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Is Hitting Road Debris an At-Fault Accident?
What You Need To Know

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.

You're driving down the highway minding your own business when you suddenly hit a piece of road debris. You may be wondering if this is considered an at-fault accident. The answer depends on a few factors we are about to clarify in this article. 

Over the past decade, we’ve had numerous clients hitting road debris and asking for legal help. They’ve all received comprehensive claims in their cases thanks to our legal team who knew exactly what to pay attention to.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • If there is road debris that you can see, the insurance company will not pay to fix your car if you get into an accident because of it.
  • Before filing a claim, make sure that the damage is worth more than your deductible. Also, make sure that the damage is more significant than the surcharge.
  • Ideally, the driver's policy will include collision coverage or uninsured motorist coverage to cover accidents caused by road debris.

Who is Liable for Damage from Road Debris?

A man in handcuffsThe party who is liable for the damage from road debris will depend on the circumstances surrounding the accident and the type of debris you hit. Hitting a piece of road debris that caused damage to your vehicle may allow you to file a claim with your own insurance company if you have coverage.

However, if another driver caused the debris, you may be able to file a claim with their insurance company. 

For example, if a driver loses a tire on the highway and you hit it, their insurance company would be liable for the damage to your car.

Related Article: Determinating Car Accident Fault

What is Road Debris?

Road debris is a term used for an object on the road that does not belong there. They can come from many different sources, both from cars and other things. Some examples of road debris are:

  • A tire that fell off of a truck
  • Cardboard box
  • Tree limbs
  • Mattress
  • Loose/broken car part

These are serious road hazard items that can lead to serious car accidents. This debris can be dangerous for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. If a driver hits the object itself or swerves to avoid the object and hits another vehicle or pedestrian, this can cause a road debris crash.

“Debris is a bigger hazard on interstate highways, which tallied about one-third of the debris crashes.” - Jurek Grabowski, Research Director for Foundation for Traffic Safety in the American Automobile Association

What Is Avoidable Road Debris?

Cars in the rainAvoidable road debris is any debris that could have been avoided if the driver had used proper caution.

For example, if a driver hits a piece of debris because they were not paying attention, this may be avoidable.

If you are in a car accident because of debris, the insurance company might not pay for the damages.

This is because they say that the debris was 'avoidable.' You would need to be able to prove that the debris came from the other car involved in the debris-caused accident.

What Is Unavoidable Road Debris?

Unavoidable road debris is any debris that could not have been avoided, even if the driver had used proper caution, such as flying debris.

When flying debris hits your car, it is considered unavoidable. The driver did not cause the accident and could not have avoided it, thus making you eligible for a comprehensive claim if you have comprehensive insurance. 

Another example is if a large tree limb falls on the road and you hit it, your insurance provider would likely consider this unavoidable debris.

2 Exceptions to Avoidable Road Debris

Someone driving a car

Some situations may be exceptions to the rule regarding avoidable debris:

  • If a warning sign alerts drivers to problems ahead and you hit the debris anyway, your insurance company might consider this avoidable.
  • If government authorities did not properly maintain the dangerous road debris, your insurance company might consider this avoidable.

In these road debris crashes, you would likely still be responsible for paying your deductible in these debris-related crashes, but your premiums might not go up.

Road debris accidents happen. Cars on the road often transport items that are not secured well. If an accident happens and you are hit by debris from a truck, talk to a personal injury attorney about what you can do.

Related Article: What Should I Do if an Uninsured Driver Hits Me?

What To Do If You Hit Road Debris?

A man calling someone on the phone while driving a car

If you hit road debris and it causes damage to your vehicle, the first thing you should do is pull over to the side of the road. Try to move your vehicle to a safe location away from traffic.

You must then file a police report to document the vehicle's damage. This is important because you will need this report when you file an insurance claim and prove that the debris flew off the negligent driver's vehicle.

Filing a Claim with Your Insurance Company

Someone writing on a paperIf your car is damaged as a result of hitting debris, you should file a claim with your insurance company. You will need to provide information about the accident and the property damage. 

If you have collision coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, or comprehensive auto insurance, your car insurance will likely cover the repairs, especially if flying debris damages your car. However, you will need to pay your deductible before they reimburse you [1].

If you only have liability insurance, your insurance company may still be willing to help you pay for the repairs. However, they may consider this to be an at-fault accident. This means that your premiums could go up.

Keep in mind that they may charge you an additional surcharge on your premiums. Generally, this surcharge is equal to one-quarter of your annual premium.

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Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

If you are injured due to a road debris accident, you should hire a personal injury attorney or a car accident attorney to proceed with a personal injury claim. They will help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

They will also assist with any claims against a government entity, which can be a complicated and time-consuming process. With an attorney on your side, you can focus on recovering from your injuries and getting back to your normal life.

See all related personal injury and accident lawsuits our lawyers are currently taking.


Does car insurance cover hitting an object?

Car insurance will likely not cover hitting an object. However, if you have comprehensive coverage, it may help with the repairs.

Is running over a tire considered an accident?

Yes, running over a tire is considered an accident. You should file a claim with your insurance company, and they will likely cover the repairs.

If you were involved in a car accident that was caused by road debris, you might be able to collect compensation to cover the costs of injuries and vehicular damage. Our lawyers at the Schmidt & Clark, LLP will help accident victims collect compensation for recovery.