A recent California Appeals Court has ruled that as a matter of law, a truck stopped on a shoulder, for what ever the reason, owes no duty to motorists that strike the truck and therefore cannot be found liable.
On February 24, 2004 Adelelmo Cabral’s pickup truck entered the shoulder and struck a stopped Ralphs Grocery tractor trailer. The truck was stopped in the emergency shoulder area without an emergency. The widow of Cabral argued through expert testimony that the truck driver was negligent when he stopped without an emergency, and caused an unreasonable risk of harm to Cabral. A jury agreed.
On Appeal, the 4th District ruled that the truck driver owed no duty to passing motorists and only a possible duty to motorists that needed to use the emergency dirt shoulder. There was no evidence that Cabral needed to use the emergency lane, and in fact, may have simply driven off the road surface and shoulder becasue he was drunk. The Court held that no duty was owed and therefore there can be no liability.
Trucks often pull to the shoulder for a myriad of reasons. Motorists that need to use the shoulder should protect themselves from tragedy by avoiding the tractor trailer or going around it before stopping.
Truck accidents on shoulders, where a portion of the truck remains in the lane of travel, are unaffected by this action. Truck accidents need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to ensure that no potential claims should be brought. Additionally it is not unusual for a police report to be in error on the location of the point of impact and the location of the trailer. Therefore initial investigation of an accident is crucial.