Many drivers have dealt with the frustration of repairing or replacing a cracked windshield due to road debris or a kicked-up rock on the highway. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, over 200,000 accidents in the last four years were caused by road debris. Road debris can be kicked up off the road by another vehicle or dropped from vehicle like a commercial truck that is hauling gravel. When a windshield is cracked from a piece of road debris, what party is liable for the damages?
Many people would like to believe that if their window is cracked, the vehicle that dropped or kicked up the road debris should pay for the damages. The answer however isn’t always that transparent. According to most insurance companies, if another vehicle kicks up road debris, the driver is not at fault. Anything already lying on the road is considered a “road hazard”. If a piece of debris falls from another vehicle however, the driver of that vehicle could be held liable for damages. This situation most commonly occurs with commercial trucks transporting materials like gravel.
Although commercial trucks may don large stickers that read “Stay Back 200 feet. Not Responsible for Broken Windshield”, this sign does not allow a truck driver to evade legal responsibility for damages their load may cause. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations place responsibility on the driver of the truck to safely secure their load before transporting. These regulations also require safety inspections and grant truck drivers the right to refuse to transport any load they deem unsafe.
What if you are driving and a piece of gravel falls from the back of the truck and hits the road before it is kicked up, cracking your windshield? Is that debris now considered a road hazard or does that truck driver still bear responsibility? Road debris damage situations that are difficult to prove are best handled by an attorney, like a car accident lawyer relies on, who has experience with motor vehicle negligence. An attorney can assist with evidence, expert witnesses, and presenting a sound claim for compensation for damages.
When faced with a negligence lawsuit, many companies will try to protect themselves by shifting blame to the victim. There are several things as a driver that you can do to prevent damages and mitigate your risks while driving. Always leave a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. Many states have statutes regarding safe following distance. Florida statutes for example, state that drivers should not follow more closely than is “reasonable prudent”. While driving on the highway you can avoid trucks that look to be transporting unsafe loads. If road debris is unavoidable, slow down rather than performing an unsafe maneuver. If an accident occurs as a result of an unsafe maneuver, you can be held liable for damages. Although getting information from the truck like a company name or license plate is important, do not pursue the other vehicle. It is important to safely document damages and the manner in which the damages occurred.
Handling vehicle repairs and expenses as a result of road debris damage can be a daunting task. It is important to promptly exercise your legal rights by consulting an experienced attorney who can assist in recovering damages from the liable party.
We’re a trial law firm. Our attorneys are not afraid to take a case to court. We do it every day. You need a strong advocate to protect your interests — the attorneys of Rasmussen & Miner are prepared to help you.