Who Could be at Fault for a Crash on the Shoulder of the Road?
Having your car break down while driving is inconvenient at best. It can also be extremely dangerous if there is no safe place to pull over. Often, drivers may pull onto the shoulder to assess the problem or call and wait for roadside assistance. Nevada has move over laws to help protect disabled, utility and emergency vehicles parked on the shoulder. Despite these laws, vehicles still get hit on the shoulder by inattentive or negligent drivers. If you have been injured in a roadside accident, we strongly recommend calling a qualified attorney for legal help without delay. At High Stakes Injury Law, we have been helping drivers injured in Las Vegas traffic accidents for decades. We understand that victims of a roadside crash may often be unsure if they have a claim. We invite you to ask questions about your accident in an initial consultation with one of our qualified lawyers. There is zero cost for this meeting, and therefore, no risk to learn more about your legal options.
What is a Shoulder of the Road Crash?A shoulder of the road crash is one that happens in the part of the road outside the outer lane of traffic. There are typically two types of shoulders on a roadway. A hard shoulder, which is a hardened strip of land, concrete or asphalt, or a soft shoulder, which may consist of gravel or dirt. There are also drop-off shoulders, which slope down away from the road.
Why You Should Avoid Pulling Over to a Shoulder or RoadsideRegardless of the type of shoulder a road may or may not have, it is meant for emergencies only. The reason for this is that the speed of traffic passing by you makes it very unsafe. This may sound ironic, since it is an area of the road made for emergencies. Recent AAA Foundation research revealed over 1,600 people have been struck and killed standing by a disabled vehicle since 2015. Another 24 emergency responders – on average – are killed each year while working on disabled vehicles on a shoulder or roadside. Common shoulder-of-the-road crashes include:
- Sideswipes: Your vehicle could be sideswiped by another vehicle while you are pulling over to the shoulder or while already stopped. Often this happens because a passing driver is distracted by something else, such as a cellphone, and swerves into the shoulder.
- Pedestrian: If you have no choice but to pull over to the shoulder of the road, it is best to remain in your car until help arrives. As a pedestrian, your risk of being struck by a fast-moving vehicle, or a car being driven by an impaired, fatigued or speeding driver is high.
- Roadside debris hitting you or your car: Most U.S. highways have posted speed limits of 65 mph or higher. It only takes one car passing to hit roadside debris, causing it to rise up and hit you or your car.
- Rear-end crashes: Another common type of shoulder of the road crash involves a distracted driver drifting off the highway and rear-ending a disabled vehicle.
Who is at Fault for a Crash With a Vehicle on the Shoulder?Moving traffic has a duty to not drive in a reckless, distracted or negligent manner. However, drivers of disabled vehicles may share some fault if they did not take proper precautions. Shoulder of the road crashes can be complicated, especially if the at-fault driver fails to stop. If the driver is later located and identified, you may have a claim against his or her insurance. However, if the driver flees the scene, it can be harder to seek compensation for your injuries. If police cannot find the hit-and-run driver, you will likely have to make a claim using your uninsured motorist coverage. Unfortunately, in this situation, if you did not purchase this optional coverage, you may not have a claim. At-fault parties for a crash with a vehicle on the shoulder may include:
- Distracted drivers who do not see an emergency vehicle, NDOT or disabled vehicle pulled over
- Drunk or other impaired drivers
- Pedestrians on a road shoulder who may share some fault if they did not pay attention to traffic or safety
- Drivers who pull over in an emergency may also be partly liable if they failed to look for traffic while pulling over
What if I am Partly at Fault?Nevada has a comparative negligence law, so you may still recover damages if you are not more than 50 percent liable. However, in a situation where you share some fault, you will be responsible for your percentage of damages. For instance, say you are assessed with 10 percent of the fault. If you are then awarded $100,000, you would only receive $90,000, less your 10 percent of liability. Having an attorney on your side is vital as you look to avoid being assessed more than your share of fault.
Nevada’s “Move Over” Law Protects More Than Emergency VehiclesNevada law, NRS 484B.607 – requires drivers to not only slow down, but to proceed carefully. When possible, drivers are also required to move over into one lane away when passing:
- Official emergency response vehicles on the side of the road when their amber lights are flashing
- Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) Freeway Service Patrol vehicles – often used to direct traffic
- Stopped NDOT vehicles when their blue lights (non-flashing) or amber lights (flashing) are on
- Any traffic incidents, such as stalled vehicles or road debris, that are blocking a lane of traffic
How You Can Help Prevent a Crash With a Vehicle on the ShoulderAll drivers owe a duty of care on the road. If you encounter a vehicle on the shoulder or roadside, part of that duty is to slow down and move over. Failure to do so could result in a serious crash. That said, if you are the driver pulling over to the side of the road, there are also precautions you must take, such as:
- When possible, exit to a gas station, parking lot or rest area instead of the shoulder
- Use your turn signal to alert other drivers you are pulling over, and then turn on your hazards
- Check to be sure the lane is clear before pulling over
- Pull as far off the road as is possible – no part of your vehicle should block traffic
- Call your road maintenance service or 9-1-1, as is appropriate
- Keep your hazard lights and seatbelt on and stay in your car until help arrives