If your automobile accident was caused by road debris or fallen cargo, you may be facing an uphill battle.
There are many causes of car accidents in Dallas-Fort Worth, including inattentive driving, road construction, weather conditions, and even debris or truck cargo left in the roadway. When items fall from trucks, out of vehicles, or cross the road due to wind or other factors, many drivers are unable to react in time to avoid a collision. The resulting accident can be minor or can turn into something serious—or even fatal—depending on the type of debris, its location in the road, and the driver’s speed.
While it is quite obvious a huge concrete beam falling from a truck is a serious safety concern, sometimes even small objects can cause major problems. We see the types of things that cause these accidents every day: improperly-secured mattresses falling from vehicles, loose items falling from the bed of a pickup truck, spilled lumber or pallets, fallen construction equipment and supplies, and even 18-wheeler leaf springs or other large auto parts resulting from an auto accident or poor vehicle maintenance.
In 2013, even former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk was hurt in an accident involving fallen cargo. A ladder left on Interstate 30 was kicked up by a passing 18-wheeler and slammed through Mr. Kirk’s windshield. While some view these accidents as freak occurrences, the truth is that they happen more frequently than you might imagine. Across the US, there are more than 25,000 accidents caused by road debris every year.
What the law says.
In tort law, there exists a rule called “negligence per se.” Essentially, this says that if a person’s actions violate a state law or safety ordinance designed to prevent injuries, the court will consider the party to be negligent as a matter of law. Use of the Latin phrase “per se” (by itself) says in short that this type of negligence lacks the need for the extensive courtroom argument that is required in most other situations.
If your accident was caused by products falling from an 18-wheeler or commercial truck, you may be able to establish negligence per se based on federal safety regulations which apply to commercial truck drivers.
There are numerous safety regulations by which professional trucks must abide. These rules exist due to the inherent risk involved with large trucks sharing the road with much smaller passenger vehicles. These safety regulations cover things such as ensuring gravel on a gravel truck is secure, properly strapping down large items when they are transported on a flatbed trailer, and more. Safety regulations also define the minimum strength requirements for any materials and systems that secure the payloads on commercial trucks.
If your accident was caused by cargo falling from a truck, and that company was violating one of these rules, you and your attorney may not even need to argue the issue of negligence. Even though truck drivers receive training in the observance of these rules, we’ve found that oftentimes trucking companies will skirt these laws in order to increase their profits – all at the risk of other drivers.
There are safety regulations that apply to ordinary drivers as well as professional truckers. For instance, drivers who are pulling a trailer must follow specific rules about the proper use of a trailer and hitch. Other rules cover the use of transporting items in the bed of an open pickup truck. This regulation is necessary because even a small item that accidentally falls out of the bed of a pickup truck can lead to serious problems.
If your accident occurred on a Texas highway, and you believe that negligence on the part of the Texas Department of Transportation played a role, you’re even free to file a claim directly with TxDOT, but know that your chances of a successful outcome are extremely thin.
Finding the responsible driver.
Unfortunately, these types of accidents often leave no clues as to who the responsible party may be – which is the most important part of your potential claim. Sometimes there are identifiable marks on the debris, but oftentimes there is simply no way of determining who left the debris in the road. If your injuries were serious, you may wish to hire a private investigator to look into the matter, as this may be your only option at finding the responsible party.
What’s frustrating is that if you try to file an uninsured motorist claim with your own insurance company, they will deny your injury claim because “there had been no physical contact with an unidentified motor vehicle.” Even if you struck part of a vehicle such as a leaf spring or separated tire, your claim will be denied. The Texas Supreme Court has even ruled that you have to be hit by the whole vehicle to get bodily injury benefits under an uninsured driver policy.
Do I need a lawyer?
If you have been injured in an accident that involves possible negligence because of road debris, then yes, call an attorney and let them evaluate the facts of your case (which they will do for free).
Our experienced personal injury lawyers may be able to help you determine exactly what options are available to you. For a free consultation, send us an email or call our office (toll-free) at 1-877-405-4313.