You may be surprised at the variety of objects that fall from the roofs and out of the windows of moving vehicles. For example, if a pickup truck is moving at 40 m.p.h. and drops a few items from its truck bed, that force is similar to hurling a deadly weapon at another vehicle driving behind them. It can happen fast, it can be dangerous, and it can even be fatal.
Things that most often fall from vehicles include:
- Work equipment
So, the question is: Who shoulders responsibility for injuries caused by objects falling from cars in Pennsylvania? Our Pennsylvania car accident attorney discusses the issues below.
Although the fact pattern may seem odd, the legal theories are not. Since the “blame game” typically revolves around the legal theories of negligence, there will be duties of care involved.
Duty of Care
The driver of the vehicle from which an object falls has a duty to secure items safely for travel. That driver owed a duty of care to others on the road to drive in a manner that would minimize the likelihood of something falling off his or her vehicle.
For example, if a person is transporting a mattress on a vehicle’s rooftop, the driver must be sure that the undercurrent of wind does not upend the mattress and send it flying. The vehicle operator must also be mindful of speed to avoid the mattress getting too much wind under it. If the mattress falls off, the driver may have breached his or her duty to properly secure the mattress.
On the other hand, if cargo has been secured, the driver may not have breached the duty of care. For example, suppose there was a large bump in the road that, with no warning, caused an object to fall from the pickup truck. It may be more appropriate to blame the party responsible for maintaining the road instead of the driver per se.
Was the Object Avoidable?
Sometimes objects fall off a vehicle unbeknownst by the driver, and simply become common road debris that may or may not be avoidable. However, if an object falls from a pickup a half-mile up the road, the following driver should have been able to avoid it. In this case, it becomes difficult to impose liability on the driver of the pickup.
What if I Was Hit By a Driver Who Swerved to Avoid the Falling Object?
Imposing duty on a car that swerved to avoid a falling object becomes more problematic, especially if the swerving car can show they had no other options.
It becomes important that a proper investigation is conducted to ensure the driver did not have time to react or could have reacted in a different manner to avoid a crash. For example, a drowsy driver may not have seen the object in the roadway until the last minute. Had he or she been paying attention to the road, he or she would have been prepared to stop in time or change lanes ahead of time.
What if I Struck Another Vehicle to Avoid the Falling Object?
This argument is essentially a mirror augment to the argument made above. Just as a driver who swerves to avoid an object and hits you has a right to the sudden emergency defense, so do you. If you were driving with due care but did not have time to avoid a crash because an object fell off a vehicle, you might not be held responsible for damages. Instead, liability would once again fall onto either the driver of the vehicle from where the object fell or the person who loaded the item.
Our Law Firm Can Help if You’ve Been in a Car Accident Caused by a Falling Item from Another Vehicle
Items flying from vehicles in front of you can have devastating results. However, if this has happened to you, let us help. We operate on a contingency basis, which means there is no risk to you. Contact our law firm today to schedule your free consultation. We maintain five offices for your convenience, located in Bethlehem, Doylestown, Allentown, Easton, and Stroudsburg