What happens when road hazards damage my car or cause a crash?

Most drivers have experienced the cringe-worthy moment that occurs just after they’ve traveled over an undetected pothole and heard “THUMP!”

Sudden hazards like potholes and road debris can cause serious (and expensive) harm to the tires and undercarriage, hindering the driver’s ability to control the vehicle.  Disabled vehicles, flooded roadways, and animals (dead or alive!) can also create situations that can lead to dangerous car accidents.

Here are some helpful things to know about road hazards and the possible damage they may cause to your car, how to avoid them, and what to do if you end up in a crash.

Pothole in middle of empty road

Increasing Following Distance: The Key to Avoiding Road Hazards

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 11,000 tire-related crashes occur each year.[1]

Fortunately, these accidents can be curtailed considerably if drivers follow one simple technique: increasing their following distance. As a general rule, the greater the following distance you have between you and the vehicle in front of you, the more time and space you will have to perceive unexpected debris on the road and maneuver around it. A proper cushion also allows for a more comprehensive vision of the road ahead.

Maintaining a safe following distance not only helps you avoid road hazards but also reduces the risk of rear-end collisions. The recommended following distance varies depending on factors such as speed, weather conditions, and road surface. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a three-second gap between your vehicle and the one in front of you, increasing this distance in adverse weather or low-visibility conditions.

Ensuring Adequate Insurance Coverage for Road Debris Accidents

Your auto insurance company may cover the damage to your vehicle caused by a sudden road hazard.  For instance, if a deer suddenly runs into the roadway and collides with your vehicle, your policy’s “collision” coverage may pay for the damage. If a flying rock chipped your windshield while traveling down the interstate, the “comprehensive” portion of the policy will cover the damage when you make a claim.

If you incur medical bills as a result of a road debris accident, you may be eligible for Medical Expense Payments, or “Medpay” (Medical Payments Coverage). This coverage allows you to receive reimbursement for medical bills up to a certain limit.

Review your insurance policy’s coverage before you make a car accident claim. In fact, it’s a good idea to review your policy before you’re involved in a road debris crash. Familiarize yourself with its limits to ensure they can realistically meet your needs if an unexpected pothole or run-in with wildlife disables your vehicle.

Seeking Compensation for Road Debris Accidents: Liability and Personal Injury Claims

What happens when road hazards damage my car or cause an accident? You may seek compensation for your property damage and bodily injury by filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit against third parties contributing to your road hazard accident. For example, if a driver failed to secure objects in the bed of his or her truck, causing an accident to another vehicle, the truck driver would be responsible for any injuries arising from that incident.

Accidents caused by road hazards can be difficult when considering a personal injury case because it creates ambiguity on the question of liability, meaning who’s at fault for causing the accident. When evaluating whether someone is liable for the collision, the issue usually boils down to one question – was the collision preventable?

Attempting to answer that question may lead to another list of inquiries – did someone cause the debris to be in the road? How long has the pothole been there, and should it have been repaired? Should someone have placed warning signs at that location, to warn motorists about the dangerous roadway?  Did the driver who failed to avoid the hazard do everything a “reasonable” person would have done under the circumstances?

Common types of road debris accidents

Here are some common examples of road debris crashes:

Tire blowouts: When a vehicle experiences a tire blowout, it can leave debris on the road, causing other vehicles to swerve or collide with the debris.

Unsecured loads: Improperly secured cargo from trucks or trailers can fall onto the roadway, creating hazardous obstacles for other drivers.

Detached vehicle parts: Loose or faulty vehicle components, such as mufflers, bumpers, or tailgates, can detach and become dangerous road debris.

Construction materials: Debris from construction sites near roadways, such as rocks, tools, or building materials, can end up on the road and cause accidents.

Fallen trees or branches: During storms or high winds, trees or large branches can fall onto the road, obstructing traffic and causing crashes.

Animal carcasses: Animals that have been struck by vehicles can become road debris, posing risks to other drivers.

Litter and discarded objects: Trash, such as plastic bags, cardboard boxes, or furniture, can be blown onto the road or intentionally discarded by individuals, creating hazards for motorists.

Who might be held liable for a road debris crash, and how can an attorney help?

Determining liability in a road debris crash can be complex. Multiple parties may be held responsible depending on the circumstances. Here are some potential liable parties and how an attorney can help:

Vehicle or truck drivers: If the debris came from an improperly secured load or a neglected vehicle, the driver of that vehicle may be held liable for the resulting crash. An attorney can investigate the cause of the debris and gather evidence to support a claim against the negligent driver.

Trucking companies: If the debris originated from a commercial truck, the trucking company may be held liable for failing to properly maintain their vehicles, train their drivers, or enforce cargo securement regulations. An attorney can help identify the trucking company and pursue a claim against them.

Construction companies: If the debris came from road construction or a construction site near the roadway, the construction company may be held responsible for failing to properly secure materials or prevent them from entering the road. An attorney can investigate the construction site and gather evidence of negligence.

Government entities: In some cases, the government agency or agencies responsible for road maintenance may be held liable if they fail to remove road debris or address known hazards promptly. An attorney can help determine if a government entity can be held accountable and navigate the complex process of filing a claim against them.

Potential consequences of a road debris car crash

Road debris accidents can lead to a wide range of severe injuries for drivers and passengers. When a vehicle collides with debris on the road, it can cause the driver to lose control, swerve into other lanes, or even roll over.

The impact of these accidents can result in traumatic brain injuries, ranging from concussions to severe TBIs, which can have long-lasting cognitive and physical effects. Spinal cord injuries are also a serious concern, as the force of a collision can cause damage that may result in partial or complete paralysis.

Broken bones, such as fractures in the arms, legs, ribs, or hips, are common in road debris crashes due to the sudden impact. Additionally, flying debris or shattered glass can cause deep lacerations or puncture wounds that may require stitches or surgery and can lead to permanent scarring.

The sudden jolt of a road debris auto accident can also cause whiplash or other neck and back injuries, leading to chronic pain and mobility issues. Internal injuries, such as internal bleeding or damage to organs, may not be immediately apparent but can be life-threatening if left untreated. In severe cases, road debris accidents may even cause limbs to be crushed or severed, requiring amputation.

These injuries can result in substantial medical expenses, lost wages, and ongoing rehabilitation costs. Beyond the physical pain, victims of road debris accidents may also suffer from emotional trauma and diminished quality of life.

Protecting your rights: Contact Allen & Allen to discuss your legal options for road debris damage

If you or a loved one is injured in a collision caused by a road hazard, you should consider speaking with an experienced attorney, who can advise whether you have a claim. The seasoned personal injury lawyers at Allen & Allen are here to help. We commit to more than simply providing you with legal representation. We make your fight our fight, ensuring you are treated fairly by insurance companies and obtaining justice on your behalf. That’s what we mean when we say, “I am an Allen.”

Don’t let road hazard accidents leave you struggling with medical bills, lost wages, or vehicle repair costs. If you have suffered severe injuries in one of these traffic accidents, contact Allen & Allen today for a free consultation. Let us help you navigate the complex legal process while you focus on your recovery. Call our firm at 866-232-9172 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation.