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Who is at Fault For Hitting Debris in the Road?

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Ask An Insurance Question Last Updated: 10/26/2011

When a car is driving along the highway and hits debris on the road, who is at fault?

This scenario happens over and over every day all over the nation and there is no single answer to this situation. Most of the answers that are given by the insurance company in this case are also not the ones that you want to hear. So let’s jump into the 3 possible scenarios of hitting debris on the road and where the responsibility for the accident falls.

New Construction Debris

If you are driving down the road and a piece of construction debris falls into the road in front of you and you hit it, the construction company is at fault for the accident. They caused a situation that you could not avoid as it happened in front of you and too quickly for you to react. It is your duty at the scene of the accident to get the information of the construction company so that your insurance company will have someone to subrogate against.

Debris Off a Vehicle

If you hit a piece of debris that has fallen off of a vehicle in front of you, the scenario is the same as it is for the one above. The person in front of you is at fault for the accident as it is their duty to maintain a safe vehicle. It can be hard, but it is in your best interest to get the license plate number of the vehicle that lost the item you hit.

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Debris Already in the Road

Okay, this is the one that is hotly contested by many people and I am just relaying the information so no angry emails. I don’t make the rules, heck I am not even affiliated with an insurance company that does.

If you hit a piece of debris in the middle of the road, in more cases than not, the insurance company is going to mark it as an at-fault accident. You hit the object with your vehicle; it was not moving and did not hit you. Also the insurance company is going to contend that if you hit it and did not see it, you were driving too fast for conditions or you would have been able to avoid the debris.

I know that in most situations that there is no way to avoid the debris and hitting it will actually cause less damage than swerving and hitting another car. But, this is the stance that most insurance companies take. If you feel that you situation warrants a different categorization, contact the insurance company that you filed the claim with to discuss. If you get nowhere with them, you can always talk to the Insurance Commissioner or Department of Insurance in your state about trying to get it changed.

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Michele Wilmonen

Michele's first introduction to insurance was working for a major insurance company as a file clerk and a mailroom supervisor in a regional office. She learned insurance directly from underwriters and claims adjusters from questions and also watching them do their job. Since then, she's earned a number of insurance certifications from the Insurance Institute of America and also a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho. She blogs at Car Insurance Guidebook.

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