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Who May Be Liable for an Accident Caused by Debris on the Roadway?


Posted On behalf of Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak on Dec 23, 2021 in Car Accidents

Sand bags on the back of a pickup truckWhen drivers fail to secure cargo onto their vehicles, objects may fall off and cause an accident that could lead to serious injuries to others. If you are injured in one of these accidents, you may be wondering who would be financially liable for your damages.

Our knowledgeable South Bend car crash attorneys are prepared to review your claim during a free consultation to help determine who may be liable for the costs of your medical care, lost wages and other damages.

Below, we discuss some factors that should be considered when determining liability for a road debris accident.

How Types of Debris Affect Liability

Depending on the type of debris that caused your accident, one or more parties may be liable for your damages.

Did the Object Fall from a Commercial or Personal Vehicle?  

If the debris that caused your accident fell off a commercial vehicle, such as a tractor-trailer or delivery truck, several parties may be liable, including:

  • The company that owns the commercial vehicle
  • The company that loaded the cargo onto the vehicle
  • The individual owner (sometimes the driver) of the commercial vehicle

The driver or owner of a personal vehicle carrying cargo may also be liable for damages caused by debris that falls from his or her vehicle if he or she:

  • Failed to safely secure the cargo
  • Drove in a reckless manner that caused the cargo to fall

On some rare occasions, a store may also be liable for damages if an employee is the one responsible for securing cargo onto a customer’s vehicle and it falls from the vehicle. For example, a Christmas tree that is improperly secured to a vehicle’s rooftop.

Did the Object Fall from a Government Vehicle?

A government or municipality may be liable for your damages if the object fell from a government-owned and operated vehicle due to negligent actions from the government employee driving said vehicle.

For example, a city-owned trash collection truck that has trash fly off the bed of the truck and strikes vehicles on the road.

Was the Object Avoidable?

When debris is on the roadway, it can sometimes be avoided by drivers who are paying attention to the road and following traffic laws, such as speed limits.

A driver who is distracted or speeding down the roadway and crashes into debris that was avoidable may be held liable for damages to other vehicles and may not be eligible for compensation for his or her own injuries.

How Swerving to Avoid the Debris Affects Liability

In some instances, the debris on the road may only be avoided if a driver swerves to avoid hitting the object. Unfortunately, this comes with unintended consequences. The primary of which is colliding with other vehicles.

Under the sudden emergency doctrine, a driver may be able to avoid liability for damages if he or she acted in a reasonable manner when presented with an emergency, such as debris falling onto the roadway.

However, if the debris was already on the road and a driver swerves to avoid it but crashes into other vehicles in the process, he or she could be at fault for the collision. This is generally because non-moving objects may be seen from a distance and drivers should be paying attention to their surroundings.

Therefore, if another driver swerves to avoid hitting an object and crashes into you, he or she could be held liable for your damages.

Can a Government Municipality Be Liable for Debris on the Road?

There are some rare instances when a government may be held liable for debris on the road if there is evidence of negligent road maintenance by a government agency. However, to prove liability in these scenarios may often be difficult, as the liable party would need to have been aware of the hazard and failed to act.

Can Construction Companies Be Held Liable?

Construction zones are notoriously dangerous areas and often require more care than other areas on the roadway. This could be because of the heavy machinery being used and the potential for debris to fall onto an area where vehicles and pedestrians travel. In fact, construction areas have certain regulations to abide by when establishing the diameter of a construction zone.

If debris from a construction zone falls onto the road and causes an accident, the construction company could be held liable for damages if you can prove negligence from a construction employee or the company was a factor.

Call an Experienced Lawyer Today

If you were injured in an accident due to debris, either on the roadway or falling from a vehicle, you may be eligible for compensation. Our experienced lawyers are prepared to help you file a claim and determine what legal options may be available to you.

We offer a free consultation and do not charge you anything up front.

Call (844) 678-1800 to learn more.