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Motorcycle Accidents and Road Debris: Who Is to Blame?


View of roadway while driving a motorcycleRoad debris is an obvious and common hazard for any driver, but the dangers escalate for motorcyclists.

With only two wheels, motorcycles are more prone to accidents than cars. Even small debris, such as gravel left at a construction site, can reduce traction and lead to a motorcycle accident. A motorcyclist also lacks the protective cage a car provides, which gives drivers and passengers in an auto accident an added layer of safety when debris goes airborne or a large object is hit.

Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents caused by road debris can be difficult cases. To determine fault, you will need to determine how the debris got on the roadway or if parties responsible for keeping roads clean were negligent.

Attorney Larry S. Buckley, a motorcycle rider himself, has extensive experience handling motorcycle accident litigation in the Sacramento area and understands the complexities involving motorcycle accidents and road debris. With offices throughout the region, his team of attorneys is well positioned to vigorously pursue your case. They will work with accident reconstruction experts, accident investigators, forensic analysts, and economists to determine negligence and the appropriate compensation for damages.

Road Debris Cases

The starting point in any litigation involving debris is determining where the debris came from and who was responsible for clearing it.

Often debris ends up on the road when it falls off another vehicle, such as when a big rig loses a tire or when objects fall off a car or pickup truck. In California, a motorist can be fined for objects that fall off or come off their vehicle. They may also be held civilly or criminally responsible for the consequences of that debris on a roadway.

A person injured by highway debris has a right to be compensated for his or her injuries and property loss from whomever is responsible for the debris being on the roadway. This includes car and truck drivers who do not properly secure loads. If the truck driver is working as an employee, his employer may also be held liable for the injuries or damages caused by debris from the vehicle.

Of course, determining which vehicle left debris on a roadway can be difficult since even just one minute after debris was left by a vehicle, the source can be a mile or more away.

Road Maintenance

The problem of road debris is exacerbated if there is poor maintenance by local government. If road crews are not diligent about removing trash and debris, they may also be held liable for causing an accident.

In California, a public entity or governmental agency can be held liable for injuries or damages caused when public property is not kept “reasonably” safe. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to establish government liability. To prove the government is legally liable, you will have to prove that:

  • The government knew about the debris, or should have known.
  • The government failed to respond in a reasonable amount of time to remove the debris.

Filing Against a Third Party

Anyone who leaves debris in the road that later causes a crash can be held liable for the resulting damages. The issue is identifying and locating the party that negligently scattered junk on the street. In most cases, the debris falls off a moving vehicle that speeds away, often not even knowing that they inadvertently caused a roadway hazard until they reach their destination miles or counties away. Filing a claim against that motorist is basically impossible.

You are not out of options, though. If it can be proven that the debris you hit while riding had been in the road for days or weeks without being cleaned up, then you could file your claim against a municipal entity in charge of roadway maintenance. Some counties have their own street cleaning teams, and others rely on statewide transportation departments. In either situation, motorists should be able to expect that roadway debris will be spotted and cleaned up at least within a couple of days since that is one of the key functions of governmental roadway maintenance agencies and programs. Allowing debris to stay unattended for long can amount to negligence, which puts liability on that agency.

Proving Fault

The issue of liability, whether against another driver or a governing body, will likely require a skilled and experienced attorney who will aggressively pursue your interests. If you have been injured or lost property in a motorcycle accident, we recommend requesting a free consultation to review your case.

Please request a free consultation today.

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