Road Debris and Accidents: Who is at Fault?

You’re driving along the highway when suddenly, you hit a shredded tire. What looked like a harmless pile of rubber was actually heavy and laced with steel bolts. That “road gator” did some serious damage to your car’s undercarriage.

You’re not alone in this scenario. Between 2011 and 2014, road debris caused more than 200,000 accidents which led to 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.

When road debris causes an accident, drivers are often left wondering who will foot the bill for medical care and damages to the vehicle.

Who is Liable for Damage from Road Debris?

The answer to this question is a complicated one because each accident is unique. Truckers and motorists are responsible for the cargo they carry. Similarly, homeowners are responsible for improper tree trimming and the illegal placement of garbage or debris in the roadway.

But in many cases, you just don’t know who to blame for the debris.

Shredded tires are commonly found on highways, but it’s impossible to know whom the tires belonged to. Logs and other debris may be sitting in the middle of the road, but the at-fault driver may be long gone.

Unless you witness the debris falling off of a vehicle, it may be virtually impossible to determine who is responsible for the damage. And unfortunately, about two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of items falling from a vehicle.

Truckers and loaders can certainly be held responsible for accidents and injuries, but you must be able to prove that the debris originated from the trucker or loader.

Filing a Claim with Your Insurance Company

If you cannot identify the party responsible for the road debris, you can normally file a claim through your insurance company if you have collision coverage. Typically, insurance companies will classify road debris accidents as avoidable accidents.

You may also be covered by your auto insurance policy if you have uninsured motorist coverage.

Before filing a claim, make sure that the damage is worth the potential surcharge and is greater than your deductible. Otherwise, it may not be worth the cost to submit a claim for the repairs.

If your vehicle was hit by flying debris and you were unable to identify where the object came from, the damage may be covered by your umbrella or homeowner’s insurance policy.

Your auto insurance policy may also cover this type of accident. Insurers consider flying debris to be a comprehensive claim. You will still have to pay a deductible, but the deductible will be lower than with a collision claim.

If the debris damaged your windshield, there’s a good chance that the repair will be covered and you can make a claim without having to pay a deductible. Some insurers offer extra windshield coverage that will allow you to avoid paying a deductible even if the windshield needs to be replaced.

Here’s the good news: comprehensive claims don’t typically increase your insurance premiums. Many carriers will only raise your rate if you’ve filed more than three comprehensive claims in a three-year period.