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Debris on New Jersey’s Roads Could Cause Accidents Resulting in Injuries and Deaths

An unsecured load can be a dangerous thing, whether it’s on the back of a semi-trailer, a pick-up truck or sticking out of a car’s trunk. If something big and heavy enough falls onto the road, it can strike a following vehicle or cause it to swerve and collide with another vehicle. It’s a preventable accident that every year costs dozens of lives and thousands of injuries.

Road debris is a hazard especially on New Jersey’s highways because higher vehicle speeds mean the debris can do more damage and drivers have less time to safely maneuver out of the way. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently updated research on the dangers of objects on the nation’s roadways. Older figures  estimated that road hazards caused about 25,000 crashes, resulting in 81 to 90 deaths in 2001. But those numbers have been drastically increased after more recent research.

The Foundation estimates that road debris was a factor in an estimated average of 50,658 accidents, resulting in 9,805 injuries and 125 deaths per year from 2011 to 2014. These accidents are about four times as likely to happen on interstate highways as on other types of roads.

The Foundation broke down these accidents into three categories:

  • A vehicle that struck or was struck by an object that fell from another vehicle
  • A vehicle that struck a non-fixed object in the travel lane of the roadway
  • A vehicle that attempted to avoid a non-fixed object in the travel lane of the roadway and then crashed.

Here are the researchers’ findings:

  • Vehicle-related debris mostly consisted of wheels, tires or other parts that became detached from one vehicle and struck or were struck by another vehicle.
  • Several crashes involved cargo, such as furniture or appliances, that fell onto the road and were struck by other vehicles.
  • A common crash scenario was a trailer becoming detached from the vehicle towing it and then striking another.
  • Non-vehicle debris causing accidents included fallen trees, branches, limbs, rocks and boulders.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found in 2012 that accidents involving road debris were a small percentage of the total number of police-reported crashes but still resulted in thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths.

  • In 2010 there were about 5,419,000 crashes, with about 51,000 accidents involving a vehicle which hit something that came off another vehicle or a non-fixed object in the roadway.
  • These accidents caused injuries to nearly 10,000 people and killed 440 others.

In New Jersey, a vehicle owner found to be driving with an unsecured load faces a potential fine up to $500. Other than potential criminal penalties, a driver who did not secure a potentially dangerous load can face liability in a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries, vehicle damage and other economic losses.

A negligence case could be brought against the driver; and if a commercial vehicle is involved, the suit can also name the driver’s employer, the owner of the truck and whoever loaded the truck. If a wheel or part of a vehicle ended up on the road due poor maintenance or repair, the party responsible for doing that work might also be a defendant.

A negligence case is built on facts establishing these facts:

  • The defendant had a legal duty to the plaintiff (there was an obligation to drive a safe vehicle that wouldn’t endanger others, including safely storing items in or on a truck or car).
  • That duty was breached (insufficient or incorrect methods were used to secure the load, or the load was simply unsafe to be in or on the vehicle in the first place).
  • The breach was the legal and factual cause of a vehicle accident.
  • The crash resulted in damages suffered by the plaintiff (injuries due to the object’s striking the driver’s vehicle or an accident caused by the driver’s trying to avoid the object; damage to the vehicle; and any economic losses by the plaintiff, including medical expenses and lost wages).

New Jersey AttorneyIf you or a loved one has been injured as a pedestrian or you were in a vehicle involved in an accident caused by debris in the road left there because of another party’s negligence, an experienced attorney at The Law Offices of James C. DeZao, P.A. can help. A statute of limitations (time limit) applies to New Jersey personal injury cases, so don’t delay in contacting a motor vehicle accident attorney in Parsippany, NJ. We accept most auto accident cases on a contingency basis, which means you’ll pay for our services only if we recover money in your case. To schedule a free consultation today, call . Or just use our quick connect form to contact us online. We’re here for you.

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