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​Driveway accidents involving children: who is liable?

We are all used to parking our car in the driveway, and we tend to think of it as a safe place. However recent studies have shown that driveways, particularly for small children, can be very dangerous places. A shocking 50 children per week in America are injured after being hit or run over by a car that is backing out of a driveway. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42% of non-traffic related child deaths are due to back-over accidents. And what is more alarming is that the majority of children are injured by a parent or family member driving the vehicle.

How driveway accidents happen

Accidents happen for a variety of reasons, but mainly due to a lack of attention. You may be just leaving home or coming back from work, and are momentarily distracted by thinking about what needs to be done that day. You might be distracted by your mobile phone, or waving to your neighbors or friends. There are many possible factors which may divert your attention, and at that moment you may fleetingly lose track of a child as they slip out of the back door onto the driveway. Or a child may break away and run after a parent who is leaving to ask them for a last minute kiss, a toy, a promise or some other reason. Occasionally a child may just be quietly playing behind or under a car, unnoticed.

What can parents do to avoid accidents?

Here are some tips on how to avoid driveway accidents:

  • Stop and check as a habit
    Walk around your car before you get in, not only to check behind and underneath but also for children that may be playing nearby. If there are kids around make sure you keep a visual track on them, and stop immediately if your lose sight of them. Children are everywhere and often unpredictable so you should get into this habit, even in a parking lot, and you will be less likely to hit a child accidentally.
  • Do not hurry
    Do not back out in a hurry, as this will not give you time to check and see if the driveway is clear. You won’t save much time by rushing, but you could be putting the life of a child at risk – it’s not worth it!
  • Make sure the driveway is clear
    You do not want your child to run after a toy that has been left sitting behind a car, so make sure that the driveway is always a “no toy zone”.
  • Talk and explain to children about the dangers
    When your kids are old enough to walk and talk your should explain to them that they should never run after mommy or daddy when they are in the car, and that they should not play behind a car. If they need to tell you something when you are in the car then they are best to shout and wave their arms, or jump up and down, but that they should never run after the car.

Is the driver the only one to blame?

The driver may not be the only person to blame in a driveway accident. Generally speaking the drivers are held liable for back-over accidents and risk a personal injury lawsuit, however in some cases the car owner, manufacturer or the homeowner may also be held responsible. If a homeowner fails to deal with a dangerous situation on their property then they could face a premises liability lawsuit. If the car had some form of backup technology like a sensor, and it did not work, then the manufacturer could face a product liability lawsuit. The car owner may be held responsible for damages and not the driver depending on the insurance coverage that is in place.

Were you or your child injured?

If your child, or a loved one has been involved in a driveway accident you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. Attorney Greg Bagen has been helping accident victims in Putnam County for 40 years. Contact him for a free consultation and let him help get fair compensation for you or your child.

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