This past December in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, a 21-year-old Taunton woman was tragically killed on Route 24 when she had exited her vehicle to apparently inspect damage to her vehicle after her car had struck the median barrier minutes earlier.
The accident occurred around 9:30 p.m. Police reports indicated that the woman had for unknown reasons struck the highway median and then came to a stop in the center lane. The woman was outside of her vehicle and examining the vehicle damage when a Jeep struck her and her vehicle before impacting two more vehicles. The Taunton woman was pronounced dead at the scene. One other driver in the collision sustained minor injuries.
Safely Inspect Your Vehicle if Stranded
Most people would question why the young woman would risk her safety and life by not only having her vehicle, assuming it had not become disabled, come to a stop in the middle of a busy roadway but by exposing herself to extreme risk from passing traffic by exiting her car. Without more evidence, we can only speculate..
In any event, what can you do when your vehicle begins to experience engine or equipment problems or is involved in an accident. What should the Taunton woman have done to protect herself under these circumstances? Here are some suggestions you can follow if you find yourself in a similar situation:
- If the vehicle is operational, move it as far as you can to the side of the roadway and onto the shoulder while remaining on level ground.
- If you have a flat tire, driving on it can destroy the tire, and your greatly reduced speed can put you in jeopardy. Move to the side of the road at your first opportunity.
- Put your emergency or flashing lights on before you exit your vehicle.
- Stay away from your car while phoning for or waiting for assistance unless the weather prevents you from doing so.
- If you choose to change a flat tire by yourself, it is not recommended that you do so if the flat is on the side of the car facing traffic. Instead, call AAA or other roadside assistance. They have large vehicles with warning lights and are trained in roadside repairs.
- If your car is stranded in the middle of a busy roadway and not operational, immediately activate your emergency lights and the interior lights.
- Stick a white rag outside the passenger car window to signal that your car is stranded.
- If possible, exit your vehicle but only if there is a long lull in traffic and retreat to the side of the road onto the shoulder. If there is too much traffic, do not risk exiting your car.
- If the car is smoking or you see flames, you will have to exit your car quickly and run to the side of the road when safe.
Most people do not have reflective markers in their trunk that can be placed to the rear, nor is it particularly safe to do so on the interstate or turnpike, whether it is daylight or not. But if you do have this equipment and can safely position them to the rear of your car where there is light traffic on the roadway, then do so about 6-10 feet behind your car.
Too many accidents occur when stranded motorists assume that other motorists have noticed their stopped vehicles on the side of the roadway and begin to inspect engine or equipment failure or attempt to change a tire. If you must change the tire or do an inspection, be constantly aware of approaching traffic and be ready to quickly get to safe ground if it appears you are in imminent danger of being struck. For men, there is no shame in calling AAA to change a tire, especially if you have a physical condition that limits you, or the flat is on the driver or traffic side.
Liability in the West Bridgewater Accident?
It is possible that the family of the deceased woman has a wrongful death claim in the above tragic incident. Like anyone else, she had a duty to exercise care for her own safety under the circumstances. A reasonable person would have either attempted to get to the side of the roadway after sustaining damage provided the car was still drivable, or else have remained in the vehicle while activating flashers if it were too risky to exit the car and move to a safe location. However, it is also possible that the driver of the Jeep was driving too fast, under the influence or in some other way negligent.
There were any number of reasons for why the decedent struck the roadway median including distraction or fatigue, and her car may have become incapacitated after hitting the median. But her actions in exiting her car while not alerting approaching traffic, and in simply inspecting her car in the midst of a busy roadway at night may be unreasonable.
The motorist who was injured by the Jeep driver may have a cause of action against the insurer for the decedent driver who negligently sustained damage to her car and then failed to exercise ordinary care by either not removing her car to a safe location or not undertaking any measures to alert drivers of her predicament. If the decedent motorist had activated her flashers and her car was not drivable, then the driver of the Jeep may have some responsibility for crashing into the stranded vehicle before impacting the injured motorist’s vehicle. It will take the skill of an experienced car accident lawyer to fully investigate the available facts in this case before presenting a valid claim for damages in this case if compensation is pursued.
Prepare for a Vehicle Breakdown
Being prepared for a flat tire or other vehicle breakdown can be a lifesaver, regardless of how remote that possibility may appear to you. We recommend that you have the following items in your vehicle:
- Spare tire in good condition
- Equipment for changing a tire
- Fire extinguisher
- Flashlights with spare batteries
- White rag to hang out your window
- Flares and reflective devices
- Jumper cables
- Water bottles
Maintain a AAA membership or other roadside assistance service.
Damages in a Car Accident
Damages in any car accident are determined by the nature and severity of the injuries sustained as well as the impact on the injured person’s life and work. Typical damages are:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Emotional distress
- Permanent disfigurement
- Permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
Retain a Car Accident Lawyer from Burns and Jain
Car accident injury claims can and often do present difficult issues of liability, insurance coverage, and damages. By retaining a knowledgeable and highly experienced car accident lawyer from the law offices of Burns and Jain, you will have a greater opportunity to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled. Call our office today at (617) 286-3594 for a free, in-depth discussion of your car accident injury claim.