At one time or another, every motorist must try to avoid flying debris or an unexpected obstacle in the roadway. The item could be anything from a chunk of concrete to a mattress to a toaster that falls out of the loaded bed of the pickup in front of you.
You may incur a cracked windshield or dented grill, resulting in a property damage claim with your insurance company. You might also end up crashing your car because you swerved and lost control of your vehicle. In that case, you might find yourself in another category altogether, if you or your passengers suffered injuries.
Road hazard incidents have increased
A 2016 study undertaken by AAA showed that 200,000 traffic accidents nationwide were caused by road debris and flying objects during the previous four years, an increase of 40 percent since 2001. People who carry items stacked on the roofs of their vehicles or in the bed of their pickup, for example, may think they have strapped everything down properly. However, at 65 miles per hour, wind pressure loosens the straps and creates significant lift, turning the object into a dangerous projectile or roadway obstruction.
Taking safety measures
- If you are carrying a load of exposed items, make sure you tie them down securely, then cover them with a net or tarp.
- Be sure to check your tire pressure. The added weight can cause a tire to blow or cause your muffler to drag and break off.
- If you are towing a trailer, make sure it is properly secured with a latch/linchpin and safety chains.
- If driving behind a loaded vehicle, do not tailgate. Leave enough room to take evasive action. Better yet, switch lanes or pass such a vehicle.
The AAA found that 37 percent of all fatal accidents caused by roadway debris or flying objects occurred because the driver swerved to avoid contact but overcorrected and lost control. It’s generally better to absorb the hit unless the object is far enough ahead to safety steer around it.
Filing insurance claims
Though it seems unfair, the driver carrying the toaster that struck your windshield may not necessarily be legally responsible for your car repairs or injuries. As a general rule of thumb, claims involving an object in the roadway are considered avoidable (i.e., your fault) while claims involving flying objects are considered unavoidable.
If the toaster was lying in the road, you would file a claim under your collision insurance, but you may be subject to a surcharge on your insurance rates. If the toaster was in mid-air when it struck your vehicle, it would be covered as a comprehensive insurance claim. You would likewise have a stronger personal injury case if the toaster (or rock or shredded tire) was airborne.
There are several matters to be considered if you were a victim of flying debris or an object in the roadway. If you exchanged information with the toaster driver, for example, you may be within your rights to collect from his or her insurance company, but what happens if the company disputes your claim?
When you have questions about what happened and what you should do next, reach out to an experienced attorney who can provide answers and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.