By: Kesha Brooks
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Who Is Liable for A Crash Caused by Road Debris?
One of the most frustrating experiences for any driver is trying to dodge debris on the road, but debris is more than just annoying: it can be dangerous, too.
According to reports from AAA, road debris causes tens of thousands of crashes each year. Additionally, debris-related accidents have been linked to around 125 accident fatalities annually.
What happens when you get into an accident after hitting debris or swerving to avoid it? Who is responsible if you need to file a claim to try to recover damages? The answer can be complicated depending upon why and how the debris ended up on the road.
What Is the Definition of Road Debris?
Definitions matter when talking about road debris. On a basic level, road debris is any type of object or obstruction that could get in a driver’s way.
Some of the more common types of road debris Ohio drivers see daily include:
- Blown tires and other vehicle parts
- Branches and large rocks
- Construction-related equipment like orange safety cones
- Damaged signage
- Deceased animals
- Furniture and personal effects
- Rocks, gravel, and sand that fell from trucks
It would be impossible to assemble an exhaustive list of all the road debris, but generally, if something does not belong on the road, it could be categorized as ‘debris.’
Why Road Debris Can Be So Dangerous?
As a driver, your goal is to avoid road debris. You might not see it right away, though. Road debris might be hidden from sight until you are upon it. You might not be able to swerve safely into an adjacent lane to avoid hitting the debris.
Once you make contact with the debris, you may experience significant damage to your vehicle, causing you to lose control and hit something else.
Flying road debris can be just as troublesome and frightening. Unsecured items like mattresses, small rocks, or trash can fly out of a vehicle in front of you and hit your car. Many drivers and their passengers have suffered serious injuries from flying road debris.
How Can You Recover Compensation After Being in a Road Debris-Related Wreck?
In a typical two-car crash, you can usually file a claim with either your insurance company, the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or perhaps both companies. Figuring out how to recover damages after hitting road debris is another story. Sometimes, a third party may be responsible and therefore liable.
First, though, you will want to explore your insurance policy. Your comprehensive coverage will help pay for damages caused by flying debris. And your collision coverage may help cover some of the repair costs if road debris necessitated car repairs.
What if you sustained serious injuries? Your insurance company may argue that you should have been able to get out of the way of the road debris. This is a very common practice and one of the reasons that trying to recover damages from your insurance policy company can be so difficult. If you had extensive damages, you might want to set up a consultation with a car accident lawyer to see whether having legal representation would be helpful.
Who Else Could Be Held Responsible for Your Road Debris Wreck?
Sometimes, it is possible to file claims against third parties when you have been in a road debris accident. These parties could include:
- Government entities: Government entities such as municipalities usually are charged with maintaining public roads. If your crash occurred on a public road, you might be able to prove that the government entity responsible for that section of road should have known about the debris and removed it before your accident.
- Private parties: Not all roads are public. Some are owned and managed by private parties, such as companies, or individual property owners. Again, you would need to show that the private party knew about the debris and had time to get rid of it.
- Construction companies: Construction companies expect drivers to operate carefully when going through construction zones. In return, drivers expect construction company employees to keep debris off the road. When debris includes leftover construction equipment, drivers who have suffered injuries or property damage may file a claim against the construction company’s insurance carrier.
- Other Drivers: As mentioned previously, unsecured debris can fall off a truck or other type of vehicle. In this case, the driver could be held liable. Unfortunately, many drivers do not stop after losing some or all of their loads. Therefore, it might be difficult to track down the owner of the debris that caused an accident.
How Can You and Your Lawyer Prove Liability After a Road Debris Accident?
Road debris accidents are much tougher to navigate from a liability perspective. Not only can it be challenging to figure out who was responsible, but it can be tough to get insurance companies to agree to pay damages.
Below are some ways that you and your attorney (if you decide to work with a car accident lawyer) can make your case against an allegedly responsible party.
Gather as Much Information as You Can From the Crash Scene
Begin to gather photographic and other evidence Immediately after your car wreck. This can include taking pictures and videos. As long as you can safely walk around, try to get the names of eyewitnesses. Be sure to call 911 so a police officer comes to the scene to make an official report. The report can be useful later.
Look around the area: are there any video cameras? Do any eyewitness vehicles have dash cams that might have caught what happened? Videos can give you a wealth of details, down to license plate numbers of vehicles that did not stop.
Go to a Medical Center Soon After the Incident
Even if you feel okay, stop by an urgent care center or emergency room or set up an appointment with your personal healthcare provider. That way, you can get treatment if you have injuries.
Many people do not realize that they have been hurt after driving over road debris or getting into a road debris-linked crash. Rather than take a wait-and-see approach, get your diagnosis early. If it turns out that you have an injury, accept treatment and keep going to your appointments. Otherwise, insurance companies may claim that you were not really injured.
Get in Touch With Your Insurance Company
Since you will probably try to get some compensation from your insurance company, call the company within 24 hours or so after your crash. Be careful about allowing them to take any official statements from you, though. If you intend to speak with a car accident attorney, hold off on giving a statement. Your attorney may want to be present when you do so that your insurance company does not try to twist your words or use what you say against you.
Keep the Process Going
Whether or not you choose to work with a car accident lawyer, you only have two years after the date of your wreck to file a claim or lawsuit. Two years can seem like a long time but it can go by quickly. Consequently, you want to stay on top of this statute of limitations.
Again, this may be another reason to bring in a lawyer. Insurance companies are known for being slow to respond. If you go past the two-year mark, you will probably not be able to recover any damages from any party.
Tips for Avoiding Road Debris Accidents
While it can be difficult to avoid hitting road debris, keep these hints in mind to lower your likelihood of being in a debris crash.
- Avoid distractions and keep your eyes on the road.
- Be prepared for fallen branches after rain and wind storms.
- Drive within posted speed limits so you have time to brake.
- Go especially slowly in construction zones.
- Watch other motorists’ behaviors such as sudden swerving ahead of you.
Taking just a few precautions could help keep you and your car out of harm’s way.
A Wright & Schulte LLC Dayton Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You Figure out the Complications of Recovering Damages After a Road Debris Crash
Did road debris leave you with excessively high repair and medical bills? Speak with a knowledgeable Dayton car accident lawyer at Wright & Schulte LLC. Call us today at 937-222-7477 or submit a form online. Our team has offices in Dayton, Vandalia, and Beachwood.