What Happens if an Accident Involves a Disabled Vehicle?

There are plenty of reasons why vehicles break down, forcing drivers to pull over, including a flat tire, an empty gas tank, or an overheated engine.

Drivers need to be careful when pulling off the roadway because passing drivers often do not pay enough attention and may cause a crash. While passing drivers are often at fault, it is possible for drivers of disabled vehicles to be at least partially at fault.

Below, our car accident lawyers in Sacramento discuss California’s move-over laws and how they define liability for an accident with a disabled vehicle.


Most disabled vehicle crashes involve a passing car crashing into the disabled vehicle. This often happens because the driver of the passing car was distracted or speeding. Sometimes drivers are changing lanes so quickly they cannot slow down or move out of the way to avoid a crash.

Some disabled vehicle crashes also involve the passing vehicle hitting the driver or another passenger who exited the disabled vehicle.

Disabled vehicle collisions may also be caused by bad road design or a poorly managed construction site. The driver may be unable to avoid a crash, and others may be liable for the accident.


Drivers have the legal obligation to pay attention to their surroundings and obey posted speed limits. If you see a disabled vehicle, slow down or move over one lane to help eliminate the risk of a crash.

Passing vehicles pose a risk to broken-down vehicles if the driver is not paying sufficient attention. Drivers who crash into broken-down vehicles are often liable for the damages that result.

When a vehicle breaks down, the driver of that vehicle must use care as well. Should your vehicle become disabled while on the roadway, recommended safety measures include turning on the hazard lights and making the effort to get as far away from travel lanes as possible.

If your car starts to have problems on the freeway or another road with a high-speed limit, take the nearest exit so you can get to an area with slower-moving traffic. Try to avoid getting out of your vehicle unless it is safe to do so and call the police or a tow truck to get your vehicle off the roadway as soon as possible.

If you fail to do these things and a crash occurs, you could be held at least partially at fault. This may be particularly true if you are in an area with poor visibility.


In California, drivers are required to move a lane away from a shoulder where an emergency vehicle or tow truck is stopped. Emergency vehicles include vehicles owned and operated by:

  • Law enforcement
  • Fire and rescue
  • Emergency medical services agencies
  • Emergency and towing/recovery vehicles
  • Emergency transportation maintenance

In situations where the driver is unable to move over a lane, they are expected to reduce their speed.


Whether you were a passing driver who collided with a disabled vehicle or the driver of a disabled vehicle that someone else crashed into, you may be eligible for compensation.

We are prepared to review your claim and help you determine liability. We may be able to pursue the compensation you need for medical bills, lost wages and other damages.

At the Arnold Law Firm, there are no upfront fees. You do not owe us anything unless we recover compensation on your behalf.

Call today for a free consultation: (916) 777-7777