There’s a lot of information about auto accidents online, but most of it applies to collisions between two vehicles, usually because one of the drivers was speeding or careless.
But what do you do when an accident happens because of road damage, debris, or a foreign object in the highway?
Did you know that AAA did a study specifically on people who are injured due to road damage or debris and found that in the U.S. alone, road debris was responsible for more than 200,000 auto accidents between 2011 and 2014?
500 people died in those crashes, and some 39,000 more suffered serious injuries.
Crashes caused by dangerous road conditions are a real problem in New York, but victims don’t always know where to turn for justice.
So what do you do if you are injured due to road damage or debris? Here’s what you need to know.
You May Have a Claim Against Another Driver’s Insurance
In many cases, the foreign object in the road has been left there by another driver. If you’re able to identify who that driver is, you may have a negligence-based claim against his or her insurance company, which means you can demand financial compensation for your injuries.
Common examples of foreign objects that other drivers leave in the road include:
- Couches and furniture
- Loose or improperly stored cargo
- Decorative items that have fallen off the car
- Car parts from improperly maintained vehicles
- Christmas trees or lumber
If the foreign object or road debris came from a commercial truck or vehicle (such as a semi-truck or 18-wheeler), you may also have a claim against the trucking company. If the object was in the road as a result of a vehicle defect, you may also have a claim against the manufacturer.
In some cases, you may find yourself in a collision with another driver who either hit a foreign object or who swerved to avoid road damage or debris. In these cases, you may have a claim against both the driver and the party responsible for the hazard.
Every situation is different. Not sure who’s responsible for your accident or whether you have any evidence (or a means of identifying the responsible parties)? We invite you to call our office and talk to a car accident lawyer about your situation. You may have more options than you know.
You May Have a Claim Against the Government
The government has a responsibility to maintain the roadways in a safe condition. Depending on the circumstances, if you are injured due to road damage or debris, you may be able to bring a claim for compensation against the New York Department of Transportation (NY DOT) or a different state or local agency.
However, pursuing a personal injury claim against the government can be complicated. Special statutes and various limitations may apply.
Generally speaking, you will need to show that the government had notice of the road damage or debris (i.e. knew about it) or had constructive notice (i.e. should have known about it). You will also need to show that the government had enough time to remove the hazard and failed to do so.
Common examples of negligence by the government include:
- Failure to remove debris from the road after an auto accident
- Failure to remove dead animals from the road
- Failure to fix potholes, broken pavement, or other instances of road damage
- Failure to remove dangerous objects, storm debris, or other obstacles from the roadway
A New York auto accident lawyer at O’Connor & Partners can help you determine whether you might have a claim against the government in New York and, if so, what kind of compensation could be available.
You May Be Able to Recover Under Your Own Insurance
What if you don’t know who caused the road damage or left the debris there? It’s not an uncommon scenario. Fortunately, in many cases, there are still options for getting the justice you deserve.
You may, for example, be able to recover under your own auto insurance. Depending on the circumstances, relevant policy provisions might include your Collision coverage, Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist coverage, and/or Medical Payments coverage, among others.
What to Do If You Are Injured Due to Road Damage or Debris: Steps to Take
Generally speaking, if you are injured due to road damage or debris, you’ll want to follow the same basic steps you would take after any auto accident:
- Get out of harm’s way. If possible, move your vehicle off the side of the road. Get away from oncoming traffic as soon as you can, taking care to do so safely.
- Call law enforcement. Let an officer know that you’ve been in an accident. Follow their instructions.
- Check on anyone else involved in the accident if you can. Call 911 if anyone is hurt.
- Take photographs. Capture as much detail as you can. The more photos, the better.
- Get eyewitness information. Document the names and contact information of anyone who might have seen the accident. If anyone might know who left the object / hazard there — or how long it’s been there — that can be very helpful too.
- Seek medical attention. Even if you don’t suspect severe injury, see a licensed Medical Doctor as soon as possible. It’s important to get a thorough examination soon after the accident — both for your health and for your personal injury claim.
- Talk to a Kingston auto accident lawyer. The sooner you get an attorney involved, the more helpful we can be.
Free & Confidential Consultation with a New York Car Accident Lawyer
O’Connor and Partners is a personal injury law firm based in Kingston, NY and providing legal services throughout the entire state, including in: Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond.
We fight hard to maximize compensation for injured drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
We are proud to offer confidential, no-cost, no-obligation consultations to injured motorists and their families throughout the state of New York. If you choose to hire us after your consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.
If you can’t come to us, we will come to you. Just contact us online or call 845-303-8777 to talk with one of our NY auto accident lawyers today.