The National Safety Council (”NSC”) is warning that 2016 may be one of the most dangerous years for drivers on Florida roads — according to their research, the State of Florida has seen a jump in the number of motor vehicle accident injuries and deaths in the first six months of this year. And, this is before we enter the holiday season, beginning with the Labor Day holiday in just a few days.
Florida is Number One for Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries and Fatal Accidents
Today, it is dangerous to drive in Florida. The risk of a serious auto accident is high. In fact, Florida leads the country in serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents.
According to the NSC’s statistics, Florida saw a 43% increase in people seriously injured or killed in accidents involving cars, trucks, SUVs, pick-ups, minivans, and other motor vehicles in the past year. That’s the biggest jump of any state in the nation.
With Florida being number one in the United States for car accidents, it’s never been more important to not only drive with care but to know what to do after being the victim of a motor vehicle accident.
What Help is available to a Florida Car Accident Victim?
If you are seriously hurt or have a loved one who was hurt or even killed in a car crash here in Florida, then Florida’s negligence laws may provide some help. Also, the driver’s insurance policy (or their employer’s policy) should be available to help cover some, if not all, of the financial consequences of the accident. Things like medical care, pain and suffering, long-term rehabilitation, lost wages, and more may be paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
What if you were injured in an accident where the driver backed over you, i.e., in a backing collision? How do you show that the driver was negligent in order to have their insurance company pay your claim and compensate you for your damages?
What is a backing crash? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one type of backing crash is a “backover,” which is where a negligent driver drives their car in reverse hitting either a pedestrian or bicyclist and injuring or killing them.
Another kind of backing crash involves a driver who backs out of a parking space, or driveway, and is hit by another vehicle. The second vehicle is unable to predict the backing car, or to stop in time, to prevent colliding with the backing vehicle.
Backing collisions can be very serious and victims can suffer serious injuries and even death.
Sadly, many victims of backovers are children. According to Consumer Reports, at least 50 children are victims of backover accidents every week in this country. Two of these children die from their injuries. Over sixty percent (60%) of these accidents have drivers operating larger motor vehicles, like sport utility vehicles (SUVs), minivans, or pick up trucks.
What Must an Accident Victim Do After a Car Accident in Florida?
After an accident, it may seem obvious that a driver who backed his vehicle into you, your child, or your car, should be held legally responsible for the accident damages.
After all, that driver BACKED into you, right?
However, both the driver and the insurance carrier may not agree with your position so easily.
Why? Because of the duties imposed upon all car accident victims in Florida. As a victim (and potential plaintiff in a personal injury case), you will have to demonstrate that the driver who backed his car, truck, or SUV was the “legal or proximate cause” of the injuries.
In Florida, it is the responsibility of the accident victim to prove his or her legal right to obtain compensation for their damages. If the victim is a minor, then it is up to the legal or natural guardian (usually one or both parents) to prove not only that the negligent act caused the accident, but that the negligent act was a legal/proximate cause of the injuries, which often times is in dispute.
Insurance Carrier’s Viewpoint on a Backing Collision
Meanwhile, the insurance carrier for the driver will be looking at ways to limit or even deny responsibility for the crash and its resulting financial damages. They will try and find a legal defense to a claim so they don’t have to pay for the victim’s damages.
From the perspective of the negligent driver’s insurance company, a backing collision is “normally considered preventable” (quoting Traveler’s risk manual).
Insurance companies know that reasonable drivers should monitor their path and surrounding conditions. They should know the obstacles and hazards that exist before they begin to back up their vehicle. This is true whether or not they are at risk of hitting an object like a utility pole, or a person walking through the parking lot, or another car or truck.
What is a Reasonable Drive From the Insurance Company’s Point of View?
Insurance companies have defined a reasonable driver as one who will “take all precautions to ensure they can back up without striking other vehicles or objects.”
What are reasonable precautions for a driver to take to avoid a backing accident, from the perspective of the insurance company? Reasonable steps for a driver to take to prevent one of these car accidents involve not only being aware of hazards behind the vehicle, but it may mean that the driver actually gets out of the car or truck to check and make sure it is safe to back out.
Other reasonable steps include having a third party outside the car guide the driver as he or she backs out. (Though the insurance company will acknowledge that this will not bar their driver from being held liable if there is an accident. Having a guide to help back out the vehicle isn’t a magic bullet.)
Key Factor in Dealing with the Insurance Company
When dealing with the driver’s insurance adjuster, you will need to know that they will have all their years of experience in handling car crash claims, as well as decades of research into car accidents, at the ready. One key factor here will be the actions of their policy holder and what he or she was doing before and during the time of the accident. Was the driver acting reasonably? Can you demonstrate how the negligent driver failed to act in a reasonable manner in trying to prevent and avoid the collision?
20 Questions to Ask After a Backing Collision in Florida
To help you (and to help you convince an adjuster that their policy holder was at fault and therefore they should pay your claim), we have the following questions and issues for you to consider as you evaluate your accident claim. These are things both the insurance adjuster and the driver’s defense lawyer will be considering when they review your claim, with the help from risk manuals provided online by Travelers here, as well as National General:
- Did the backing driver have to back up? Was it necessary to back up right then? Was it necessary to back up at all?
- Did the backing driver plan have the option of pulling forward?
- What was the backing driver’s view at the time of the crash? Could he or she see where they were backing?
- What was the weather like at the time of the backing accident or backover? Did it impede the backing driver’s vision?
- Did the backing driver have someone to guide him or her at the time of backing out?
- Did the backing driver try to find someone to guide him or her as he was backing out?
- How much did the backing driver look around the vehicle before backing?
- Did the backing driver get out of the car to check before backing out?
- Did the backing driver back immediately after looking around the surroundings?
- Did the backing driver use mirrors while backing out, or did he or she turn their head?
- Did the backing driver use interior mirror or side mirrors?
- How were these mirrors placed at the time of the accident, did they give him a clear view? Were they clean?
- Did the backing driver’s vehicle have rear-view technology?
- If so, was it working properly? Was he using it at the time of the backing accident?
- Did the backing driver toot the horn before backing up?
- Did the driver use the horn while backing?
- Were the backing driver vehicle’s rear back-up lights working?
- If this was a commercial vehicle, was its backing warning signal working?
- How fast or slow did the backing driver back up?
- How long was the distance the backing driver had to back up? If it was a long distance, did the backing driver periodically get out and check his progress and any potential dangers in his path?
What Should You Do After a Backover Accident?
Obviously, some of these questions will require the accident victim to gather information before they can be answered. To support the claim against the driver the victim may need evidence such as:
- the police accident report;
- photos or video taken of the accident scene; as well as
- witness statements or recorded interviews with the drivers, passengers, and third parties who witnessed the accident.
In a complicated case, or one where serious injuries or wrongful death is involved, the evidence may be more sophisticated. This is true even if it seems clear that the backing driver was not acting in a reasonable manner and was at fault.
Here, the victim may need to have opinions from accident reconstruction experts, as well as an expert to review medical records, prescription records, and more before the victim can find justice.
Accordingly, having an car accident lawyer who has had years of experience dealing with car insurance companies and their claims adjusters can be invaluable to someone seeking damages after a backover or backing collision.
If you or a loved one has been injured in one of these car accidents in Florida, a good piece of advice is to speak with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.