It’s common sense that a vehicle stopped in a road, whether it be an interstate or surface street can present a major hazard and result in death and injury. In 2014 in GRANGER et al. v. MST TRANSPORTATION, LLC et al 329 Ga. App. 268 (Ga. Ct. App. 2014), the Georgia Court of Appeals tackled this issue where a tractor trailer ran out of gas in the rightmost of three lanes and allegedly put out their safety triangles while they went for gas.
The Plaintiff came along in the next lane over and was struck from behind by a third vehicle and knocked into the lane with the tractor only 40 feet away. They were unable to avoid slamming into the back of the stalled out trailer. They filed suit against the trucking company (likely after settling out with the insurance for the car to the rear.)
The defense team for the trucking company filed a motion for summary judgment with the trial court, arguing that it was all the fault of the driver who hit her from behind and that their being stopped in the road did not make them responsible when it all started with someone else’s negligence. The trial court agreed and threw the case out, but the Court of Appeals wisely stepped in and said “no, its always going to be foreseeable that when you stop your vehicle in the lane of travel, people may run into it whether through their own negligence or that of others.” The sent the case back down to be tried on all issues including what percent fault the truck had versus the fault of the car that knocked the plaintiff into the truck.
This is not a unique fact pattern and we are going to explain in the setting of a case we handled as well as one that got tried before a jury in December 2023.
Car Out of Gas on Highway Case
We represented a client who’s car died on the right lane of travel on the interstate. In broad daylight, on a dash-cam, the defendant tractor trailer, drove up and over the car without ever hitting its brakes. The trucking company defended the case vigorously for years, arguing that our client actually ran out of gas as there was very little left in his tank and that our client was faking some of his injuries. Ultimately the case settled for a fair seven figure amount but the issue of being stopped in the road was critical. How much blame would the jury put on our driver?
In a December 2023 Dekalb County jury trial, the Defendant truck driver had an auto braking system that activated on the interstate when a vehicle changed lanes into theirs. Once the vehicle left the lane, the driver failed to pump the gas to deactivate auto braking and the Tractor trailer came to a full stop in the second travel lane of the Interstate. Predictably, a vehicle behind was unable to react in time when a second tractor trailer swerved out of the way to avoid the sudden stop, leaving the following car no time to react and it slammed into the back of the tractor trailer, leading to serious injuries and $1,000,000 in medical bills. The trucking company contended that the crash was 50/50 on the Plaintiff and him so he should get nothing. The jury disagreed and gave 40% of the blame to the car and 60% to the tractor trailer with a $16,000,000 verdict.
Two great examples of how to analyze these stopped in the lane collisions. Please feel free to reach out and associate us on a case if you need help.