Road Debris Dangers and Liability

Car accidents are a very real concern for everyone in today’s fast pace society and one that everyone will probably encounter at least once, probably more, in their lifetime. However, when you think of being in an accident do you honestly ever think that it will be caused by road debris? Well that is the fact for about 25,000 people every year and approximately 90 deaths every year result from these accidents, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Road debris is something that can be very difficult to control especially on highways and freeways with heavy and fast moving traffic. For instance, how does a driver who loses a piece of metal off the back of his/her truck retrieve it when there is constant, steady, and fast moving traffic? We see this happen frequently, but it is probably far more dangerous to go back and pick it up than merely to leave it to the road crews. Certainly, if the object creates a hazard, a quick call to 9-1-1 to alert the authorities is entirely appropriate.

In Arizona, Arizona Revised Statute, §28-1098 states:

 A. A person shall not drive or move a vehicle on a highway unless the vehicle is constructed or loaded in a manner to prevent any of its load from dropping, sifting, leaking or otherwise escaping from the vehicle.

 B. A person shall not operate a vehicle on a highway with a load unless the load and any covering on the load are securely fastened in a manner to prevent the covering or load from becoming loose, detached or in any manners a hazard to other users of the highway.

A person injured due to road debris will have to first prove the object came from a specific truck (this is often denied by the responsible driver). In some circumstances, it may be necessary to prove also that the responsible party was negligent in securing the load.

Assuming the identity of the vehicle or driver from which the debris came cannot be discovered, an injured party may be able to state a claim with their own insurance company, under their Uninsured Motorist coverage. This will require that they prove that the falling object or roadway debris actually came from another vehicle. This is not always as easy as it sounds, and insurance companies routinely make up all types of different scenarios to suggest otherwise.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a circumstance involving falling or roadway debris, call a Certified Specialist in Personal Injury/Wrongful Death law to see if you might have legal recourse. Almost all such attorneys work on a percentage arrangement, so it costs you nothing to see if you might have a claim. I would not forego legal counsel in these circumstances because an attorney will have the contacts necessary to perform a much deeper investigation, one which may be needed if you do not know or cannot prove where the debris came from.

Without a witness, the possible causes of road debris are so vast in many cases even the Police Department or Highway Patrol investigators cannot find its origins. Do not give up hope, feeling that you will never find who is at fault or be reimbursed for your damages; this is why a good attorney is so vital.

Take the case of Claudia Avila who died after being struck in the head by a metal plate which crashed thru the windshield of the car she was driving. The Florida Highway Patrol closed the case without finding the origin of the metal plate. The attorney for Avila’s family conducted an investigation which revealed the company which packaged the plate for shipment. This company then divulged the company which purchased the plates, which in turn divulged the trucking company that transported the plates. All three companies were sued and the Avila family was awarded a $6.9 million verdict.

Road debris is a real hazard and one that, as I stated above, is very hard to control. If you are hauling something and it becomes lose and dislodges, retrieve it only if it is safe to do so, if it is not safe but poses an immediate danger call 9-1-1. If it does not pose a danger and you cannot retrieve it yourself you can call the Department of Transportation for your state, in Arizona that number is 602-712-7355. I would also suggest calling the Department of Transportation if you see debris come from someone else’s vehicle in hopes of preventing any foreseeable accidents.