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Who's at fault for someone backing into another?

San Jose, CA |

My wife backed her car into the street from our driveway. She was straighting out her wheels and still moving (slowly backwards) when our neighbor across the street back out of her drive way and hit my wife on the side of the back quarter panel (not on the corner or back). My wife was clearly in the street first. The physical evidence shows the damage on the side. My daughter was in the car and while she's only 11, stated that "Mom, you were pointing down the street". Moreover the neighbor said, quote "I can't say that this was your fault". Her insurance company accepted full responsibility. And then after the neighbor did some lobbying, it's now changed to 50/50.
My wife had possession of the street prior to being hit.

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Attorney answers 4


Report it to your carrier and let them deal with it.

Nothing in this communication should be construed as creating an attorney client relationship. This is for informational purposes only. Attorney will take no action on your behalf unless and until a written retainer agreement is signed. There are strict time deadlines on filing claims and, as such, you are advised to consult with and retain an attorney immediately to file such claims timely or you will lose any right to recovery.


What a pain, huh?

It makes sense that your wife was int eh right. Remember that an insurance company making a determination does not matter unless they are claiming they will only pay for half of the damages due to their 50/50 determination.

If a citation was issued, the insurance company's determination will not matter and is not relevant int eh traffic citation case. If no citation was issued, your wife can file a lawsuit with the assistance of an attorney -- perhaps in a small claims court.

Best of luck to each of you.

In no way am I offering you legal advice, and in no way has my comment created an attorney-client relationship. You are not to rely upon my note above in any way, but insted need to sit down with counsel and share all relevant facts before receiving fully-informed legal advice. If you want to be completely sure of your rights, you must sit down with an experienced criminal defense attorney to be fully aware of your rights.


Report the accident to your insurance company and cooperate with them in their effort to determine liability.


If no injuries, let the ins cos deal with it. You should make sure your company doesnt mark it aginst your record. Most companies wont, unless it is more than 50% your fault. Check with your agent and company. If injuries are minimal, or you are out your deductible or other small amounts, you can sue in small claims court.

The determination of fault is probably going to hinge on the minor details. Where the neighbor was looking when backing, speed, etc. Same for your wife. Were there any trees, bushes, etc that obscured the drivers from seeing the other?

The question is whether either or both were negligent in the operation of their cars. You must establish the other person did something that a reasonablly prudent person would not have done, or failed to do something a reasonable person would have done. To some extent that is a subjective , judgment call, that could go in your favor completely, or could result in a 50/50 result. This assumes there is no evidence that could show for example, that the other driver was acting reasonably, and your wife backed out at a high speed without first checking.

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