Damage when reversing who is liable?



First impressions are not always the decisive ones. Because even if two vehicles appear to have collided while backing up, the damage is not always shared equally. The Federal Court of Justice has now issued a ruling on the application of prima facie evidence in the case of so-called "risk of loss". Parking lot accidents hit (Az. VI ZR 6/15).

What had happened?

In a public access parking lot where traffic laws apply, two vehicle drivers had backed out of their parking stalls. Collision occurred, with the plaintiff stating he was already standing when the damage was caused.

The liable motor vehicle insurance company now initially settled 50 percent of the plaintiff's damages. The claimed, however, the full compensation, because he saw the question of guilt quite clearly on the part of the defendant, because he himself had already brought his vehicle to a halt. The lawsuit was initially rejected by the Straubberg District Court, the appeal to the Frankfurt District Court was unsuccessful. Only the appeal to the Federal Supreme Court was positive for the plaintiff.

To the explanation

In many "parking lot accidents in which vehicles are involved in an accident while backing up together, the courts often prefer a 50/50 apportionment of liability, since it is assumed that both road users violated their duty of care when backing up (§ 9 para. 5 StVO) had violated.

Definition of prima facie evidence: a method used to provide indirect evidence. It is allowed to draw conclusions from proven facts to facts to be proven, based on empirical principles. The determination of causality and fault in civil proceedings are classic applications of prima facie evidence in this context.

Not always equally to blame

The ruling reads as follows: "The typicality of the course of events required for the application of prima facie evidence against a reversing driver is regularly not present if, when two vehicles reverse out of parking bays in a parking lot, it is certain that one vehicle driver reversed before the collision, but it cannot be ruled out that one vehicle was already stationary at the time of the collision when the other – reversing – party to the accident drove his vehicle into the vehicle."

. And further: "On the appeal of the plaintiff, the judgment of the 6. Civil chamber of the district court Frankfurt (Oder) from 8. December 2014 cancelled. The defendants are ordered, with partial modification of the judgment of the District Court of Strausberg of 3. July 2014 ordered jointly and severally to pay € 152.12 to the plaintiff."

How will the ruling affect you in the future?

In plain language this means for the drivers: If in principle it cannot be excluded that one of the vehicles was already standing at the moment of the accident, when the other passenger car drove into it, the predominant adhesion lies with the "driving" motor vehicle. The court has discretion as to how much of the liability is awarded to the individual parties.


Keep your eyes open in road traffic! A lot of accidents happen in large parking lots, especially when backing up. In this respect, it is advantageous to look twice before shifting into reverse gear. If you are unsure, ask for identification, because four eyes often see more than two!

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With the collaboration of attorney Sebastian Trost / Ralf Galow