Is Hitting Road Debris Considered an At-Fault Accident?

A full-coverage car insurance policy should cover the damages—but unfortunately, insurers generally consider hitting road debris an at-fault accident.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
A
full-coverage car insurance
policy should cover any damages to your vehicle that were caused by a collision with road debris. But depending on the circumstances, it may be considered an at-fault accident—and it might not be worth filing a claim for.   
If you’ve just had the misfortune of hitting some road debris, you might be wondering if your
car insurance covers repairs
and if you will be considered at fault. The good news is that you may be able to pay for the damages with the right type of coverage, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that. 
Read on to see if hitting road debris is considered an at-fault accident, and how to use your
car insurance
if it happens to you!
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Is hitting road debris considered an at-fault accident?

Insurance companies typically consider you to be at fault for hitting road debris. This is seen as an avoidable incident, so you’ll, unfortunately, be given the blame. But the fault can vary depending on the circumstances.
For example, say you run into a tire that was on the road and your car has some significant damage. While this would be covered under your
collision insurance
, most insurance companies would consider you to be at least somewhat at fault, as they allow that you could have braked or maneuvered around the road hazard.
In another likely scenario, maybe your car is hit by a piece of flying debris. If it came from an unsecured load on another vehicle and you were able to get their info, you might be able to go after them for the damage claim. In this case, you would likely not be considered at fault. If you couldn’t get their info, it might be considered a hit-and-run claim covered by collision coverage.
If you don’t swerve and your car sustains damage from road debris, you’ll likely be able to make a
comprehensive coverage
or collision claim. While you probably won’t be considered at fault, it can vary depending on the circumstances.
There are many nuances and potential situations when it comes to road debris. All insurance companies have different policies, so what one company considers to be an at-fault incident, another might not. 

Who is responsible for damage from road debris?

In theory, the party that is responsible for the road debris should be responsible for any damages or personal injury that arises from it. If some tree limbs fall out of the back of a landscaping truck, then the business would be liable for any property damage or injury claims that happened as a result. If someone is moving and a mattress flies off the back of their pickup truck and causes an accident, then that individual would be liable. 
However, this can be easier said than done. If the person who is responsible for the debris either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care to stop, then it’s hard to hold them responsible—unless you have the presence of mind to get their license plate number or some other identifying details. 
If there was a lot of damage or someone was injured, then that’s a scenario where it might be wise to seek legal advice. But it’s going to be hard to hold someone who just kept driving responsible without a license plate number.
A recent study by
AAA
found that there are about 50,000 road debris accidents a year, and two-thirds of them are caused by negligent drivers with unsecured loads. Maybe a dash cam isn’t such a bad idea after all…

What to do after a car accident with road debris

Hitting debris in the road can be a jarring and scary experience, but stay calm. In many cases, it’s better to avoid swerving to miss the debris, as this often results in crashing into guardrails, other cars, or running off the road. Safely pull your car over as far out of traffic as you can get. If the debris came off of a vehicle, try to get the license plate.
Once you’re safely off the road, check for any damage or injury. If there was a lot of damage done or if someone was hurt, then you’ll need to contact the police. Most states have accident reporting laws that require you to notify the authorities if anyone was injured in an accident or if there was more than a certain dollar amount of damage done. Additionally, you’ll need the police report if you decide to
file a car insurance claim
If you do decide to file a claim, then you’ll want to do it as soon as possible. Waiting could create even more damage to your car, and your insurance company might be unwilling to pay for repairs that were needed due to a delayed claim. 

Should you file an insurance claim after hitting road debris?

Depending on the amount of damage done, your insurance deductible, and whether or not it would be considered an at-fault accident, it may be beneficial
not to make a car insurance claim
after hitting road debris. 
If you have to pay an
insurance deductible
of $1000 and there were only $750 worth of vehicle damages, then it wouldn’t make any sense to file an insurance claim. But if there was several thousand dollars worth of damage or you were injured as a result of hitting road debris, then filing a claim would be the smart move—especially if you have any medical bills that came out of the accident. 
You’ll also want to take into consideration whether or not it would be considered an at-fault accident. If not, great! But if it is, having an at-fault claim almost always increases your insurance premiums—unless you have
accident forgiveness
, that is.
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FAQs

Depending largely on whether the object was stationary or not, hitting an object in the road would either be a comprehensive claim or a collision claim.
If a big hunk of cement came flying off a truck and hit your car, the driver of the truck would be liable for the damaged and injuries. Driver would be held liable for any damage and injuriesBut if that same hunk of cement was lying alone in the road when you hit it, then your collision insurance would cover the damage—and you’re more likely to be considered at fault.
Since it’s a single-car accident, most insurance companies consider hitting a pothole to be an at-fault accident. However, there are some scenarios where the government entity that’s responsible for the roads could be held liable for the damage caused.
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