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Are Trucking Companies Liable For Debris Flying Off the Truck?

large truck carrying dirt

Not Responsible for Broken Windshields?

Almost every driver has fallen victim to the signs posted on the back of some semi-trucks that read, "Stay back 100 feet, not responsible for broken windshields." These are often on the trucks with looser cargo and a lid or fabric panel barely covering the top. However, it seems like no matter how far back or in which lane you drive, a small rock will inevitably fly your direction. Many motorists can become irritated by this, as these signs can come across as the trucking company not taking responsibility for the damage that their cargo has on windshields or a driver's ability to maneuver correctly.

When being asked if these signs have any legal stake in protecting the truck driver or company from assuming liability for damages, the simple answer is always "it depends."

What Are They Liable For?

Although a truck driver may not always be able to know if a tiny rock escapes out of the back and cracks a windshield, they do have a legal responsibility to secure the cargo they are carrying. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) outlines rules for cargo securement on their website and how the driver must uphold these. Here are a couple of regulations to remember:

  • The cargo securement must be able to withstand acceleration and deceleration in any direction.
  • Tiedowns (like those on sediment carriers) must be secured in a way that prevents them from loosening, unfastening or opening while the truck is in motion.
  • Cargo that may roll (like barrels) must be held by wedges or other forms of securement to prevent rolling.
  • Special rules apply for commodity-specific cargo and can be found here.

Ultimately, the driver must do everything in their power to ensure that what they are carrying cannot become unsecured while their truck is in motion. Even if they have a sign alerting other drivers of potential hazards that may come with driving too close to the truck, it is their responsibility to prevent those hazards from happening.

When Are They Not Liable?

You may often hear that if a rock flies out of a truck and hits the ground before it hits your vehicle, then the truck driver is no longer liable for the windshield damage. Insurance experts say that this is because a rock coming off the road is considered a "roadway hazard" rather than a securing problem from a truck driver. This is also why trucking companies maintain the signs telling you to stay back 100 feet—usually, there will not be direct contact from a rock flying out of their truck at this distance.

Other damages that a truck driver may not be responsible for include (obviously) those that arise from the negligence of another vehicle. For example, if a passenger car cuts off or crashes into a large truck, causing it to swerve and cause another accident, the other vehicle driving recklessly should be held responsible for those damages—even if the cargo becomes unsecured in the process.

Northern Illinois Truck Accident Attorneys

Whether your collision was caused by unsecured cargo, debris in the roadway, or an unfortunate chain of events, our Turner Law Group team wants to remind you that you have a right to a safe driving experience.

Our DeKalb and Kane County attorneys have been practicing law in the state for over 75 years combined and understand how to navigate the red tape that can come with truck crashes. If you or a loved one are healing from an injury caused by another driver's negligence and are seeking legal representation, call (800) 653-0198 or fill out this short form to get in touch with a member of our team.