If you run out of gas or have mechanical breakdown while on the highway and someone rear ends you, who is at fault? 2 Answers as of January 09, 2013

I am driving 70mph and the car abruptly stops due to empty gas tank or a mechanical problem and I am rear ended by someone who is following too closely. Who would be at fault?This is in California, an at-fault state.

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Law Offices of Mark West
Law Offices of Mark West | Mark West
I would say there could be some comparative negligence on both parties. If you negligently let your vehicle run out of gas on a freeway, that would go against you. If there was some mechanical problem with your care you knew about but did not fix before the incident, again that might play against you. If you did not know of the mechanical problem and did not run out of gas, that might be excused. If you can prove the person who hit you was following too close and there was nothing blocking their field of view or in other ways preventing them from seeing and eventually hitting you, then that will play against them.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/9/2013
Frank Law Group, P.C.
Frank Law Group, P.C. | Brett E. Rosenthal
In the event that any motorist on the roadway or freeway has a mechanical breakdown, including running out of gas, that is a normal risk that other drivers have to anticipate and act accordingly. Hazards on the roadway, in the form of debris, animals or broken down vehicles are part of every motorist responsibility to look out for. The general rule of the road is if you strike someone in the rear you are at fault. However, there also can be comparative fault on the motorist rear ended depending on the circumstances of the vehicle in the roadway. For instance, a motorist who fails to plan appropriately or attempts to go that extra distance and runs out of gas in the roadway, even though the rear ending vehicle is predominately at fault, I believe the driver who drives to a point where they run out of gas would have some degree of fault for the accident. Furthermore, if that same motorist fails to act accordingly after running out of gas such that their vehicle becomes disabled in the middle of the roadway, they could be a greater percentage at fault. These types of situations are ones where the jury could conclude a multitude of ways and it really depends on the totality of circumstances. In your particular situation, if your running out of gas was because of failure to properly estimate your fuel consumption and once running out, you fail to move out of the roadway, you could be a larger percentage of fault. However, if you run out and because the other motorist is right on your bumper not providing you some space to react to your emergency, I believe your percentage of fault is going to be very small as compared to the driver who rear ends you. Keep in mind that California is a true comparative state meaning that you can recover your damages diminished by your comparative fault, which means even if you are over 50% at fault you can still recover the value of your case decreased by your percent fault. Should you have additional questions,
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/9/2013
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