Don't Be Fooled by the 'Not Responsible for Windshields' Claim on Dump Trucks
We've all seen the dump trucks rolling down the road, each of them with a variety of signs telling you to keep back 200 feet or that the company isn't responsible for damage to your windshield. But it's mostly just a scare tactic to keep you from filing a claim for their negligence.
When vehicles kick up rocks with their tires, our paint jobs and windshields suffer heavily. It's a risk we pay--but we might not always have to pay for that damage ourselves. This damage can usually be avoided by increasing our following distance. Because, let's face it, most of us follow a bit too closely and roads are never free from hazards. But what if the truck carrying the load is dropping rocks or debris or is improperly maintained and you suffer damage as a result?
North Carolina law (G.S. 20-116) requires that all vehicles should be constructed and loaded to prevent its load from leaving the vehicle. It also requires that large trucks, including dump trucks, loaded with rocks, stone and the like, should be securely covered to prevent spillage. North Carolina does not have a law requiring mud flaps at this time, though other states do.
So, don't automatically assume that the trucking company bears no responsibility for damage to your vehicle just because it says so on the back of the truck. That sign serves a dual purpose. The first is to keep you from filing a claim if your vehicle is damaged through no fault of the trucking company. The second is to scare you into not filing a claim if your vehicle is damaged and it IS the fault of the trucking company.
Truckers and their companies ARE responsible for rocks and debris falling from their trucks. Companies are responsible in some states to ensure that their tire flaps are sufficient to prevent rocks from flying up from the road. Many companies, however, skimp on this maintenance item with the result that their trucks often have degraded or missing flaps. This is why it makes sense to increase your following distance.
If a truck is dropping debris, such as gravel, the driver and company are responsible for damages to your vehicle. But it can be difficult to file a claim if the truck is long gone by the time that rock chips your glass.
If a truck is dropping debris and it strikes your vehicle, don't hesitate to file a report with your local law enforcement agency. Make sure you get the complete license plate number from the truck (if you can safely do so), including the state. Don't try to make the driver stop.
Keep in mind that there are license plates on both the trailer and the cab for semi-trucks. On dump trucks, the license plate is typically on the front of the vehicle. DOT numbers on the side of the truck can also help to identify the company responsible.
Report dump trucks or other vehicles that are dropping debris on the road to the North Carolina Highway Patrol as soon as possible by dialing *HP (*47) on your cell phone. Be sure to provide as much information as you can, including a description of the truck, road name, travel direction and license plate number.
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