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Who Pays in an Accident with a Broken Down Car?

Assigning Fault for a Crash Between a Moving Vehicle and a Broken-Down Vehicle in Pennsylvania

Who Pays in an Accident with a Broken Down Car in PATo suddenly hear a loud clunk or feel your car shudder or stall when you’re driving on the highway is every motorist’s nightmare. The huge inconvenience, potential dangers, and cost of car repairs are just a few thoughts that might be running through your mind at that moment. However, a very important consideration that may not be at the forefront of your mind is your potential liability for causing an accident in this situation.

Crashes involving broken-down vehicles are more common than many people realize. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 12% of all crashes involve a disabled vehicle or one that was becoming disabled immediately preceding the crash. These crashes therefore contribute to numerous injuries and deaths each year. Nearly 200 roadside workers and first responders are killed annually while responding to broken-down vehicles. These statistics demonstrate the risk of accidents associated with encountering or being the driver of a broken-down vehicle and, as such, it is important for drivers to understand their legal obligations and how to properly handle these situations.

Common Kind of Crashes That Happen with Broken-Down Vehicles in PA

There are two common types of crashes that occur involving broken-down vehicles: collisions involving a broken-down vehicle and other vehicles and accidents involving an individual attending to a broken-down vehicle being struck by another motor vehicle. Accidents involving a broken-down vehicle and another vehicle typically happen when a moving vehicle fails to see the disabled vehicle for some reason and fails to see them in enough time to stop or avoid a collision. It is also possible for an accident to happen between two moving vehicles when one or both of them are attempting to avoid a collision with a disabled vehicle on the road.

In situations where an individual attending to a disabled vehicle is struck by another vehicle, the outcome is often deadly. This happens when a driver of the disabled vehicle, an emergency responder, or roadside assistance personnel are helping to move the disabled vehicle, change a tire, or even just exit the vehicle. The driver of a moving vehicle may fail to see this individual or, the individual themselves may exit the vehicle or otherwise come into the path of moving traffic abruptly, leaving a passing vehicle inadequate opportunity to avoid striking them.

Pennsylvania Driver Liability in Accidents with Disabled Vehicles

To be liable for a car accident or responsible for the injuries or property damage to another person caused by an accident, an individual must be found negligent for the damage. There are four elements that must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence (a legal standard that means more likely than not): duty, breach, causation, and damages. In short, every driver has a legal duty to operate and maintain their vehicle as a reasonably prudent person would under the circumstances. If they fail to do so, either by leaving their vehicle in a vulnerable place on the roadway when it could be moved, or failing to turn on their hazard lights if possible, then these actions could be deemed as a deviation from the required standard of care. If an accident occurs as a result of their failure, then they may be liable for the damage caused.

If another driver was also negligent in the way they responded or failed to respond to the hazard in the roadway, then the analysis becomes a bit more complicated. Pennsylvania is a modified comparative negligence state that follows the 51% rule. This means that fault in an accident is attributed to the parties involved based on their contribution of negligence in the resulting damage. In a modified comparative negligence state like Pennsylvania, if a party is found to be 51% or more negligent for causing the accident, then they cannot recover any damages. However, if they were negligent in contributing to the accident but they were less than 51% at fault, then they can still recover compensation, which will be reduced according to their contribution in causing the accident.

How to Effectively Handle a Car Breakdown to Avoid Potential Accidents

Pennsylvania Driver Responsibility in Accidents with Disabled VehiclesStep 1: Move to a Safe Place

If your vehicle is making strange noises, shuttering, and otherwise seems to be in the process of breaking down, it is critical that you move the vehicle to a safe place as soon as you can. Usually, the far right shoulder or, better yet, a parking lot is the safest place to be.

Step 2: Alert Other Drivers

Once you have moved the car or if you are unable to move it, your next step should be to do whatever you reasonably can to alert other drivers to the presence of the vehicle. If you can put on your hazard lights, do so. If you happen to carry reflective triangles of flare, set them up around the back of the vehicle. Raising your car’s hood to signal that it is disabled can be another helpful sign to get the attention of drivers who may be on autopilot and help to alert them to the position of the vehicle, so they can change lanes or otherwise avoid your broken-down vehicle.

Step 3: Get Help with the Broken-Down Vehicle

If your vehicle breaks down and you are unable to move it, call 911 right away. The police can respond and alert other drivers of the hazard by closing the lane at an adequate distance and signaling the hazard with their emergency lights.

Step 4: To Stay or to Exit the Vehicle?

Use reasonable discretion by assessing the totality of your circumstances and environment to determine whether it would be safer to stay in your vehicle or exit the vehicle. If you choose to exit the vehicle and you are on a busy road or highway, never open the driver’s seat door without carefully looking behind you for oncoming traffic. In fact, even if you do not see any oncoming traffic, it is safer to exit the car through the passenger’s side door if you are on the far right shoulder. That way, you are not in the path of oncoming traffic.

Crucial To Do’s if You are Injured in Car Breakdown Accident in PA

Your first step, if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, should be to get to a safe place if you are able to do so. Then, you should call 911 and ask for the police to respond to the accident. If you think there is any chance that you might need an ambulance, due to neck pain or other injuries, it is better to be safe than sorry and request an ambulance as well. Even if you do not think that you need an ambulance, you should be examined by a medical professional as soon as possible following the accident and, ideally, on the same day.

If you are physically able, it is also very helpful to take photographs of the scene of the accident. Specifically, take photos of the position of the disabled car, where the collision occurred, damage to any vehicles, and any relevant traffic signs. If there were third party witnesses to the accident, ask them for a statement about what they say and their contact information. If a police report is filed, which it should be, these statements should be included in the report as well.

Contact a Skilled Northeast Philadelphia Car Accident Attorney to Discuss Your Broken-Down Vehicle Crash Case

It is very common for accidents involving broken-down vehicles to also involve some degree of contributory negligence, meaning that one the one party did something negligent that contributed to the accident happening. Under Pennsylvania’s modified comparative negligence system and application of the 51% rule, liability can be difficult to navigate or have clarity around in these cases. This is one of the many reasons that the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer is invaluable in these cases. Can you still recover compensation for your injuries even if it was your vehicle that was in the middle of the roadway? These are questions that the attorneys at Cohen & Riechelson can answer after investigating the details of your case.

If we determine that another party was negligent in causing your injuries and it appears that you were less than 51% liable in your own contribution, then we can help you to pursue a claim for compensation and recover your costs of medical bills, temporary or permanent disability, time off from work, physical therapy, disfigurement, and more. So if you have questions about filing a legal claim for a collision with a broken-down vehicle in Fairless Hills, Langhorne, Doylestown, Bristol, Warminster, Yardley, Levittown or elsewhere in Northeast Philadelphia, Lower Bucks County, and Pennsylvania, contact us today at (215) 337-4915. for a complimentary review of your case.

Free Case Evaluation for Pennsylvania Injury Victims

With looming medical bills and the uphill battle of recovery ahead, we do not burden you with yet another financial responsibility during this trying time. We abide by a contingency model, which essentially means that until you receive compensation, we work for you for free. With centrally-located offices in Bensalem, our skilled legal professionals have been serving clients throughout Bucks County and Northeast Philadelphia for over 40 years. We are committed to providing unparalleled advocacy, advisement, and assistance to our clients while confronting those who would seek to deter you as aggressive, unwavering champions of your interests. Contact our Bensalem offices today to request your free, confidential consultation.