Debris on the road is common in Oklahoma City, and while it may appear nothing more than a minor nuisance, it holds potentially fatal consequences.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that annual traffic fatalities from road debris increased from approximately 90 in 2001 to 125 in 2014. The problem of traffic accidents and injuries caused by road debris may not receive the same attention as other traffic problems, but it is on the rise. The advice of an Oklahoma City car accident attorney can help injury victims protect their legal rights.
The Road Debris Problem Comes to Oklahoma
Unfortunately, it is not just drivers who are affected by debris in the road. In Tulsa, an employee of the Department of Transportation was killed while attempting to clear debris from the road. News on 6 reports that the employee had spotted some tree limbs in the roadway on U.S. Highway 169. He pulled over and ran into the roadway in an attempt to retrieve them, but was struck by a dump truck. The truck driver reports that he attempted to avoid hitting the worker but could not.
Natural debris like tree branches is not the only obstruction on the roadways of Tulsa. Negligent drivers have left mattresses, dryers and other large household goods in the road by not securing these items properly to their vehicles. A traffic camera maintained by News on 6 captured a series of near-misses involving a wheelbarrow in the middle of Highway 169. Several vehicles swerved to miss the wheelbarrow, and a school bus was forced onto the shoulder. Finally, an SUV was unable to avoid a collision after the vehicle in front of it swerved suddenly to avoid the wheelbarrow. Fortunately, the SUV driver was unhurt, but her vehicle sustained thousands of dollars in damage.
Oklahoma Drivers Have a Legal Obligation to Avoid Putting Debris in the Roadway
The Oklahoma Statutes create a legal duty of care for all drivers carrying cargo. Section 14-105 requires drivers to securely fasten all loads and coverings to prevent them from becoming loose, detached, or a hazard to other roadway users. Drivers are also prohibited from operating vehicles unless they have been constructed or loaded to prevent debris from dropping, sifting, leaking, or otherwise escaping from the vehicle.
Drivers who violate this law are subject to misdemeanor fines and penalties set forth by Section 17-101. They can also be found at-fault for causing an accident which results from the debris. When an insurance company or jury finds that a driver is legally responsible for causing an accident, that driver is also obligated to compensate accident victims for their injuries. The driver's insurance carrier then has a contractual obligation to pay the value of the victim's financial losses. This can include medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Other financial losses which are directly attributable to the accident are also subject to compensation.
In some cases, the city or state may be liable for negligently failing to pick up the debris in a timely fashion, despite actual or constructive knowledge (meaning it was known or should have been discovered in the course of using reasonable care).
Consult with an Oklahoma City car accident attorney as soon as possible after any accident in order to identify all potential liable parties and sources of compensation.