Whether you are an inexperienced teen or an adult with decades behind the wheel, having your vehicle break down in the middle of the road is always a stressful experience. Whether your vehicle threw a rod, broke a timing chain or suffered some other catastrophic mechanical failure, your situation is not just frustrating; it is potentially dangerous. If you’ve been hurt because someone else slammed into you and your disabled vehicle, that person may have been negligent and may owe you significant compensation. To find out more, take action promptly to contact a skilled Oakland car accident attorney about your case.
To highlight just how dangerous these situations can be, there’s this extremely sad news report from West Oakland. Sometime after midnight on Nov. 27, a 16-year-old San Pablo boy’s Toyota stalled on I-880, according to the Mercury News. The teen remained with his stranded vehicle, which was in the middle of the freeway.
Before police officers could arrive at the scene, a tractor-trailer slammed into the Toyota, killing the teen, according to the report. The police indicated that officers did not know if the boy, who was thrown from the impact, was sitting inside or standing nearby his car when the crash occurred.
It might be easy for some to blame the teen for remaining with the stalled car in the middle of the freeway after midnight, but when it comes to assessing liability for negligence under California law, things are much more complex.
All drivers are required to keep a ‘vigilant lookout’ at all times
California law says that all drivers have a legal obligation “to keep a vigilant lookout ahead so as to avoid, if reasonably possible, a collision with any other vehicle or person.” Many drivers, however, often fall short of this “vigilant lookout” standard, especially late at night. Truckers, several of whom have been driving for very long stretches (perhaps even in excess of the limits imposed by federal safety regulations,) can be especially prone to this due to fatigue, drowsiness or road weariness.
Certainly, drivers do not expect to encounter a single stopped car in the middle of the open freeway. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot win your injury case unless your car was on the shoulder. If your legal team can unearth facts showing that your car had its warning flasher lights on and was positioned in the middle of a very flat and straight stretch of the freeway with high visibility, you may be able to advance a winning argument that the driver who hit you should have seen your car and the failure to do so must constitute a lack of a vigilant lookout, even if your car was in a travel lane of the road.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, even if you (or your loved one) made mistakes in dealing with your/his disabled vehicle, those mistakes wouldn’t automatically keep you from recovering compensation in court or through a settlement. California law follows a system known as “pure comparative negligence” in civil cases like auto accidents. That means that if you can show that the driver whom you sued was negligent to any degree, you can recover something.
In other words, say you were hurt in a crash where a trucker hit your disabled vehicle positioned on the shoulder with its warning lights on and its hood up. The jury held the trucker and his employer to be 90% to blame and assessed your damages to be $1 million. That means you get an award of $900,000.
On the other hand, say you were hurt in an accident where your car stalled in the center travel lane of the freeway, and you did not raise the hood, turn on any lights or set out any flares or reflective warning markers. The jury found you to be 85% to blame. However, you had proof that the trucker who hit you was speeding 9 mph over the limit at the time, so the jury found the trucker and his employer 15% liable. Assuming that same $1 million figure for damages, you still are entitled to an award of $150,000.
Any kind of auto accident has the potential to involve a complicated web of facts, details and pieces of evidence. To get the maximum recovery you deserve from a legal action, you need a skilled and determined legal advocate experienced in taking this tangled web and turning it into a compelling and persuasive case. Rely on the Law Office of Stephen M. Fuerch to be that sort of advocate for you. Attorney Fuerch is an experienced Oakland car accident attorney who has many years of experience dealing with these kinds of crashes and getting results for the people hurt as a result of them. To learn more, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.