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Run Over Something on the Freeway? Who’s Responsible for Road Debris Damage?

Injury & Accident Lawyers Serving Los Angeles, Pasadena, East LA, Southern California, Stockton & Central California

Posted: August 11, 2022
Run Over Something on the Freeway? Who’s Responsible for Road Debris Damage?

If you’ve driven any of California’s freeways, you’ve no doubt encountered some debris on the road – from small objects like tree branches to large hazards like ladders.

Some of these are easier to swerve and avoid than others. Shredded pieces of tire will do less damage to your car compared to heavy, sharp, or metal tools. But congested traffic could turn even the smallest road debris hazard into a catastrophic accident.

Driving California’s highways, you’ll also see objects that aren’t properly attached to moving vehicles, even traveling at high speeds – construction materials, furniture, mattresses, agricultural goods, or scrap material. While these items may not have fallen onto the road yet, you don’t want to get caught driving behind flying debris when it comes loose.

When you get into an accident with another vehicle, both drivers are expected to stop and exchange information. But you may not have seen who dropped an object or where it came from – it could’ve been on the road for a while before you hit it. The driver responsible for the object may not have even realized it’s fallen from their vehicle.

Once the negligent driver leaves the scene, they can be harder to track down. That’s why object collision cases can get more complicated than the usual car accident case.

If you’ve suffered losses in a debris collision that aren’t completely covered by your insurance, you could still have a personal injury case to cover the full extent of your damages. If you have a viable claim, your lawyer can help you find the evidence you need to prove your case.

What Happens if You Hit an Object on the Road?

Proving fault is one of the most important parts of car accident cases. Whoever is at fault for a crash is legally responsible, or liable, for paying for the damages.

The problem with car accidents caused by debris is that you may never know the identity of the person actually responsible for the object being on the road. They may be long gone. As a result, you may have to rely on your own insurance to cover your losses.

In the worst case, you could even be held at fault yourself if your actions around the object caused a crash with another vehicle. If a judge determines that you could have safely avoided the hazard but failed to do so, the legal responsibility can fall on you.

Does Hitting an Object Count as an Accident?

Generally, yes – your insurance company will classify a debris collision as an accident.

If the debris collision involves more than one vehicle, you should get everyone’s contact information – including bystanders and witnesses who saw what happened.

Even if the person responsible for the debris on the road may have left the scene of the accident, there are ways you might be able to track down their identity. But to do so, you must get started as soon as possible, when the evidence trail is still fresh.

Who’s Responsible for Road Debris Damage?

In some cases, flying road debris is considered unavoidable. You simply cannot react in time if an object flies off the car in front of you, especially if you’re traveling at high speeds.

In the case of unavoidable road debris, you generally cannot be held responsible – unless you were also driving in a negligent way, such as by tailgating the other car.

Not all car accident cases are totally cut and dry fault versus no fault. In some situations, multiple drivers can share fault in an accident if they each acted negligently in some way.

In California and other states, this is called a comparative fault system. You can recover damages in proportion to your fault. So if you were 30% at fault in a car accident, you can recover up to 70% of your damages.

In the case of debris sitting on the road, you as a driver have a responsibility to watch out for hazards in your way. If the average driver should have been able to avoid the object without a problem, you could be held responsible for failing to do the same.

For example, you could be held responsible if you were texting while driving and that was the reason you didn’t notice the object on the road until it was too late.

In some cases, you could find the person responsible for the road debris and hold them liable for their negligence. This requires evidence to back up your claims.

Proving Liability After a Road Debris Accident

Sometimes, even if the person responsible for dropping the object drives away, you might be able to track down their identity. This may require some investigation to find the evidence you need. Your lawyer can help with this part of the process.

Evidence in a debris accident could include:

  • Video or security camera footage of the scene or surrounding areas – A store or gas station nearby may have recorded the debris on a vehicle before it fell onto the road, or the vehicle may have been caught by a traffic camera in the area.
  • Dashcam footage of the incident – You or a nearby vehicle’s dash camera may have picked up a license plate before the person responsible drove away.
  • Witness testimony – Someone nearby may have seen the make, model, description, or license plate of the car responsible for the debris before they left the scene.

When it comes to evidence, it’s important to get started as soon as possible. Evidence is most fresh immediately after an accident. After that, witness memories fade. Many CCTV systems keep records for only a short while before rewriting over the data to save space. You may only have a short window of time to get the evidence you need to win your case.

At Sepulveda Sanchez Law firm, our experienced California traffic accident lawyers can help you recover as much as possible under the circumstances. Contact us now for a free case consultation before the statute of limitations runs out on your claims.

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