September marks the beginning of fall semester for Ball State and ushers in the excitement of move-in weekends. First-year students move into dorms for the first time, and older students often get to experience apartment living for the first time.
Imagine this: on your move-in day, you’re following behind your neighbor. They have a small trailer filled with furniture hitched to their truck. Just when you’re rounding a tight corner, the trailer detaches and slides toward you.
In this scenario, most drivers won’t be able to react in time to avoid a collision outright. You hit the trailer with your car. Now the question is, who is responsible?
In this type of accident, there are several parties who might be liable—outside of yourself—in the event of a detached or open-trailer car accident. If the trailer was faulty or if your neighbor was negligent, you could collect damages through their insurance. But if you were following too closely and are found at fault, you’ll have to go through your own insurance.
Avoidable vs. Non-Avoidable Road Debris
Before we delve into who else might be responsible for damages, we ought to establish the difference between avoidable and non-avoidable debris. Understanding this distinction could make or break your claim.
Non-avoidable debris means airborne debris. Unsecured loads in dump trucks would become “non-avoidable” debris if some of the load flew out of the top and caused an accident. If your car accident is caused by non-avoidable debris, comprehensive insurance can help pay for repairs to your vehicle.
If debris is lying on the road, it is considered avoidable debris. Your insurance company will likely say that you could have avoided the debris if you were paying proper attention – even if the debris in question was a large trailer full of furniture and you may not have had enough time to avoid an accident.
To recover damages from a collision with avoidable debris, you’ll likely have to file a claim through your own insurance company using your collision coverage. However, if you can show that another party was at fault for the debris, you may be able to avoid paying your deductible by filing for damages through the negligent party’s insurance. We’ll talk about that in the next section.
Your Neighbor May Share Liability
If you are in a car accident because your neighbor’s trailer became detached on the road, your neighbor may share liability if their negligence helped cause the trailer to come unhitched.
It was your neighbor’s responsibility to attach the trailer correctly to their vehicle. They should have also secured the items inside the trailer. Something heavy like a sofa can destabilize a trailer if it slides around during the drive.
If their actions contributed to the trailer becoming detached, your neighbor may share liability for your accident. In that case, you should follow the typical procedure for any post-crash scenario:
- Determine everyone’s okay and get medical attention to anyone who isn’t
- Obtain contact and insurance information from the other driver
- Make an exhaustive list of your damages—preferably with pictures included
- If the damage is more than $1,000, you are required to call the police. You may want to call the police anyway so a police report can be filed
Getting the other driver’s insurance information and getting a police report can help you prove to your insurance company that you weren’t at fault for the accident, meaning you could file for damages through the other driver’s insurance company instead of using your own insurance and possibly driving up your premiums.
Was the Trailer Faulty?
The trailer rental company may also be liable for the accident. If the trailer was faulty or in need of repairs—for instance, the hitch was rusted through or the door lock was broken—then the rental company may be liable for accidents that happen because of breakages or sliding cargo. Even if they weren’t aware the trailer was broken, they could still be culpable if they weren’t keeping up with inspections and repairs.
Maybe the trailer was faulty when it was manufactured. The manufacturer could also be liable for any failed mechanisms that led to your accident.
If you can’t prove the negligence of the truck driver or any of the other involved parties, then you’ll have to recoup damages through your own insurance, potentially driving up future costs.
Help from a Muncie Car Accident Lawyer
The best rule of thumb is to drive a safe distance behind drivers hauling trailers. Keep your eyes open should any funny business occur with the hitch.
College move-in day should be nothing but exciting. The last thing you should have to worry about is dealing with insurance companies after a car accident. If you’ve been in this situation or if you’ve even been injured as a result, Hensley Legal Group may be able to help. Call us today or contact us online for a free conversation about your claim.