Who is Responsible When Road Debris Causes an Accident?

October 26, 2020

Accident liability relies on the concept of negligence. The at-fault driver can be held liable for damages that result from a car wreck if it can be proven that their negligence caused the accident. It may be difficult to determine liability if there is no clear at-fault party. For example, who is responsible for an accident that was caused by road debris? Determining liability can be difficult in this scenario. A skilled lawyer will be able to help in this situation.

What is Road Debris?

Any object that is unknowingly or deliberately left on a roadway can be considered road debris. These items may include car parts from accidents or breakdowns, such as metal or shredded tires. Someone using the roadside as a dumping ground for unwanted items can create unsafe road debris. Objects that fall out of a car’s trunk or thrown out by occupants can constitute dangerous road debris. Improperly secured cargo that falls off the back of a moving truck can create dangerous road debris. These hazardous objects cause dangerous conditions for all drivers.

Is it Difficult to Determine Liability for Road Debris?

It can be difficult to determine who bears responsibility for debris that creates dangerous road conditions. Often, items left on highways may have come from vehicles that are no longer around. Approximately two-thirds of road debris accidents are caused by fallen objects. In most cases, the at-fault motorist has left the scene or is otherwise not identifiable. If an item drops from a car, it can be difficult to pick up identifying information of the driver, particularly if they leave the vicinity before the item is encountered by other drivers.

If the source is identifiable, it may still be difficult to pinpoint the liable party. For example, truckers and other delivery personnel can be held responsible for any damage that was caused by the loss of their cargo. If an item falls off the back of a truck or delivery van, the driver of that vehicle can be held liable for any accident that results. However, the driver is only one of many possible parties that may be found legally responsible. The trucking or delivery company may also be found negligent.

Additionally, a property owner could also be a liable party. When the road debris is left on or adjacent to someone’s property, the hazard may be traced back to a negligent homeowner. For example, a trash can left in the road may cause an accident; in this case, the homeowner may be held liable.

Similarly, the poor maintenance of a public road may cause significant road debris. The local government may be held liable if the debris was not properly addressed in a timely manner. It is important to note that successfully proving a case against state and local governments can be complicated by special legal rules that protect public institutions.

How Do Insurance Companies Handle Road Debris Accident Claims?

Insurance companies handle claims involving road debris differently than they handle typical two-car accidents. A road debris accident is considered an avoidable accident. Usually, the at-fault driver’s insurance covers any property damage or injury claims that arise from the accident.

Ideally, the driver’s policy will include collision coverage or uninsured motorist coverage. If so, a road debris accident in which the driver drove over or into an object in the road will be covered. If the object that caused the accident is in motion when it makes contact, the accident will be considered unavoidable, meaning that the insurance coverage may fall under an umbrella policy or even homeowner’s insurance. An unavoidable accident involving flying debris is considered a comprehensive claim. An avoidable or unavoidable accident will likely require the claimant to pay a deductible, but this amount will probably be much lower in the case of a comprehensive claim.

What Should I Do to Help My Case?

An individual who is hurt or suffers property damage as a result of road debris may need to prove the circumstances of the accident before being able to collect compensation from either their insurance provider or from a liable party. They may be able to collect damages through their insurance coverage or a personal injury claim.

In cases where it is possible to secure information about the at-fault driver or property owner, any information is extremely helpful. However, drivers should avoid putting themselves in danger to access identifying information. Following or tracking down the at-fault driver may cause more harm than good. Drivers should use good judgment to determine if it is safe and wise to do so.

As soon as an injured party can, the claimant should gather evidence to support their claim. Notes about how the accident occurred are useful, as well as photographs of the car accident scene. Photographs should be taken of the road debris as well as the damage it caused. Several pictures might provide perspective and information pertaining to how and where the accident occurred.

If there are witnesses, their testimonies can be invaluable in proving the case.  Collecting statements and contact information from witnesses is highly recommended. It is also advisable to summon a police officer to the scene to establish an official report on record.

When it is possible, a victim should also contact a lawyer. An attorney will be able to assess the situation and build a case for compensation.

Huntsville Car Accident Lawyers at Hodges Trial Lawyers, P.C. Assist Drivers Injured by Dangerous Road Debris

If you were hurt in a car accident that was caused by road debris, you may be able to collect compensation to cover the costs of injuries and vehicular damage. Our Huntsville car accident lawyers at Hodges Trial Lawyers, P.C. help accident victims collect compensation for recovery. Contact us online or call us at 256-539-3110 for a free consultation today. Located in Huntsville and Athens, Alabama, we serve clients throughout North Alabama, Madison County, Limestone County, Marshall County, Jackson County, Morgan County, and Lauderdale County.