It is sometimes amazing, and usually always a bit frightening when we see things on the highway that obviously don’t belong there. On any given day you may see a ladder, mattress, plywood or some other object in the road that has apparently fallen from a vehicle that was once carrying it. You may have also backed away from or tried to quickly pass other vehicles that have items tied, strapped or in some cases, just held onto the roof by passengers. These situations are not just unnerving, they are potentially dangerous. They are also more commonplace than we may think.
According to the Automobile Association of America (AAA), roadway debris is the cause of over 200,000 accidents annually in the United States.
So who is responsible when things fly from vehicles and what can we do about it?
The Driver is Responsible for Attachments to Their Vehicle
This answer starts out simple enough, but doesn’t always play out that way. The driver of the vehicle is responsible for their own vehicle, including what may be tied, strapped or otherwise attached to it. This includes bikes on a bike rack or luggage tied on top. If something should come loose and cause an accident, the driver would be held responsible. It gets a little more complicated if a store or someone else attached the item to the vehicle. They too, could be held responsible for not attaching it securely. In addition, a driver losing part of his load may not either realize it at the time, or may intentionally drive on. Obviously a driver who can’t be located can’t be held responsible.
What If You Swerve to Miss an Item in the Road and Cause an Accident?
This may not sound fair, but if you swerve rapidly to miss debris in the road and that action causes an accident, you could be held liable as the cause for that accident. That is, of course, unless the driver of the item stopped ahead.
What Can You Do?
We can all make sure that when transporting items with our vehicles they are completely and sufficiently secure. NEVER try to hold down items on a car roof by hand. Don’t leave loose items in an open trunk or bed of a pickup truck. Lumberyards or big box stores may offer twine, but few will secure items for you for fear they may be held accountable should an accident occur. Most of all, don’t take chances. Wait until you can rent or borrow a vehicle of sufficient size for transporting large items or pay for delivery. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate delivery into the price of a larger item or items.
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