Although road debris accidents are fairly common, they are frequently overlooked. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published an eye-opening report on the prevalence of accidents caused by debris in roadways. Analyzing data over a 4-year period, the study revealed that road debris was a factor in over 200,000 motor vehicle accidents nationwide. These crashes resulted in 500 fatalities and more than 39,000 injuries.
Debris can be found on any type of road. However, crashes caused by debris are much more likely to occur on interstates—four times more likely, in fact.
You might assume that objects in the road are just a part of life and that you might have no legal recourse for car accidents caused by debris. In reality, you might be able to bring a claim against multiple parties for road debris accidents.
If you have been injured in a crash caused by road debris, call (304) 599-4229 today for a FREE case review. Colombo Law serves clients in Morgantown and throughout West Virginia.
What Types of Road Debris Lead to Accidents?
Debris can consist of any type of object that falls off a vehicle and into the road. While the driver might not mean for the debris to get into the road, the failure to pick it up is usually what causes other motorists to crash.
Some of the items that can lead to road debris accidents include:
- Rocks and gravel
- Automotive parts, including tires, mufflers, etc.
- Glass from broken bottles
- Tree branches
- Parts of road signs, guardrails, streetlights, etc.
- Construction and work zone equipment
- Building materials
- Furniture, appliances, and other household items
Accidents may occur due to collisions with these objects or because a driver swerves to avoid the debris. The AAA Foundation study revealed that more than two-thirds of road debris accidents occur as a result of items falling from vehicles that are improperly maintained or carrying loads that are not secured.
Can I Sue for Road Debris Accidents?
There are multiple scenarios where you may be able to bring a claim for injuries and damages sustained in a crash caused by road debris. Prompt investigation is crucial for determining the origin of the debris and identifying the party or parties responsible.
Liability for road debris accidents may rest with one or more of the following:
The Driver or Owner of a Vehicle
Drivers (or the owner of a car, if someone else was driving a vehicle at the time of an accident) are responsible for maintaining their vehicles. Failure to do so can lead to tire wear and blowouts, parts falling off of the vehicle, and the creation of other hazards. Similarly, drivers who haul a vehicle (such as a trailer, pop-up camper, boat, etc.) or products must ensure that everything is properly secured.
If it can be shown that the negligence of a driver and/or the owner created debris that caused you to crash, you may be able to recover compensation. You might also have a claim against a driver who swerves to avoid debris and ends up crashing into you.
Motor Carriers and Other Businesses
As lawyers specializing in truck accidents, we have seen countless crashes caused by unsecured cargo and loads that were dangerously out of balance. Motor carriers (including the operators of trucks that transport commercial goods, moving companies, etc.) and their drivers must abide by the cargo securement rules enacted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Violations of these rules can lead to road debris accidents for which the driver and his/her employer can be held liable.
Companies that move cargo locally or around the state may not be subject to the same FMCSA regulations, but they must still obey all state and local laws concerning the safe transport of hauled items. For example, tow truck drivers must follow procedures to ensure that a towed vehicle can be moved without risk of damage or disconnection from the truck.
Dangerous roads are a major problem in West Virginia. If it can be shown that the government agency responsible for a road failed to maintain it and/or failed to warn motorists about potential hazards, you may be able to make a claim for damages sustained in a road debris accident.
A Construction Company
Construction companies are major contributors to road debris. From the debris created by roadwork to the movement of heavy equipment to traffic cones and other hazards, work zones and roads adjoining construction sites present a number of threats to motorists.
If a construction company is negligent in removing debris, fails to warn about a hazard, or doesn’t divert traffic appropriately, motorists injured in crashes caused by road debris can make claims for damages.
How Do I Prove Liability?
Road debris accidents tend to involve one of the following scenarios:
- A hazard is lying in the road
- An item falls from the back of a vehicle into the road in front of the trailing driver
The challenge with both of these accidents is proving who is responsible. In the first situation, the debris may have been lying in the road for hours or even days. In the second scenario, the driver who lost a part, cargo item, etc. may not even realize the hazard they just created.
Prompt investigation and collection of evidence is essential for protecting your legal rights. Take pictures of any debris in the road, and speak to witnesses who saw the accident (or, potentially, the vehicle that left the debris). Video footage (if available) can be a powerful tool for identifying the vehicle and the driver.
In addition, the police should be called to the scene of any accident caused by road debris (whether you struck the object in the roadway or swerved to avoid it and crashed your car as a result). The police report can help to establish the existence of debris in the road, and investigation by law enforcement may reveal who is responsible.
Speak to an Accident Attorney Today
Tens of thousands of road debris accidents happen each year. Drivers are often unaware of their legal options after such a crash. Colombo Law can help.
Our attorneys will thoroughly investigate the accident to identify the cause and who is at fault. We will aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve, as well as review your insurance coverage to determine if your policies can pay for some of your losses.