Trucks with ladders and construction tools in the bed. Cars with mattresses bungeed to the roof. Sedans with large pieces of furniture sticking out of their open trunk. All of these vehicles have something in common: if unsecured, their cargo could become dangerous road debris.
Road debris is anything that creates a safety hazard on the road, including fallen trees, deep puddles, exploded tires, and forgotten construction barriers. Road debris causes thousands of car accidents a year, and about two-thirds were caused by unsecured items falling off of vehicles.
Unfortunately it can be hard to determine liability in a debris-related car accident. And if you don’t know who is responsible for the debris, then you may have to rely on your own insurance to cover any injuries or damage to your vehicle.
Flying debris, like rocks or objects flying off of the car in front of you, is considered unavoidable. You could recover after a car accident caused by flying debris by filing a comprehensive claim through your own insurance.
Ideally the other driver would realize something had flown off their vehicle and would stop to collect their fallen cargo and exchange insurance information with you. Then you could recover damages — including money for car repairs, medical bills, and pain and suffering — by filing a claim through their insurance company.
However, if the negligent driver leaves the scene of the car accident, you must rely on eyewitnesses or dash cam footage to identify the driver or company who owns the vehicle and to support your claim.
If you were injured in the car accident or if there was more than $1,000 in damage to your vehicle, you are required by Indiana law to call the police. But you may want to call the police anyway to get a police report, especially if the negligent driver fled the scene.
A police report will have all the details of the accident – whether the debris was flying or at rest, the make and model of the negligent driver’s vehicle, and any eyewitness statements corroborating your claim.
A police report will help prove that you weren’t at fault if you decide to file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance. Unfortunately, it may be hard to track down the negligent driver who let the debris behind. A personal injury attorney can help collect other documents to help support your personal injury claim if the negligent driver fled the scene of your car accident.
“Avoidable” Road Debris
Any road debris that is laying on the road is considered avoidable by insurance companies. This includes furniture, detached trailers, and even oil slicks and puddles.
The insurance company will consider you at fault if you get into a car accident with avoidable road debris. To recover damages, you’ll have to file through your own insurance and risk raising your premiums. However, if the damage to your vehicle doesn’t exceed your deductible, it might not even be worth filing a claim.
If you were injured, your insurance policy may not cover your medical bills unless you have medical payments coverage. This coverage helps pay for your medical bills after car accidents where you were at fault.
However, medical payments coverage does not typically cover lost wages or pain and suffering. And if your auto policy doesn’t include medical payments coverage, you’ll have to rely on your health insurance.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are some exceptions where another party may be at fault for a debris-related car accident. For instance, if a car strikes a poorly placed traffic cone and crashes, the construction company could be liable.
The government may also be liable for a debris-related accident. Some government entities, like the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), are responsible for keeping interstates free of debris. If the government entity in charge of the stretch of highway where you crashed knew about the debris but didn’t take steps to remove it within an appropriate amount of time, then they could be negligent.
Filing a tort claim against a government entity is a time-consuming process. It requires extensive paperwork and meticulous records of the accident. A local personal injury attorney can help you file a tort claim before the statute of limitations runs out.
Swerving to Avoid Debris
If you were to crash your car after swerving to avoid an erratic driver, it would be considered a no-contact car accident. In this case you could recover damages from your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
But you can’t collect damages from a piece of trash on the interstate. Crashing your car after swerving to avoid road debris can still be considered an at-fault collision. Don’t take the word of your insurance company, a personal injury attorney can help you determine if someone can be held liable for your car accident.
Help from a Local Personal Injury Attorney
If road debris caused your car accident, the liable party may be hard to track down. And if you were injured, the last thing you want to do is deal with insurance companies. A personal injury attorney can help determine your next steps. Call Hensley Legal Group today or contact us online for a free conversation about your claim.