Driving on any major highway or interstate runs the risk of car accidents. While many accidents are due to poor driving decisions, some accidents are caused by random debris. Last month, Mike Zelnar of Treasure Coast experienced exactly this kind of scare. While on his way home on Florida's Turnpike, he was driving behind a truck pulling a cement mixer on the road. A piece of metal fell from the cement mixer, bounced once on the road, and then crashed into Zelnar's windshield. "You're talking a piece of pipe that weighs five to seven pounds at 70 mph, hitting you in the head or in the chest, you were not going to survive it," Zelnar recounted. He explained there was no time to react or move his vehicle before the steel pipe went through his windshield. Thankfully, Zelnar survived the incident, but his story echoes the constant threat of uncontrollable debris on the road.
How Common are Debris Accidents?
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety claims, “more than 200,000 crashes involved debris on U.S. roadways over a four-year period, leading to 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.” They define road debris as:
...debris from any source, including by not limited to vehicles, that can pose a significant safety hazard (animals in the road, trees that fell onto vehicles, debris caused by a previous crash, and construction-related materials in active work zones were not counted as debris)
A crash was considered to have been debris-related if it involved a vehicle that:
- Struck or was struck by an object that fell from another vehicle
- Struck a non-fixed object in the travel lane of the roadway
- Attempted to avoid a non-fixed object in the travel lane of the roadway and subsequently crashed
What Does Florida Law Say About Road Debris Accidents?
Under Florida law, whatever is carried or pulled by your vehicle is your responsibility. If you are carrying materials in the bed of your truck or you are pulling materials attached to a trailer, you are at fault if anything falls off or comes apart and damages someone else or their property.
More specifically, it states the following:
- A vehicle may not be driven or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is so constructed or loaded as to prevent any of its load from dropping, shifting, leaking, blowing, or otherwise escaping therefrom, except that sand may be dropped only for the purpose of securing traction or water or other substance may be sprinkled on a roadway in cleaning or maintaining the roadway.
- It is the duty of every owner and driver, severally, of any vehicle hauling, upon any public road or highway open to the public, dirt, sand, lime rock, gravel, silica, or other similar aggregate or trash, garbage, any inanimate object or objects, or any similar material that could fall or blow from such vehicle, to prevent such materials from falling, blowing, or in any way escaping from such vehicle. Covering and securing the load with a close-fitting tarpaulin or other appropriate cover or a load securing device meeting the requirements of 49 C.F.R. s. 393.100 or a device designed to reasonably ensure that cargo will not shift upon or fall from the vehicle is required and shall constitute compliance with this section.
- a Except as provided in paragraph (b), a violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.
- b Any person who willfully violates the provisions of this section which offense results in serious bodily injury or death to an individual and which offense occurs as a result of failing to comply with subsections (1) and (2) commits a criminal traffic offense and a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
- The provision of subsection (2) requiring covering and securing the load with a close-fitting tarpaulin or other appropriate cover does not apply to vehicles carrying agricultural products locally from a harvest site or to or from a farm on roads where the posted speed limit is 65 miles per hour or less.
Why Do I Need an Attorney for My Road Debris Accident?
No matter the extent of your injuries, you are going to need a professional on your side to fight for your rights. For starters, a lawyer will help you prove who was at fault in the accident. It is not your job to come to that conclusion on your own. All you need to do is give as many details about the incident as you can to the lawyer, and let him do the rest.
You will also need a lawyer to help you gain compensation for your recovery. If you are injured in a road debris accident, you may find yourself out of work with a growing variety of financial obligations. While in recovery mode, you run the risk of losing work time or of losing your job altogether. That loss of work time turns into loss of income. At the same time, your medical bills can start piling one on top of the other faster than you can imagine. If this sounds like your situation, then you need to contact a lawyer today to let him start the process for you. Give yourself the time you need to rest and regenerate while a lawyer you trust builds the strongest case you can imagine.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a road debris accident, contact us today for a free consultation to see how we can help you navigate this serious experience.