In the United States approximately 50 children are backed over by vehicles every week. 48 require treatment at an Emergency Room and 2 die each week. These children are injured and die because adults (70% of the time parents or relatives) do not see them when backing up.
Drivers backing over children (Backovers) is the most common form of non-traffic fatalities for children under the age of 15. Drivers driving forward over children (Frontovers) is the 2nd most common form of non-traffic fatalities for children under the age of 15. (Source: Kids and Cars.org).
Backover and Frontover injuries occur because all vehicles have blind zones – the area behind (or in front of) a vehicle that the person sitting in the driver’s seat can not see. To help parents realize how big some vehicle’s blind zones can be, Consumer Reports has measured the blind zones of popular vehicle models and published the results for free.
This Kids and Cars PSA video does a great job of raising awareness of the danger to young children –
Since 70% of the time Backover and Frontover injuries/fatalities are caused by family or close relatives the incidence of these tragedies goes up around busy times of the year, like holidays. Most of these incidents occur in the child’s own driveway or in a parking lot. The typical age of victims is between 12-23 months (young toddlers).
Because so often these types of injuries and deaths involve an at-fault family member, it can be extremely emotional and difficult to know whether to consult with an attorney. Moreover, if a family decides to investigate their legal options, there are legal challenges inherent in this type of claim.
The long standing rule In Georgia is that there is intra-family tort immunity (which means that generally speaking you can not sue a close family member for negligence). The rationales behind this immunity include preservation of family harmony and protection against the possibility of collusive or friendly lawsuits.
Yet in recent decades Georgia Courts have held that intra-family tort immunity is no longer a blanket defense in injury cases. For example, the Georgia Supreme Court has held that there is not a valid rationale for applying the interspousal immunity doctrine to wrongful-death actions and has accordingly held that the application of that doctrine to wrongful-death actions is unconstitutional. Similarly, the Georgia Court of Appeals has concluded that the common-law doctrine of intra-family tort immunity does not operate as a bar to a claim brought be an ex-husband against the estate of his former wife seeking to recover for the wrongful-death of their daughter.
Another potential bar to recovery in a Backover or Frontover case is that the relevant policy of insurance may contain an exclusion to the liability coverage when the injured or killed party was a family member of the policyholder. It is imperative to have a lawyer review a copy of the policy and advise regarding the enforceability of such provisions (known as “family exclusion clauses”). They may be void as against the public policy of the State of Georgia.
Investigating coverage and possible sources of recovery for the family of a child injured in a Backover or Frontover case is complex. Hiring an attorney can provide much needed guidance and reassurance for parents who find themselves in these tragic circumstances.