A person had stopped their car on the left lane of a highway because of a flat tire. Am I at fault for hitting her in the rear?

UPDATED: Apr 7, 2009

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A person had stopped their car on the left lane of a highway because of a flat tire. Am I at fault for hitting her in the rear?

She was able to drive the car to the shoulder after the accident. She had created a road hazard for stopping on the left lane when she was able to drive her car to the right shoulder. I could not manuver around her; there was a car in the lane next to me. I hit the brakes but was unable to stop the car to avoid hitting her. Will the insurance put the fault on me for this accident?

Asked on April 7, 2009 under Accident Law, New Jersey


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 13 years ago | Contributor

Your insurance company -- and the person you hit -- would almost certainly regard you as at fault.

A driver is required to operate a car safely, so that he or she can avoid accidents. As you describe things, there was a stopped car on the side with a flat tire protruding into the roadway.

It is reasonable to assume that you could not stop as you were driving too fast -- so that you could not stop when you saw a stationary object (the car) in the distance.

The driver with the flat may also would seem to be at lest partially at fault for any of a number of possible reasons -- not pulling completely off the road (if possible), not placing warnings (such as flares or signs) a sufficient distance behind the stopped car, and maybe knowingly driving a defective vehicle (assuming she'd known about the bad tires or hadn't checked the tire inflation),  etc.,  

While the driver's contributory negligence may (depending on the state and relative fault) preclude recovery against you, you do seem to have been at least partially at fault.

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