Did a Stalled Car Cause Your Car Accident?

Key Points:

  • When a car stalls in traffic, it’s more likely to be hit by another vehicle and cause serious injuries, but who is at fault for the accident depends on the circumstances.
  • Under Georgia law, a driver of a stalled car must move their vehicle out of the roadway when they can safely do so, and you may be found at least partially liable for creating a road hazard if your stalled car causes an accident.
  • Georgia law also requires people to follow the speed limit and allow enough space to stop suddenly if necessary—a driver who rear-ends a stalled car is often found liable.
  • Because stalled car accidents may result in more severe injuries, insurance settlements are often larger than in a typical accident claim.
Traffic jam. Cars are queuing up. Various vehicles got stuck on the road in a traffic jam.
Traffic jam. Cars are queuing up. Various vehicles got stuck on the road in a traffic jam.

For many people, living in the Metro Atlanta area means long daily commutes across busy interstates and roadways. Frequent driving in heavy traffic can not only wear you down but also take a major toll on your vehicle.

For example, you use your brakes more often during rush hour and may have to brake harder to stop when driving at higher speeds, which can cause your brakes to wear out more quickly. Your engine can also be damaged if you spend much time idling in traffic, which can lead to engine failure.

Your daily commute can also cause wear and tear on your tires and car battery or cause your car to overheat. You may even run out of gas because you didn’t realize you were running low until it was too late. Whether these issues build up gradually or happen suddenly, the result is often the same—a stalled car stuck on the road.

Ideally, you would be able to pull over to the side of the road or shoulder of the interstate before your car dies, but that’s not always possible. Sometimes cars stall suddenly and are stuck in the middle of a busy highway, creating a dangerous situation for the stalled driver as well as all the other drivers trying to avoid it. When a car stalls suddenly, it’s more likely to be hit by another vehicle, but who is at fault for the accident depends on the circumstances. Stalled Car Accidents Can Be Extremely Dangerous

When a vehicle stalls in moving traffic, there is a greater risk of accidents and injuries. Other cars may not be able to stop in time to avoid hitting the stalled vehicle, possibly because they’re speeding or are distracted by their phones. Making matters worse, safety features such as airbags may not be working properly if the car stalled because of an engine failure. In other words, the driver of a stalled car can be a sitting duck, with little protection against oncoming traffic and no ability to move out of the way.

Unfortunately, a collision with a stalled vehicle can cause catastrophic or even fatal injuries for accident victims on a fast-moving highway. Sometimes, stalled vehicles in the road may be struck multiple times by passing cars. When other drivers or first responders are on the scene, they’re also at risk for serious injury if they’re struck by a car.

To ensure your car doesn’t break down, you should get regular maintenance and fix any issues so that your vehicle is in good condition. Always make sure you have enough gas and other necessary liquids, such as coolant, and check that your tires are properly inflated.

If your car stalls, you should immediately turn on your hazard lights to alert other cars and avoid accidents. If you can move your car safely, you should put your car in neutral and try to coast to the side of the road, as far away from traffic as possible. You’re safer staying inside the stalled car—with the doors locked and your seat belt and hazards on— than trying to leave the vehicle. If you’re unable to move your car out of traffic, you can call 511 to ask for assistance from a HERO operator. What if the Car Stalls at Night?

If your car stalls at night, it can be more dangerous because other drivers are less likely to see you in time to stop or avoid an accident. However, the same safety rules apply—always turn on your hazard lights so that you’re more visible to others (this is even more crucial at night); move your car to the side of the road if possible; and stay in your car until help arrives.

How Fault/Negligence is Determined in Stalled Car Accident Cases

When a car accident involves a stalled car, determination of fault, or negligence, depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. The driver of the stalled car may be at fault, the driver who hit the stalled car may be negligent, or both drivers may share responsibility for the accident.

One factor that can help determine fault is whether any drivers broke the law. In Georgia, when an accident “with no apparent serious personal injury or death” occurs, drivers are required to move their vehicles “into a safe refuge on the shoulder, emergency lane, or median or to a place otherwise removed from the roadway whenever such moving of a vehicle can be done safely and the vehicle is capable of being normally and safely driven, does not require towing, and can be operated under its own power.” O.C.G.A. § 40-6-275.

Under the terms of this statute, a driver of a stalled car who doesn’t move their vehicle when they could have safely done so may be found in violation of the law. If so, you may be found at fault for creating a road hazard.

However, it’s also the law that drivers must obey speed limits and ensure there is enough space between their car and the vehicle in front of them to stop suddenly if necessary. In most accident cases, a driver who hits you in the rear is considered negligent because they should have been able to stop. If a driver rear-ends a stalled car that should have been moved out of traffic, both drivers may be found responsible, and the court would determine each party’s percentage of fault.

When assessing fault, the court will look at other factors as well. For example, if the car stalled suddenly and was hit before there was an opportunity to move it, the driver of the stalled car is less likely to be found negligent. If the car stalled because it ran out of gas or the driver failed to maintain it in a safe condition, that evidence could help establish partial liability.

The court will also consider evidence showing whether the stalled driver took proper safety measures, such as turning on hazard lights, or failed to call for towing or other assistance in a

timely manner. If the driver who hit the stalled car was speeding, texting, weaving in and out of traffic, or was intoxicated, that evidence may help establish negligence, or even recklessness, in an injury case.

How Insurance Companies View Stalled Car Accident Claims

If you’ve been hurt in a stalled car accident, you’ll need to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to recover compensation. The insurance company will investigate the claim before deciding whether to pay it, which means looking for any evidence to justify denying or reducing compensation.

Often the insurance company will dispute fault and argue that the driver of a stalled car was to blame—they didn’t have to stop suddenly, they could have moved their car but didn’t, they didn’t turn on their hazard lights or call for help soon enough, they didn’t keep their car in perfect condition, and so on. Any amount of fault on your part can mean less compensation, and if you’re at least 50 percent at fault, no compensation at all.

To overcome these arguments, your attorney must investigate quickly and collect all available evidence to prove liability and the full extent of your damages. When strong evidence is presented to the insurance company supporting a valid settlement demand, the carrier must compensate you fully for your injuries and other costs up to the policy limit. Because stalled car accidents may result in more serious injuries, insurance settlements are often larger than in a typical accident claim.

Call The Millar Law Firm for a Free Consultation

If you were hurt in a stalled car accident, you should talk to an experienced attorney to assess your legal claim. Our lawyers go to work immediately to investigate the accident and help you recover maximum compensation. Call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

- D. Lo
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