Hazards on the road come from just about anywhere and can sometimes be bizarre stuff. But whether or not auto insurance policies will cover injuries or damages caused by a road hazard depends on many factors. This can include what the object was, where it came from, the damages caused, and the coverages the driver carries.
Motorists who carry comprehensive and collision coverage will have their car damage covered, but they will likely have to pay any applicable deductible. There are several types of accident scenarios involving road hazards, with many possible outcomes.
Objects Lying in the Road
Many motorists have been cruising down a highway when they spot an approaching mattress or sofa cushion that must've fallen off of someone's truck. Unfortunately, being involved in an auto accident caused by these objects usually leaves the driver in a bad situation. If the owner of the object is unidentifiable, the motorist would have to rely on their own resources to take care of their car damages.
In a court case settled in January 2012, a Pennsylvania man was able to convince the justices that damages from an accident caused by a box he hit in the middle of the road should be covered by his uninsured motorist policy, but it took a prolonged legal battle to get his insurer to cover it. The driver successfully argued that the box must have fallen off a car, so the unidentified motorist whose car it fell off of was the one responsible.
But in most cases, a motorist who strikes a stationary object would need to carry collision coverage on their car insurance policy to ensure that they will have the damages covered. Filing this type of claim will often mean that the policyholder will have to pay the deductible amount—if any—that was chosen when the policy was purchased. Common deductible amounts are $1,000, $500, and $250.
Struck by a Flying Object
If the object was moving at the time of the accident, it would be considered a "flying object," and it would fall under a person's comprehensive car coverage. A flying object can be a rock that fell off of a truck or a piece of debris that got kicked up by another car. Comprehensive claims also have deductibles that would need to be paid.
Motorists who strike a road hazard that can't be tracked down to an owner and don't carry comprehensive and collision auto coverages will probably have to pay to repair any damages on their own. Since the party responsible for the hazard can't be identified, there will be nobody to seek compensation from.
The situation can get a bit tricky if other parties are involved. A motorist's typical reaction to hazards is to get out of the way, which usually means swerving, and in some cases, swerving into another vehicle. In this case, the other person's damages will have to be paid with the driver's property damage liability coverage.
The Effect Road-Hazard Accidents Have on Auto Insurance Rates
One of the most common questions consumers have about automobile coverage is rates. There is no answer to this question that fits all motorists. How rates will be affected will depend on the person's claims history, the carrier, and the coverage is used to pay for the damages.
Not many auto insurance companies will increase rates for policyholders who have made a claim under comprehensive coverage for the first time, but filing multiple claims within a three-year period could lead to rate increases.
Filing claims under collision coverage can cause premiums to rise unless there is an exception offered by the carrier such as "accident forgiveness" or if a surcharge is prohibited by law. The Delaware limitations on automobile surcharges, for example, do not allow insurers to impose a surcharge on drivers for their first at-fault accident in a three-year period, and surcharges can't last more than three years from the date they were imposed.
Any accident is unfortunate, but hitting something that was the responsibility of an unidentified party can be pretty unfair. With nobody to seek compensation from, the vehicle owner will often end up footing the bill. Even motorists who have the proper coverage in place may be left paying the deductible.