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Who is responsible for road debris damage?

Road debris is a hazard likely to cause accidents, property damage, personal injuries, and even deaths. It includes anything on the road, from spilled oil and gravel to tire remnants and metal scraps. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, debris is a primary factor contributing to over 50,000 crashes annually. The study found that these physical defects in the roadways pose a significant risk to all drivers. When moving or towing goods, it is necessary to secure loads properly. Authorities must regularly inspect and ensure the cleaning of roadways to prevent road debris accidents.

Who is responsible for road debris? Government agencies responsible for road construction sites, companies responsible for commercial vehicles, and individual drivers can all be held accountable for any damage caused by debris.

Road debris accidents are collisions that could cause severe injuries and financial burdens. If you or a loved one went through such an incident, seek an experienced attorney at Phillips Law Offices. Our road accident attorney can help navigate a personal injury claim and determine who is liable for road debris damage.

About Road Debris

road debris damage

Road debris includes anything on or off the road that could cause crashes. They are substances, materials, and objects that don’t belong in a regular road environment. They could result from hazardous debris thrown into the road by a construction company, unsecured loads falling from a negligent driver’s vehicle, or surrounding natural formations. Whether these foreign objects come from non-vehicular or vehicular sources, it is litter and a type of solid waste. Some small-sized road debris, like plastic garbage bags or cardboard boxes, might seem harmless, but they represent a hazard to drivers. They could contain sharp objects like glass, metal, or rocks that could crack your windshield or puncture your tires. Even an empty plastic bag can stick to your windshield and impede your vision.

On the contrary, easy to spot, larger debris can be much more dangerous. During hail storms, fallen trees and branches are a common occurrence. When trees and electricity poles fall, they can block multiple lanes of traffic. If not properly disposed of or removed from the work site, abandoned road construction equipment, such as traffic cones and other dividers, is also debris. Regardless of the size and weight, road debris can cause severe injuries and damage. Accidents caused by road debris commonly occur in the following conditions:

  •  Leftover construction equipment or road cone on the roadway after repairs
  •  Unsecured cargo, including appliances and furniture falling from a truck
  •  Tires, wheels, and other components detaching from a vehicle and falling onto the road
  •  Natural hazards like a tree branch falling into a road
  •  Government entities fail to perform routine maintenance on guardrails and potholes.
  •  Separated tow trailers colliding with another vehicle or crashing to the ground.
  •  Household appliances like dryers and washers can become dangerous roadside objects.

The severity of debris-related crashes

Any road debris can make the driver lose control and lead to an accident. When drivers attempt to swerve and avoid it, they occasionally provoke additional collisions. Road debris accidents range in severity from minor vehicular damage to catastrophic injuries and even death. Some injuries sustained due to roadside junk include the following:


When a vehicle hits debris on the road, the driver might lose control and cause a crash. These road debris accidents could also lead to broken bones or multiple fractures. Depending on the severity of the fracture, these injuries can be painful and require extensive medical treatment.

Cuts and lacerations

Roadside debris can allow sharp objects to tear the skin, causing cuts and lacerations. Your wounds can be short, long, deep, shallow, wide, or narrow. Depending on their size and depth, these injuries can affect your blood vessels, ligaments, tendons, nerves, muscles, or bones.


Also known as road rashes, abrasion occurs when the skin gets scraped or rubbed off due to contact with rough road surfaces or debris. These skin abrasions can range from mild to severe and cause significant pain and discomfort.


Bruises, also called contusions, is skin injury associated with disruption of the capillaries. When impacted by debris or other objects on the road, these injuries may cause intense pain, swelling, bleeding, and discoloration.

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

Head trauma caused by road debris accidents can have severe and protracted effects. A debris object may hit the head directly or force you to the dashboard or windshield, causing severe traumatic brain injuries. As a result, you may experience headaches, dizziness, confusion, and memory loss.


Accidents due to road debris can also cause burns. It can occur when a vehicle catches fire after colliding with debris or when a hot element, such as exhaust pipes or engine parts, comes into skin contact. If these injuries are severe, they can also cause permanent scarring and disfigurement.


Whiplash is a common injury sustained in any road accident type. It occurs when the head jerks forward and then backward suddenly. This type of injury often occurs in debris-induced collisions and can cause acute pain and suffering.

Spinal cord injuries

When objects like rocks or tire fragments strike a person on a motorcycle or in a car, the accident can cause spinal cord injuries. These injuries can result in partial or complete paralysis affecting the victim’s health and quality of life.

Avoidable vs. Unavoidable Road Debris Accident

road damage

The concept of avoidable and unavoidable road debris is significant for legal proceedings. It helps determine fault and liability in an auto accident involving road debris. Road debris accidents are said to be avoidable if the driver could have taken precautions to avoid colliding with road debris. For instance, a driver saw a large object in the middle of the road but decided not to swerve or brake to bypass it. The accident would not have happened if that person acted wisely and had avoided the debris. From an insurance company perspective, you should attempt to prevent collisions as the control of your vehicle is in your hand.

Holding another party liable for avoidable road debris accidents is extremely difficult. First, you should find the party who kept the debris material on the road. Then, you must prove that the negligent party failed to fulfill their duty despite knowing about the debris. Generally, construction companies or government entities are liable, but establishing negligence in an avoidable debris case is difficult without a qualified attorney.

On the other hand, most road debris-related accidents are inescapable. Tires or parts of side panels plunging off the vehicle could result in an unavoidable road debris accident. In such crashes, a driver has no reasonable opportunity to avoid hitting the debris on the road. For example, an object suddenly falls off a truck in front of a car, and the driver has no space or time to react and avoid striking it. It includes unsecured cargo like household appliances or furniture falling from a truck and causing an accident. In these cases, the truck driver who improperly placed goods in their vehicle is responsible for damage caused by the unfortunate incident.

Swerving to avoid debris should be done as safely as possible. Even a collision with a guardrail can result in substantial losses. Whether the accident was avoidable or unavoidable, liability depends on a few more factors, including road conditions and driving speed. To secure compensation, you require a police report, witness statements, and other information pertinent to your specific case.

Things to do after Road Debris Accident

If involved in a road debris accident, there are some steps you must take. By following them, you can protect yourself and ensure that you receive fair compensation. First and foremost, pull over your vehicle to a safe place. Check yourself and your passengers for injuries and call 911 (or local emergency services) if someone requires immediate medical aid. Other important things to do after a road debris accident are as follows.

Report the incident

Once safe, call the police and report the accident even if there are no injuries. Inform officers about your location and provide them with all the relevant details they ask for. Police can document the road debris incident and file an official report for pursuing claims. Now call your insurance company and inform them about the road debris accident.

Gather information

One major issue with road debris accidents is obtaining sufficient information on the at-fault driver. Some drivers may fail to stop because they were unaware that objects were falling from their vehicles. However, bystanders can assist you in identifying the responsible party. Therefore, look for witnesses and get their contact details. Remember to take pictures of the damage to your car, road debris, and the surrounding area to document the scene.

Seek legal assistance

Consider consulting with an attorney if you suffered severe injuries or significant property damage in a road debris accident. A lawyer specializing in personal injury or traffic accidents can help you explore your legal options. Their role is worthwhile, from assessing damages to determining liability and attaining settlement.

Identifying the party accountable for road debris damage

Like any severe auto accident, healing from injuries and damage from road debris accidents is expensive. Your expenses might include hospital bills, lost wages, ambulance transportation fees, physical therapy, vehicle repairs, rehabilitation costs, and pain and suffering. These injury-related expenditures can mount up quickly and become overwhelming. Additionally, mental and emotional trauma can be equally painful for victims and their families. After all, the accident affects more than just the person who was hurt.

Contact Our Road Debris Accident Lawyer

Discuss your economic and non-economic damage with our proficient road debris accident attorney at Phillips Law Offices. We will evaluate your case and ensure the offending party is held accountable. If necessary, our experts will interview eyewitnesses, locate and examine any traffic camera footage from the Department of Transportation, and compare any damage to parts of the other driver’s car. This way, we will look for those responsible for road debris damage.

While the other driver’s fault is usually apparent, liability may extend to multiple parties. If flying debris led to the accident, the negligent driver is liable for the object that fell off the car or truck and the damage it caused. However, if debris was on the roadway for some time, the government agency in charge of that road may be at fault. Your claim is valid if the town, city, or municipality had a prior intimation of the debris via a police report or other source. Even a car manufacturer could share liability for your accident if the road debris existed because of a manufacturing flaw. Call us today at (312) 598-0917 to establish liability and recover the damages you suffered in your road debris accident.

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