Debris on the roadway can be one of the scariest experiences for drivers. It comes out of nowhere, and when traveling at fast speeds it might be unavoidable. Debris can cause serious damage to your car, or it may be the cause of an accident.
Flying debris can be anything that comes out of a moving vehicle, from furniture to rocks to oil spills. There are about 200,000 motor vehicle accidents each year that are caused by road debris and result in 500 deaths, according to AAA. Flying debris makes up two-thirds of these incidents, and almost all of these accidents are on the highway. Flying debris can be very harmful to both your pockets and to your health depending on the severity of the accident. There is one question that people always ask when struck by flying debris: Who is liable?
Liability for Car Accidents Caused by Debris
Liability depends on who was being negligent in the incident and whether that negligence can be proved. The negligent person can usually be shown based on how the incident occurred.
If the flying debris comes off the vehicle and hits your car without touching the ground, the vehicle owner is responsible. However, if the flying debris hits the ground and then hits your vehicle, it might be considered avoidable and therefore the other vehicle may not be liable. The other vehicle is also not responsible if they kick up any debris that was already on the road; if rocks are kicked up by the tires of a vehicle and those rocks smash into your windshield, the owner of the vehicle is not responsible for any damage. If the vehicle is company-owned, the negligence of the driver can be imputed to the company as a whole.
Road debris is different from flying debris because it is already sitting on the road and is not coming off of another vehicle. Road debris includes anything in the road that creates a safety hazard, including potholes or puddles, fallen trees, and barriers left behind by construction workers. Since road debris is already on the ground, it is considered avoidable by insurance companies, and you are responsible for any damage if you hit the debris.
What if a Car Hits You to Avoid Debris?
If another car hits you in order for them to avoid debris, you will likely not be responsible and it is deemed to be either the other driver’s fault if they swerved to avoid road debris or the fault of the person driving the vehicle from which the flying debris came from. You may be responsible, or partially responsible if you could have avoided being struck.
You Hit Another Car After Swerving to Avoid Debris
If you end up in a crash after swerving to avoid road debris, it is usually your fault. However, if you swerve in order to avoid being hit by flying debris, the driver of the vehicle that had the flying debris can be charged.
If you crash after swerving to avoid debris it is typically your fault. Exceptions include if you hit a traffic cone that was placed in the wrong area. If this happens, the construction company may be liable for the damages. In some states, the government can also be held responsible if the debris-related incident is caused by debris that the government knew about but did not remove.
What to do When Your Car is Struck by Debris
When you are struck by flying debris, it is important that you stop your vehicle and pull over. This will allow you to assess any injuries and damages. Make sure to pull over to a safe and secure part of the highway where you are unlikely to get hit. Then, you can proceed to follow the steps following a car accident, including calling the police and contacting your insurance company.
Contact an Experienced California Auto Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has been in a car accident involving debris in California, you should discuss your legal options with an attorney as you may be entitled to compensation. The California car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates can then help determine if you have an auto accident claim. With multiple offices located in Irvine, Los Angeles, El Segundo, San Diego, and Riverside, our auto accident injury lawyers represent victims across California. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our attorneys, please call 949-727-9300.
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