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Highway Debris and Your Rights if Injured

There are numerous hazards on roadways that motorists need to be cautious of and to take reasonable and commonsense steps to avoid by driving defensively. For instance, be aware of weather conditions to avoid losing control on a slippery surface, do not tailgate, share the road with bicyclists, stop for pedestrians, and be wary of slow-moving vehicles or malfunctioning traffic signals. But there are hazards that you cannot plan for such as debris in the roadway.

This danger resulted in the tragic accident of a motorist in Spencer, Massachusetts, who died when a crowbar bounced up from the roadway and entered through his windshield, striking him in the head and causing the vehicle to go out of control. Emergency crews had to break the window on the passenger side to get to the motorist who later succumbed to his injuries.

In such circumstances, does the decedent’s family have any recourse to compensation for the loss of their loved one? If you were injured because of debris in the roadway, what rights to compensation do you have? Consulting a competent car accident lawyer is essential in such cases if you are seeking justice for your loved one and to compensate you for damages.

Liability in Road Debris Accidents

There are thousands of accidents each year where a piece of debris in the roadway causes you to lose control of your vehicle or an item from a poorly secured load on truck in front of you flies off and strikes your windshield, or that of another vehicle, whose driver then loses control and collides with you.

Road debris is the cause of about 70,000 car accidents per year. In a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, it found 200,000 accidents were attributed to road debris between 2011 and 2014, of which 500 resulted in fatalities and 39,000 persons sustained injuries.

You May be Blamed

If you strike an item that has been on the road surface, however, many insurers will blame you for any resulting property damage and possibly for your losing control since they consider this an avoidable accident. As a motorist, you are obligated to drive safely and to be cognizant of road hazards. Although your insurance carrier will cover you after you pay your deductible, it can penalize you for the accident.

Municipality Liability

But there are circumstances where you can recover compensation if injured, so long as you can identify the responsible parties. If in the Spencer case noted above where a crowbar shattered the windshield of the unfortunate motorist, the tool may have been left behind by a road crew doing maintenance under the authority of the county or state. If so, then municipality liability principles may apply. Your car accident lawyer will have to follow the Massachusetts Tort Claim Act wherein state employees…”shall be liable for injury or loss of property or personal death caused by negligence, wrongful acts or omissions.” However, the law limits liability to $100,000 per plaintiff. In a wrongful death claim, this amount is woefully inadequate to compensate the decedent’s family.

Identifying the Liable Party

Otherwise, it can be difficult to trace the origin of the tool that caused havoc. If the item was observed to have been tossed out a car or truck window or to have fallen due to a poorly secured load and the driver can be identified, then you have direct recourse to an injury claim against that motorist or trucking company since federal regulations govern such companies regarding safely secured loads.

Uninsured Motorist Claim

In the Spencer case or any other accident case caused by debris from an unknown source or party, can the uninsured motorist provision (UM) of your auto policy compensate you, so long as you have such coverage? You can recover PIP benefits for medical expenses and loss of earnings, but only up to $8,000 in some cases. In a highway debris case where there was no impact with another vehicle, you can recover so long as you can show that the debris from a vehicle was the cause of your accident and injuries.

Damages in a Road Debris Accident

Your damages in a road debris accident may include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future loss of income
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Permanent disability
  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma
  • Spousal claim for loss of consortium

If a loved one was killed from road debris, then damages in a wrongful death action may be:

  • Funeral and burial expense
  • Expenses for final medical treatment, if any
  • Pain and suffering of the decedent if observed to have consciously suffered before passing away
  • Loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, counsel and guidance
  • Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was willful, wanton or grossly negligent

Retain the Law Offices of Burns and Jain

If you or a loved one was injured or died because of debris in the roadway, you will need the services of the car accident lawyers from the Law Offices of Burns and Jain. Our attorneys can help identify the responsible parties and file the necessary notices and documents to prosecute your claim and to prove your damages.

Whether liability is clear or not, you will want the best opportunity to obtain the most compensation for your damages. Call Burns and Jain today at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation.