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Who is Liable in an Accident Caused by a Broken-Down Vehicle?

broken-down vehicle

In most Charlotte car accidents, it is relatively simple and straightforward to determine the liable parties. However, there are scenarios where the fault and liability is not very clear. One of such scenarios is when a broken-down vehicle is involved in an accident. In such a case, you will typically require the legal help and guidance of a Charlotte car accident lawyer.

When it comes to crashes involving broken-down vehicles, we can broadly categorize these into two types: crashes involving broken-down vehicles on the shoulder, and crashes involving broken-down vehicles on the roadway. Here is a look at how liability works in the case of both types of crashes.

Broken-Down Vehicles On The Shoulder

If your vehicle breaks down on the road, it is your responsibility to make every effort to ensure that it is out of harm’s way. This typically involves:

  • Driving the vehicle to a side so that it is not on the roadway.
  • Turning on the vehicle’s hazard lights to alert other drivers of its presence
  • Trying to seek assistance while using hand signals and gestures to try and keep other drivers away from the vehicle

If your vehicle breaks down and you are able to pull it onto the shoulder while turning on the hazard lights, you are typically safe from liability. If another driver then comes and hits your car on the shoulder, the other driver is very likely to be held liable.

On the other hand, if you don’t pull the vehicle fully off the roadway even when you had the time and opportunity, and a crash occurs, you may be held fully or partially responsible for the accident.

North Carolina’s Move Over Law

North Carolina, like most other states, has a traffic Move Over law in place. This law requires all motorists on the state roads to move one lane away when they see emergency vehicles parked on the shoulder of the road. If changing lanes is not possible, the driver is required to slow down to a speed of 10 mph below the posted speed limit.

This is to ensure the safety of the emergency vehicles and personnel. Move Over law covers a wide variety of vehicles including ambulances, highway maintenance vehicles, police patrol cars, and fire trucks among others. A driver that violates the Move Over law and causes an accident is liable for the crash.

Although the Move Over law applies to emergency vehicles parked on the shoulder of the road, the law doesn’t apply to non-emergency vehicles. As the driver of a non-emergency vehicle, you may be able to hold another driver liable for hitting your broken-down vehicle on the shoulder if drunk, distracted, or reckless driving was involved.

Broken-Down Vehicles On The Roadway

If you have a vehicle that breaks down in the middle of the roadway, you must make an effort to get it to the shoulder. However, you may not have an opportunity to move the vehicle before another vehicle comes and hits it. In such a case, liability will depend on what steps you had taken to avoid a crash.

For instance, if you are unable to move the disabled vehicle due to weather conditions, you must turn on hazard lights and try to signal other drivers to keep away from the vehicle. If you have an opportunity to move the vehicle but still don’t, or if you don’t use hazard lights and other signals given the opportunity, you may be held liable for a crash that follows.

On the other hand, if you took all the precautions without being able to remove the vehicle from the roadway, another driver who caused the crash may be held liable.

It is important to note that proving the liability of the other driver is harder in crashes involving disabled vehicles. This is particularly so when the other driver wasn’t speeding, texting, driving under the influence, or distracted in any other way. If any of these factors were involved, you may be able to establish liability more easily.

How Can a Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer Help?

If your vehicle was disabled and suffered a crash in Charlotte, NC, we can help you. Our lawyers understand that crashes involving broken-down vehicles are different. We take into consideration all the factors involved to help you understand where liability lies. We also work with you to file a car crash claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver and seek maximum compensation for your losses. Reach out to us now to discuss your Charlotte crash claim with our lawyers.