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QUESTION: I was involved in a collision in a parking lot in MA. There was a tractor trailer blocking the lane between parking spaces. There were no available public parking spaces available but a few reserved spaces with cones blocking them off. I was looking for a space and upon seeing the tractor trailer I turned into a blocked parking space to reverse direction. I pulled into the space where approximately 1/2 of my Ford Escape fit. I placed my vehicle in reverse and began to back up back into the lane. I checked and the lane was clear. As I proceeded to reverse I was almost completely out of the parking space when a horn beeped and then a crunch. I stopped and realized that i had a collision with another vehicle. The damage was to my drivers side rear quarter panel/corner of rear bumper. The damage to the other vehicle was to the drivers side right corner of the front bumper and the directional signal.

Would I be able to appeal the surcharge and have this considered a 50/50 accident?

ANSWER: Craig,

  I don't have enough info to answer your question.  How do you know if you are being charged more because of the accident?  Do you have some written verification that your rates were increased due to the accident?  

  Generally, if you want to argue that an accident was not totally your fault, you have to deal with the claims adjuster that handled the liability claim and get them to agree that liability was 50/50 so that you can have the adjuster provide that information to the underwriting department who can then amend the points assigned or risk factor or whatever for your claim history.  

   I hope that makes sense.  It is about the best I can do with the limited information you provided.  Did the other party agree that they were not looking, too?  Did you file a claim with their insurance?  How much was the damage (in dollars)?  

I hope this helps!  Information is always free at Petty Details, LLC!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I provided the same explanation above as I gave to the adjuster. I did receive notification from the State Insurance Board that my insurance company determined I was more than 50% at fault and a surcharge may be charged. The statement on the notice stated "collision while in the process of backing up". I am not confident that I would be able to refute my responsibility but I do believe that the other driver has some fault as well.

Currently the damage is estimated around $4k total between both vehicles. The other driver did not say anything directly to me. All we did was exchange information and I reported to my insurance company later that day.

Answer
I have to say that if it was exactly like you initially explained, then the thing that stands out to me is that you were backing up, but not looking backwards.  You didn't say that directly, but you implied it by saying that you checked (past tense), meaning you didn't stay turned around looking backwards.  

I have personally had many close calls while backing out of parking spaces, but not once have I backed into anybody.  I think it is because I back up very very very very carefully, and sloooowly.  

Most adjusters are trained that backing up requires a greater duty of care (which carries greater liability when the duty is breached), therefore the one that backs without safety (if proven) is generally assumed to be more negligent than the party that wasn't paying attention to the person backing up.  

To prove the point that backing up is dangerous and that one should take extraordinary care when backing, I've heard lawyers ask "What if a child had run around the corner of that truck, could you have stopped in time?  Would you have seen them?  If you didn't see them, would you have been going slow enough to give the child a fighting chance to evade you?"  

I wouldn't worry too much about it, but if you must, my original reply still applies.  Get the adjuster to write you a letter that says liability was not adverse to you.  If he/she won't change his/her mind, there is not much you can do anyway.  Even if they do, the underwriting department might not care.  It is truly a company by company thing.  

I know this probably isn't the answer you're looking for, but I hope it helps.  

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Justin Petty

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Challenge me! I promise that I will provide you with the most honest answer I can muster, and I will base it on nearly 20 years of complex claims experience. My strength is shooting it straight and seeing through BS. I do not bluff and I can tell when somebody is. I've handled claims in almost every State in the U.S. and adjusted claims and consulted attorneys and CEO's on recovery and special claims tactics for over a decade. I am the founder and President of Petty Details, LLC. We provide the highest quality claim services to insurance companies, attorneys and individuals all exactly in the same way, by paying attention to the details and doing the right thing.

Experience

Nearly 20 years of combined claim company management, litigation, all lines adjusting, claim auditing, damage assessment, subrogation, small claims, tort recovery, collection, skip-tracing, tactical investigations, and contribution claim recovery experience across the United States of America.

Organizations
NASP (National Association of Subrogation Professionals) AllExperts.com (Auto Insurance Expert) Diminished Value Appraisers Group (LinkedIn)

Publications
10 years experience in writing and developing technical claims correspondence for litigation and unique scenarios at insurance companies and as a consultant to attorneys assisting with legal briefs and research. 42 published articles relating to auto insurance and claims. Self Published e-books entitled "How Much is My Injury Worth" and "Diminished Value - How Do I Get Paid?".

Education/Credentials
School of hard knocks, 3 years college, NO DEGREE, years of real world experience running a claims service company and adjusting claims for carriers. Speaks English and Spanish, Limited Portuguese & Italian.

Awards and Honors
Platinum Author (EzineArticles.com) All Lines Adjuster (TX, 1998 - 2008) TX Public Adjuster (2009 - 2011)

Past/Present Clients
State Farm Insurance, Endeavor GA, MileMeter Ins., American Recreational Markets, Gainsco Ins. Co., Safeway Ins., Home State County Mutual Insurance, Old American County Mutual Insurance, FCCI, Farm Bureau, Liberty Mutual, and Pronto General Agency, LTD just to name a few! On top of insurance companies and attorneys, I have personally helped thousands of accident victims with the difficult and stressful process of navigating their claim to a successful resolution.

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