Who Pays if a Falling Object Causes My Car to Crash?
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Mar 31, 2022 in Car Accidents
What happens if cargo falls off of another vehicle while you are driving? If that falling object hits your car and causes you to crash, who pays for your damages? Is the at-fault party always the driver of the vehicle carrying cargo?
At Goldberg Finnegan, we understand that car crashes are both traumatic and expensive. No one expects to get hit by cargo or other falling objects while driving. Often, the victim trying to avoid being hit by the falling object may end up crashing. Even if the involved vehicles were traveling at slow speed when the object hit the car, severe injuries and costly damages are likely.
After any serious car crash you did not cause, we encourage you to seek legal help. Hiring a qualified attorney can help you avoid making mistakes that could hurt your chances for a successful claim. In Maryland, you could greatly benefit from the extensive experience of our Silver Spring car crash lawyers. We handle complicated claims every day and fight hard to protect our clients’ interests. Call today to learn about your potential legal options. Your first meeting is on us.
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Who Pays for Damages if a Falling Object Causes a Car Crash?
If a falling object damages your car or causes a crash, the liable party is likely the driver of the vehicle that was carrying the cargo. That said, getting payment for your damages may not be that easy.
Victims have the legal burden of proving the other party was to blame. If the at-fault driver does not stop, it may not be possible to identify him or her. To be fair, drivers who drop cargo may not always realize it, especially for smaller objects, like gravel from a commercial truck. Unfortunately, a small object can still break windshields and cause other damage when vehicles are traveling at high speed.
Even drivers who do know something has fallen off of their vehicle may not stop. These drivers may either lack insurance or simply want to avoid facing the consequences.
How Can Victims Prove the At-Fault Party Was Negligent?
As with any type of car crash, proving the other party’s negligence is no easy task. If you have hired a licensed attorney, he or she knows what steps are needed. After looking at all the factors that led to the crash, an attorney will need to establish these four elements of negligence:
- The driver of the vehicle carrying the object or cargo owed you a duty of care
- That same driver violated that duty by not properly securing his or her cargo
- The breach of duty was the direct cause of the crash that caused your damages
- But for that crash, you would not have suffered injuries and other losses
Can You Recover Damages If the At-Fault Driver Fails to Stop?
If the at-fault party does not stop, it will be harder for authorities to locate or identify that driver. Typically, things happen too fast for a victim to catch details of the at-fault party’s vehicle, such as the license plate number. While this may complicate a claim, victims may still have recovery options under their own policies.
All Maryland drivers must meet the state’s minimum car insurance requirements. However, there are many reasons to consider buying these and other optional insurance add-ons:
- Collision coverage: This insurance helps you to recover compensation for the repairs and/or replacement of your vehicle.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP): PIP provides a small amount of protection ($2,500 to $5,000) to help with your initial medical costs. Keep in mind, that you can purchase additional PIP coverage.
- Rental car coverage: This coverage reimburses you for the cost of a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired.
All Maryland drivers are also required to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) protection. UM/UIM coverage helps if a driver flees the scene or has too little insurance to cover your damages.
Is the Driver Who Dropped the Cargo Always to Blame?
Most often, the driver who dropped the cargo is at fault. Legally, drivers owe a duty to prevent harm to others. This includes making sure any cargo they carry is properly secured. Drivers must also make sure they use a vehicle that is capable of carrying that cargo.
For instance, trying to load large objects, such as appliances or a mattress, onto a small car is a bad idea. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to secure that object properly. A driver can be held liable for damages if a crash occurs because he or she:
- Failed use the right vehicle for the size of the load
- Failed to use the correct tools or straps to secure the load
- Used straps, but did not ensure the load was secure
There are, however, other parties who could share the blame for a crash caused by a falling object. For instance:
Manufacturers May Be Liable if Tools Used to Secure the Load Were Defective
When securing a load, drivers must use the right straps and products for the size and weight of the cargo. Drivers must also examine the straps, roof compartment or other tools they use to be sure they are in good working order.
Sometimes, a driver’s best intentions may not be enough. If the crash investigation reveals that the product used was defective, the manufacturer could be liable for the damages if:
- There was no active recall of the product
- The driver used the product as intended
- Cargo fell because the product was defective
- The defect led to the crash and damages
Trucking Company or Employer if Commercial Vehicle Did Not Properly Secure its Load
If your car was hit by cargo that fell from a commercial vehicle, more than the driver could be responsible.
For instance, if a commercial vehicle was transporting a load of gravel and it was not properly secured. If gravel fell off that commercial vehicle, it could damage other vehicles or lead to a crash. Victims in this situation could have a claim against the driver for not making sure his or her load was secure. However, the drivers’ company and/or employer could also be vicariously liable for their employee who improperly loaded the truck.
Could the Driver Hit By a Falling Object Share Fault?
It depends on the situation. Even if a driver is alert and tries to avoid an unexpected falling object, it may not always be enough to prevent a crash. However, all drivers have a duty to drive responsibly. Drivers may be able to reduce the risks of certain road hazards, like a falling object, by driving defensively.
For instance, if you see a vehicle carrying a load, you cannot know whether it is secure. However, you can reduce the risk of a crash or injury from a falling object by taking certain steps, including:
- Safely passing the overloaded vehicle as soon as it is possible
- Slowing down, if passing is not an option, and creating more distance in front of you
- Looking for empty spaces in lanes next to you in case you have to quickly move to avoid a crash
Some drivers hit by a falling object may themselves break one or more traffic laws in the process. One common way this happens is if a driver tailgates an overloaded vehicle. The tailgating driver’s goal in this situation is likely to pressure the other vehicle to move out of the way. However, tailgating is not only unsafe, but also a type of aggressive driving and against the law in Maryland.
If a falling object falls on a driver who was tailgating, officers may cite that aggressive driver, as well as the driver with the overloaded vehicle. Since both drivers share fault in this situation, there is no case. Victims who contribute even one percent to a crash in Maryland cannot recover any damages.
Does Maryland Have Laws About Securing Cargo onto a Vehicle?
Yes, like most states, Maryland has a law about securing cargo onto a vehicle. Under this law, drivers are responsible for:
- Using the proper vehicle and tools to secure cargo
- Checking loaded cargo to ensure it will not drop, sift, leak or fall out
- Not operating any vehicle if a load is not properly secured
Drivers who operate a vehicle with unsecured cargo break the law. That driver will likely be liable for any damages from the crash. Additionally, he or she can be ticketed and assessed a $90 fine.
Call Our Trusted Law Firm for Legal Help Today
After being injured in a crash you did not cause, we strongly recommend seeking legal help right away. No two crashes are the same, and there are a lot of factors that can impact liability.
At Goldberg Finnegan, we have extensive experience and know how to fully investigate the cause of your crash. We have a strong and proven history of results, recovering millions for our clients. If you have a claim, we are ready to fight for maximum compensation on your behalf.
Call our firm 24/7 to speak with one of our intake staff and schedule your completely free consultation. While there is no pressure to hire our firm, if we represent you, there is nothing to pay us up front. We only collect our fees if we recover compensation for you.
Our lawyers get results. Ph: (888) 213-8140.