Who is Liable for Road Debris Accidents?

The Wilmington Car Accident Lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Help Drivers Injured by Road Debris.

An accident can happen to any motorist, no matter how careful one can be. Particularly road debris accidents, as many can happen in the blink of an eye. And they happen more often than you may think; according to a study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, road debris causes over 50,000 accidents a year, resulting in more than 9,800 injuries and almost 115 deaths annually. Two-thirds of all these types of accidents coincidently happen because of unsecured objects falling off a vehicle.

Road debris consists of any object that is left in the road and is hazardous to drivers, regardless of if it was intentionally or not. A collision with road debris can lead to catastrophic damage and injury should a driver fail to navigate around it safely. However, determining who is liable for such an accident can be quite difficult. If you are unable to, you may have to use your own insurance policy to cover any damages or injuries you sustain.

What is Unavoidable Road Debris?

There are certain debris that insurance companies and police reports will consider as unavoidable. Flying debris, like rocks coming off a moving construction vehicle in front of you, is considered “unavoidable debris,” meaning the driver had little to no time to react accordingly and attempt to avoid it.

In ideal situations, the driver of the vehicle whose debris caused an accident would realize the incident occurred, and pull over. There, they would collect whatever fell off their vehicle safely and exchange insurance and contact information with whomever was affected by their unavoidable debris. Then the accident victim could recover any damages that are necessary, such as medical bills or car repair bills, and file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

There are situations where the at-fault driver is unaware of what fell off their car, and if an accident happened as a result of their debris, or they do know but leave the scene of the accident anyway. At this point, the accident victim may need to find witnesses or any security footage to pinpoint who or what caused the flying debris, which is necessary to file an insurance claim with an at-fault driver.

If you are unable to find any eyewitnesses or video, then you may have to file a comprehensive claim through your own insurance company to have your damages covered.

Whether you are able to contact the at-fault driver or not, it is a good idea to contact the police and file a report. Some states even require it if you are in a single car accident and the damages are over a certain amount.

A police report is vital to have because it will contain details of your accident, such as the make and model of the at-fault driver’s vehicle and any witness statements. More importantly, the police report will detail whether the object that hit your vehicle was unavoidable or not, as well as if the at-fault driver fled the scene of the accident. The police report will be necessary when filing an insurance claim.

What is Avoidable Road Debris?

On the other hand, there is road debris that police or insurance companies would consider “avoidable,” meaning that the object was in the road and the driver who collided with the object had enough time to avoid it. Every driver must be in control of their own vehicle. So even if debris flew off a truck and landed on the road long before the collision occurred, drivers have a “duty of care” to avoid the object safely and to the best of their ability.

An insurance company will likely consider you to be the at-fault driver if you hit an avoidable object in the road. To recover any damages to your vehicle, you would likely have to file an insurance claim with your own insurance company, where your premiums will likely be raised. Your car insurance may have medical payments coverage should you be injured by the accident as well.

Should you swerve to avoid hitting an object but cause an accident instead, say, with the vehicle next to you or you hit a guardrail, then you would still be considered the at-fault driver in the eyes of the insurance company.

There are exceptions should you hit an avoidable object, such as a traffic cone that was misplaced by a construction company and should not have been there. In this scenario, the construction company may be held liable for your accident.

Another example that would be considered an exception is if the government is held liable for an accident. If an object was left in the highway that is under the care of the government, and they had ample time and awareness to remove the object but failed to do so, then the government can be held liable for causing the accident. Filing a claim against the government will be difficult, and will likely require the help of an accident lawyer.

How to Avoid a Road Debris Accident?

Road debris accidents are a common occurrence, but there are ways to prevent them from happening:

  • Defensive driving: Driving defensively often gives you enough time to react to an object in the road, or if you need to perform an emergency maneuver. Do not tailgate others, and leave enough room between yourself and others to get a good view of the road. If you see an object in the road, slow down to avoid it as best and as safely as possible.
  • Performing vehicle maintenance: Many times, road debris comes vehicle that was not maintained well. Tires can blowout when worn badly, when they are underinflated, and even when they are overinflated. Large commercial trucks often leave blown-out tires in the roadway, creating obstacles for other drivers. Rusted exhaust systems and suspension components can also break loose and fly off a vehicle, so it is important to always keep your vehicle well-maintained.
  • Securing cargo: If you have to travel with a large object, either on top of your vehicle or by towing it, tie it down securely with rope, straps, or netting. Double check that it is secure before moving, and make sure it is tight against the vehicle if it is on the roof so no air can get under it. Finally, do not overload the vehicle, as too much weight can drastically affect the handling of the car.

The Wilmington Car Accident Lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Help Drivers Injured by Road Debris

If you have been injured by road debris, whether you know who is liable for the accident or not, then contact our Wilmington car accident lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. right away. Call us today at 302-656-5445 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. With offices located in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, we proudly serve all communities of Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.