Liability for a Crash with a Vehicle Stopped on the Shoulder

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Car Accidents Published on May 6, 2021 and updated on April 25, 2023.

guardrail on roadway during daytimeThe last thing you want to happen on a highway or interstate with high-speed traffic is for your car to break down, forcing you to pull over. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time and drivers may be forced to sit and wait for a tow truck to arrive.

Help cannot come soon enough because the shoulder/roadside is a dangerous place to be. You cannot count on passing drivers to exercise the proper amount of caution, such as by slowing down, moving to the far side of the lane nearest you, or even changing lanes. Failing to exercise caution often leads to crashes that may result in severe injuries.

While fault for some of these crashes is clear – the passing driver was driving recklessly so he or she is to blame – there are other times when things may be more complicated. This is a particularly important issue in Maryland, because if crash victims are even one percent at fault, they cannot obtain compensation.

Does Maryland Law Say Anything About Vehicles on the Shoulder?

Maryland’s Move Over law requiring drivers to move over one lane does not apply to non-emergency vehicles. The law says drivers should move over one lane, if possible, when approaching an emergency vehicle with red, yellow or amber flashing lights. However, you are only required to move over if it is safe to do so and you would not be impeding the flow of traffic. Otherwise, you should slow down to a more reasonable speed.

Even though this law only applies to emergency vehicles, these vehicles could be present during a crash with a vehicle on the shoulder. Crashes on the shoulder could also involve emergency vehicles. If a driver fails to move over one lane as required by the law, and he or she causes a crash, he or she could face a traffic citation and financial liability for the victim’s damages.

Crashing into an ambulance can be extremely dangerous as an injury victim could be in the back. There is also a risk of hitting someone who got out of the car. These types of crashes are often fatal or result in life-changing injuries for victims.

Maryland law also requires you to drive your vehicle in a single lane. If you move out of your lane and crash into a vehicle parked on the shoulder you are likely to be held liable for the accident.

When Might the Victim Share Liability?

While many of these crashes are exclusively the fault of the passing driver, the driver of the vehicle parked on the shoulder could bear fault. For example, was a significant part of your vehicle jutting out into an active lane of traffic? If the answer is yes, you may be at least partially to blame.

If it is nighttime, make sure to turn on your hazard lights. If you have road flares, you should use them to alert other drivers to your vehicle. Not taking simple steps like this could make it harder for passing drivers to see you, exposing you to potential liability for an accident.

Preventing a Crash if You Need to Pull Over

If possible, you may want to pull into a parking lot or at least get off the interstate or highway you are traveling on. At the very least, passing traffic may be going much more slowly. That should give passing drivers much more time to move away from your vehicle or slow down.

It is often a bad idea to get out of your vehicle if you are parked on the shoulder. If you get hit by a car, you at least have a seat belt and airbag to help protect you. If you need to exit your vehicle, try to do so on the side farthest away from traffic.

It is important to keep up with routine maintenance on your vehicle and fix problems as they pop up. This could help prevent a situation where you need to pull off the road onto the shoulder. Make sure your phone has enough charge for you to call for help. You want to get off the shoulder as quicky as you can.

Unsure if You May Have a Case? Call for a Free Consultation

The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl has been helping injury victims for more than three decades and we have established a track record of success securing compensation.

If you think another driver is clearly at fault for the crash that injured you, give our firm a call today to schedule a free legal consultation. It is important to seek help from an experienced Maryland car accident attorney because insurance companies are only focused on their bottom lines.

There are no upfront fees, which means talking to us about your situation is risk-free.

Need legal help after an accident? Call 410-907-3957 today.