It is not uncommon to see disabled cars along the side of the roadway or in a breakdown lane. Roadways often have wide shoulder areas or specific breakdown areas for motorists experiencing problems to pull over. Unfortunately, in many situations, these disabled vehicles are at risk at being struck by other vehicles. Drivers or passengers who exit their disabled under these circumstances are often exposed to injuries or death from motorists who either failed to notice the car or were driving recklessly. We have represented families in Wrongful Death cases involving these circumstances.
In a case we did not work on, this past July on the Massachusetts turnpike, a 10-year old girl was killed when she exited from a vehicle after her father had pulled over to assist a disabled motorist. The young girl was standing behind her father’s car when struck by a driver who attempted to get around stopped traffic by going in between the two stopped vehicles. In another highway breakdown accident last summer, a Dennisport, Massachusetts woman was killed by a passing car after she pulled over into a median and had exited her car to assist a disabled vehicle.
The lesson to occupants of disabled vehicles that anytime you pull over to the side of a roadway or into a breakdown lane, you are exposed to considerable danger from passing vehicles. It only takes a single driver who falls asleep at the wheel, is driving too fast or not paying attention to cause a catastrophic or fatal accident.
Although you are placing yourself in a dangerous situation, you often have little choice if you experience a flat tire, a smoking engine or other mechanical or equipment failure. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a highway breakdown accident, call a Massachusetts highway accident lawyer.
How to Avoid a Highway Breakdown Accident
If you do happen to see a disabled vehicle on or alongside a roadway, your best option is to not stop to assist the motorist but to call 911 to report the vehicle. If it is your car that is disabled or you think the motorist could use your assistance, then follow these recommendations:
- If you notice your car has a flat or is otherwise having mechanical problems, try to get to the next exit if possible. Put your flashers on if your car is slowing. If you cannot make it to an exit, then pull to the median or breakdown lane and to the side as far as you can from traffic.
- Make your car visible to other motorists, especially if at night. Keep your flashers on and turn on the interior lights. Most drivers do not have reflective triangles in their trunk but consider getting some. These can be placed to the rear of your car. Call for roadside assistance. You can also raise your hood to alert other motorists of your presence. This can also alert passing police cars if you are unable to call.
- If you have a flat tire and are safely and well off the road, then change it if you are capable but initiate your flashers or place reflexive triangles to the rear if you have them. If there is little space between your car and traffic or you may not be physically capable or feel safe doing so, then do not attempt it. Call for roadside assistance or wait for a passing police car.
- Do not try to repair your car if it is the engine.
- Stay in your car with seat belt fastened unless you feel your car is too readily exposed to passing traffic. If you do exit, do not stand in front or back of the car but a safe distance away from it and traffic.
- If you see a distressed or disabled vehicle, call 911 to report it. If the driver is waving for assistance and you feel you can help, then proceed cautiously by signaling and ensuring that you are not endangering yourself or other motorists by pulling over to help. Pull over and away from traffic and keep your flashers on.
Although you may think you are safe, cars stranded on the shoulder or breakdown area are highly vulnerable to distracted, drunk or fatigued drivers.
Liability for Highway Breakdown Accidents
Your pulling over to the side, shoulder, median or breakdown area is often due to necessity. If you take the proper precautions, you should minimize the risk of an errant driver colliding with your car or you if you are outside your auto.
But if an accident does occur, the fault lies with the motorist who struck you. Negligence principles dictate that a motorist has a duty of care to you and any driver, pedestrian or bicyclist on the roadway. This means obeying the traffic laws and keeping a lookout for hazards. This duty of care is breached when that driver falls asleep, is distracted or is driving while under the influence and causes his or her car to drive off the roadway and into your disabled vehicle that is on the median or shoulder or, tragically, strikes you or a loved one who had exited the vehicle.
Damages in Highway Accidents
Your highway accident lawyer will demonstrate liability by the motorist who struck your car, you or a loved one and caused injuries. Damages in highway accident cases often include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Decreased capacity to earn
- Diminished quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
Damages are a part of your claim and must be proven in order for you to recover the compensation to which you are entitled. Your highway accident lawyer will obtain the necessary documentation and other evidence to support your claim.
Consult Attorney Neil Burns
Call highway accident lawyer Neil Burns, a Boston personal injury lawyer who has represented thousands of individuals and their families injured or killed in highway accidents. With over 30 years of experience in successfully handling the most complex injury accident cases, he has obtained millions of dollars in compensation for his clients. Call him today for an honest assessment of your injury claim.