I Was Backing Up, and a Car Hit Me — Now What?

Man on cell phone looking at damage to car

Drivers learn to perform many maneuvers when acquiring their driver’s license. In addition to changing lanes and parallel parking, drivers must learn how to back up a car. From backing into a parking spot at a store to backing out of your driveway, learning to back up safely is an important driving skill.

Although people back up regularly, this maneuver usually involves short distances. Despite this, up to 25% of automobile accidents involve a vehicle backing up. If you were backing up a vehicle and got in an accident, you may wonder how to know if you’re at fault and whether you have grounds to pursue a car accident lawsuit.

I was backing up, and a car hit me. Am I at fault? 

Determining fault for a car accident involves assessing multiple factors. In some cases, a person backing up may be at fault. In other cases, the other vehicle may be responsible for the accident. 

If you’re involved in an accident while backing up or with a vehicle that was backing up, it’s crucial that you stay calm and avoid making assumptions. Do not make any statements about the accident to the other driver or admit fault. An investigation will determine the fault. Police and insurance companies consider several factors to determine who’s at fault for the accident. These factors include:

  • Right of way
  • Damage
  • Driver conduct

Who has the right of way?

Suppose you want to back out of your driveway. You look both ways and note that the road is clear. You start backing up, and within seconds, you hear metal crunch and feel an impact.

Most people assume that the vehicle on the road had the right of way. If so, the driver backing up would be at fault. However, there are situations where the driver on the road would be responsible for the accident. Factors to consider include the following:

  • Was either driver speeding? While this is unlikely to apply to the driver backing up, speeding is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents. 
  • Was either driver operating a vehicle while under the influence? Consuming alcohol, legal or illegal drugs, and prescription medications can compromise judgment and response times while driving.
  • Was either driver talking on a cell phone, texting photos, or engaging in a distracting activity? Although laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving attempt to prevent accidents, distracted driving claims thousands of lives each year.
  • Did the driver on the road have enough time to see the vehicle backing up and stop? Drivers are responsible for adjusting their course or speed due to changes in road conditions.

Drivers are required to obey traffic laws and pay attention to the road. Suppose a driver is more than 500 feet from the driveway when you start backing up. They have plenty of time to see your vehicle enter the roadway and stop or change lanes. If the driver opts to continue without slowing down or moving to avoid a collision, they may be found responsible for the accident.

How does damage determine fault? 

Vehicle damage tells investigators which driver hit the other driver. This is relevant because the vehicle that was hit is the vehicle that occupied the space first. Often, that driver has the right of way.

However, the damage may indicate that the struck vehicle was entering that space or that they swerved because the vehicle backing out was already in the roadway. The extent and location of the damage can help investigators determine if one driver was distracted.

How can police evaluate driver conduct?

Police may gather evidence from the scene to determine how the accident occurred. Dash cams from vehicles involved in the accident and security cameras from nearby homes or stores may provide a clear picture of events. Police will also interview witnesses to gain an objective view of the accident.

Have you been involved in a car accident that was not your fault? Contact us today for a free consultation.

How do insurance companies determine who’s at fault?

Police aren’t the only ones who investigate accidents. Insurance companies may ultimately pay claims for damages incurred and settlements for personal injury cases filed by car accident victims. 

Insurance companies assign an adjuster to the case. The adjuster reads the police report and reviews available evidence. They may visually inspect the vehicles and accident location. The adjuster may also interview witnesses and review available video footage as part of their investigation.

The insurance company doesn’t have to accept the police report as the final word. They may pursue mediation or arbitration to mitigate their client’s liability. 

How can you avoid accidents when backing up? 

When backing up, you should ensure you have clear sightlines and no distractions. Check both ways to ensure your path is clear.

Backing into a parking spot is safer than backing out of a parking spot. The reason is that you’re dealing with stationary objects on both sides and behind your vehicle. If you opt to back out of a parking spot, there may be other vehicles backing out or vehicles or pedestrians passing in either direction. Consequently, there’s a higher chance of an accident when backing out of a space than when backing into a space.

What are your legal options if you’re in an accident while backing up?

No matter how minor or severe your accident is, you may have grounds to sue. Even uninjured persons can seek damages after an accident as long as they file their case before the statute of limitations expires. Florida allows car accident victims four years to file a lawsuit.

Car accidents are stressful, and you may find the laws about car accident cases confusing. Eliminate your uncertainty about whether you have a case by talking to one of our car accident attorneys. Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, has an experienced legal team with decades of experience representing car accident victims. We’ll use our legal expertise to protect your rights and get fair compensation after your accident. 


Carlier, M. (2022). Road Accidents in the United States – Statistics & Facts

Distracted Driving. (2023).  

Leefeldt, E. (2022). The Tricky Business of Determining Fault After a Car Accident.