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Determining Fault in an Accident That Involves Road Debris

Road Debris

After an accident, the first thing you usually do is call the insurance company. You want to file a claim to get money to repair your vehicle and pay for any medical bills. However, filing a claim doesn’t mean you will automatically receive money.

Every state has different laws that regulate when an insurance company has to pay you. And many states base this decision on whether you are making an at-fault accident claim.

In some states, the insurance company has to pay even if you are at fault. In others, though, the insurance company can simply deny your at-fault accident claim. Before you contact the insurance company, you should decide whether filing a claim is a good idea. And that means you need to understand when a crash involving road debris is an at-fault accident.


Definition of Road Debris


Road debris is anything that doesn’t belong on the road, such as:

  • Cargo that fell off a truck
  • Pieces of a car (like a mirror that fell off)
  • Ice or snow, especially if it falls off the roof of a car
  • Leaves or tree limbs
  • Mown grass blew onto the road
  • Rocks or sand
  • A garbage can that rolled onto the road

Heavy debris like rocks or tires can directly damage a car that hits them. And if you hit loose debris like wet leaves, you might lose control and hit another car.

A Road Debris Accident Might Be an At-Fault Accident


Usually, the insurance company will ask two questions when you hit road debris:

  • Did you see it before you hit it?
  • Should you have seen it?

When the answer is “yes” to either of these questions, the insurance company will usually determine that you are at fault.

Whether you saw the debris before hitting it is relatively straightforward, assuming you are being honest. But how does the court determine whether you should have seen the debris?

That is a complicated question. And in many cases, the insurance company may decide that you should have seen debris just to deny your claim. When this happens, you should hire a personal injury lawyer to dispute the decision.

Unavoidable Road Debris


If the answer to both questions is “no,” then the insurance company will usually determine that the road debris was unavoidable. This means that there is no way you could have avoided the accident.

Sometimes, the insurance company may consider road debris to be unavoidable even if you saw it. For example, insurers tend to determine that there is no way to avoid flying debris. Similarly, when another vehicle creates road debris suddenly (losing a tire, for example), you might be unable to avoid it.

Finally, if debris falls on the road while you are driving, you typically will have no way to keep from colliding with it. However, in that case, you likely also didn’t see the debris before hitting it.

Poorly Maintained Roads


Usually, you are at fault when road debris is avoidable. But there is one case where the insurance company considers debris avoidable and another party at fault.

When the government doesn’t maintain the road properly, it may be responsible for an accident involving debris. In this rare case, the insurance company deems the accident avoidable but doesn’t assign the fault to you.

Usually, in this situation, you will need to make a claim against your insurance policy. You might also be able to sue the government for additional compensation.

What This All Means


Involves Road Debris

Does it matter whether you get into an at-fault accident? That depends on the state you are in.

No-Fault States


In no-fault states, you file a claim with your insurance company regardless of who was responsible. Thus, assuming you have personal injury protection and collision coverage, your insurer will pay for all damages. This is true regardless of whether other cars were part of the accident.

If someone was seriously injured, then fault matters. The injured party can sue the at-fault party in an at-fault accident. That is when it is important to know whether the debris was avoidable.

At-Fault States


In at-fault states, you have more options. Most people will file a claim with their insurance company because it is easier. And their insurance company will recover damages from the other insurer if the other driver was responsible.

However, you may also directly file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. And similarly, you may sue the other driver even if you weren’t seriously injured. Conversely, the other driver might sue you if you hit avoidable debris and that caused an accident.

Insurance Premiums


Accidents involving debris don’t often cause a lot of damage, especially if they only involve one car. This means you might want to think twice about filing a claim.

The insurance company will usually increase your premiums if you file a claim after hitting avoidable debris. You could easily get less money from an insurance claim than it will cost you in premiums over the next year.

However, you can safely make a claim if the debris is unavoidable. Most insurance companies won’t raise your rates for an accident you couldn’t avoid. Check your policy before deciding whether to file a claim.

How a Lawyer Can Help When You Hit Debris


Road debris can make an already complicated insurance claim process even more difficult. When road debris is involved, you and the insurance company may disagree on who is responsible for an accident.

Unfortunately, the insurance company makes it tough to challenge its decisions. But you can simplify the whole process by hiring an auto accident lawyer from The Joel Bieber Firm.

When we take your case, we will investigate the accident and research the relevant laws of the state. Our goal is to find evidence that you couldn’t have avoided the accident. And once we find the proof we need, we will present it to the insurance company.

Our goal is to negotiate a fair settlement while keeping the insurance company from raising your premiums. Sometimes we can do that informally, and in other instances, we will have to take your case to trial.

The assistance of a lawyer is even more important when another vehicle is involved. The other driver can potentially sue you if we can’t prove that the debris was unavoidable. In that situation, we will do anything we can to protect you from financial ruin.

How a Lawyer Can Help When Another Driver Hits Debris


The tables are turned when another driver hits you because they hit debris. In that case, we need to prove that they could have potentially avoided the debris. Once we provide evidence to that effect, you can collect money from their insurance company by either making a claim or suing.

This won’t matter much in a no-fault state, though, unless you suffered a serious injury. But if you did, we will fight to get you as much money as the law allows.

Contact The Joel Bieber Firm After a Road Debris Accident


Road debris accidents usually make it harder for everyone in an accident to collect money. The only parties that benefit from this situation are the insurance companies. At The Joel Bieber Firm, we fight to make sure you benefit, too. Contact us immediately after a road debris accident.

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