle, or to give a passerby time to slow down or stop
  • Failure to yield to a passing vehicle with the right of way
  • Failure to watch for other vehicles pulling out of nearby parking spaces

In a negligence claim for injuries and losses from a back-up accident, if the driver did not adhere to the required standard of care and failed to take adequate precautions to protect those that share the surrounding area, they could be liable for a variety of money damages, including, depending on the circumstances:

  • Past and future medical costs
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • Lost past and future wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Adaptation to vehicle and home in case of severe disability
  • Therapies
  • And others

While a negligent backing-up driver incurs liability, there may also be other potentially responsible parties like insurance companies, owner of the accident premises where dangerous design or negligent maintenance contributed to the accident, a governmental entity if the location was public such as in a municipal ramp or the driver of a municipal vehicle was poorly trained, or the employer of a commercial vehicle.

This is only a general overview of a complex topic. The victim of a back-up accident should consult a lawyer as soon as possible to understand all potential legal remedies, including a personal injury lawsuit.

The attorneys at Dubin Law Group with offices in Seattle, Everett and Tacoma, represent people injured in back-up accidents and other kinds of motor vehicle collisions throughout King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.