Is a Motorist Liable If an Object Falls from Their Vehicle?
Encountering an unexpected object in the road can be terrifying. Depending on its size or how much traffic there is, you might not be able to swerve to avoid it. In some situations, this might be okay. Running over an empty cup from a fast-food restaurant probably won’t do much harm, if any.
Problems arise when larger objects fall out or off other vehicles. These objects fall into the category of road debris. The AAA Foundation reports that road debris, specifically from motor vehicles, causes thousands of injuries and more than one hundred deaths every year.
Let’s look at the causes of road debris, as well as who is liable for car accidents when objects fall from vehicles. Just keep in mind that these cases can be quite complex, so it may be worthwhile to speak with one of our Baltimore car accident lawyers if you’ve been involved in such a crash.
What Is Road Debris?
Road debris is considered any type of hazardous substance, object, or material that is not otherwise supposed to be on the road. Debris can be classified as either vehicular or non-vehicular, which is simply a way of separating debris into categories depending on whether it came from a motor vehicle or something else.
Examples of road debris you might encounter while driving around Baltimore include:
- Broken car parts
- Tire treads
- Engine oil
- Loose asphalt and concrete
- Pebbles, stones, and rocks
- Roof racks
- Construction materials
- Broken glass
Road debris is sometimes intentional. Think of a driver who tosses trash out of a window or dumps an old couch on the shoulder of the road. If you were involved in an accident because another driver intentionally created road debris, they would likely be liable for any damages or injuries you sustained.
Things are a little less clear when road debris is unintentional. If an object accidentally falls off another vehicle or a large 18-wheeler, you might be worried that you’ll end up shouldering the financial burden of your injuries all on your own.
It can get a little tricky in this type of situation. To successfully secure compensation for any damages you suffer in a road debris accident, you’ll still need to prove that the other driver was at fault. If they did not intentionally create road debris, you will need to demonstrate that their negligence somehow contributed to the conditions that caused the accident.
For example, someone who was transporting wooden pallets in the back of a pickup truck might not have meant for them to fall on the road. However, if they did not properly secure them, they may be deemed to have acted negligently and would therefore be at fault for your injuries or related damages.
Road Debris from Big Trucks
You probably already know just how dangerous it can be to share the road with tractor-trailers. A direct collision between a big truck and your vehicle is not the only hazard you have to worry about, though.
Big trucks are responsible for a lot of the debris you’ll encounter on Maryland roads. Tire treads from blown tires are especially dangerous and may cause accidents by striking nearby vehicles. Driving over a tire tread from an 18-wheeler can also cause a collision.
Lost loads are one of the biggest road debris threats associated with big trucks. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Cargo Securement Rules, drivers must adequately secure their loads or risk creating hazardous road debris.
To prevent lost loads, truck drivers must:
- Use tie-down securement systems that are appropriately spaced and sized
- Check that all components of the tie-down system are always in good working condition
- Make sure that the tie-downs will not become loose or release during transit
- Avoid situations where the tie-downs can be cut, crushed, or otherwise damaged
There are additional rules for truck drivers who deal with specialty loads, including lumber, vehicles, and more.
The AAA Foundation reports that approximately 66% of all road debris accidents are caused by either unsecured loads or improper maintenance.
How Often Falling Objects from Vehicles Cause Accidents
Road debris directly contributed to approximately 50,658 accidents per year between 2011 and 2014. These figures only include police-reported accidents, which means that the actual number of road debris crashes could be higher.
Over that same period, road debris caused an average of 125 deaths and 9,805 injuries annually.
Motor vehicle accidents involving road debris are four times more likely to happen on interstates compared with crashes that do not involve road debris.
There is also a gender component with these crashes. Men are around 20% more likely to be struck by road debris while driving than their female counterparts.
The type of evasive action you take when encountering road debris can also factor into survivability. Around 37% of deaths in road debris accidents are caused by drivers swerving in an attempt to avoid striking an object.
The types of accidents that road debris can cause are often severe too, and include things like:
- Vehicular rollovers
- Flat tires
- Debris infiltrating a vehicle’s passenger compartment
An Accident Is Not the End of the Road
You can never go back to a time before your accident happened. However, you can take action to move forward with your life. Prioritizing your recovery, health, and well-being are excellent ways to get your life back to as normal as possible.
There are barriers in this process, though. If you have to take time off work because of your injuries, that lost income can make it difficult—if not impossible—to pay your medical bills and deal with other financial damages.
The insurance company is not on your side either. At Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC, we understand what it takes to secure a fair settlement for a car accident. If given the opportunity, we will work tirelessly to substantiate your claim, value your settlement, and guide you toward the most successful resolution possible.
To speak directly with a Baltimore car accident lawyer, contact us today for a free consultation.