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Who is responsible if flying truck debris damages a motorist or their vehicle?
Driving is fraught with potential perils, ranging from fender-benders to drunk drivers. In a standard accident scenario, it is typically easy for law enforcement officials and your insurance company to sort through everything that happened and determine who, if anyone, should be held legally responsible. However, this process can become murkier when flying debris causes vehicle damage or a motorist injury.
Negligence is the Key
If a truck driver runs over something in their path, whether accidentally or purposefully, it will be very difficult to find them negligent if this action damages the vehicle behind them. After all, it is not the truck driver’s fault that debris was already in the road, and they may have had no choice but to run over it if it was directly in their path.
On the other hand, if something falls out of the back of the truck or comes off of the vehicle, you should not have any problem assigning legal responsibility to the other party. According to the law, every driver can be found negligent if their actions or lack of action breach their basic duty of care. In other words, if the truck driver fails to secure the back of the vehicle, this would be a negligent act.
Is the Driver or the Company Responsible?
There are many specific facts that will need to be known before anyone can conclusively determine if the company that owns the truck is solely responsible for the accident or if the driver also shoulders some of the responsibility. For example, if the shipping company failed to provide proper maintenance for the truck the last time the driver had a day off, then the company may be 100% negligent for a tire blowing out and slamming into a motorist’s vehicle.
In some instances, the truck driver is the person who signs off on the final configuration of the load that they will be hauling. This means that they have inspected the way that everything is loaded and have verified that proper stacking and restraints are in place. In this instance, a truck driver may also be held legally responsible if the damage or injury is caused by something falling out of the truck. However, if another employee took on this task, it is possible that they could share responsibility with the shipping company.
Another important factor in determining negligence is whether or not the driver is actually employed by the shipping company. In many cases, drivers are independent contractors who own their own trucks. In this situation, the truck driver will most likely be held fully legally responsible for any damage or injuries that are caused as a result of debris flying off of their vehicle.
In limited scenarios, you may be able to take legal action against the shipper of an item that fell off of a truck. This is generally restricted to situations when an injury is caused by contact with hazardous materials. Please note that if the truck driver and shipping company were properly informed about the type of materials that they were transporting, you probably will not be able to hold the shipper responsible.
Ultimately, if you have suffered from vehicle damage or an injury because of debris that came from a truck as opposed to being kicked up from the road, you do have legal options. The type of resolution that you receive and the parties who are named in any lawsuits will hinge upon your ability to show negligence. Fortunately, if something falls off the truck, the police report should indicate that this was a factor in the accident.
Keep in mind that a professional attorney will be able to help you determine the best possible course of legal action, and they will also inform you about any applicable statutes of limitations. Therefore, it is a good idea to retain an attorney as soon as possible after the incident.