Florida Freeway Lane Change Accidents Caused by Falling Debris

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Photo by Robby DeGraff

A recent accident on February 20th on I-95 was a nightmare scenario for so many of us: a couch fell off a truck and a driver had just seconds to swerve to avoid it. He lost control of his Toyota Corolla and struck a guardrail, coming to rest upside down in the median. The driver of the truck kept going. The driver and his girlfriend were taken to a local hospital by ambulance. 

It was at the hospital that the couple got a literal insult to injury: a Florida Highway Patrol trooper arrived at the hospital and delivered a traffic ticket for “failing to drive in a single lane.” 

Florida, like many states, has a lane change law that allows highway patrol officers to cite drivers who make unsafe lane changes. The law states “A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.” 

Falling Debris Accidents Are a Common Occurrence 

Accidents like the one on I-95 occur frequently, and usually don’t make the news. Debris falling from the back of a truck can lead to severe injury or death when drivers have just seconds to slam on breaks or veer around debris like pallets, furniture, or cargo. Commercial vehicles are subject to federal regulation for cargo securement to withstand forces of deceleration, acceleration, and lateral movement. However, not all debris comes off of commercial vehicles. Pickup trucks are often piled high with cargo to go to a landfill or transfer station. In some cases, drivers may not even know that cargo fell off their vehicle and caused an accident. 

Debris can be anything: a cardboard box, a BBQ, a lawnmower, a trash can, or wreckage from a recent collision. Ladders and pallets are common because they are often thrown in pickup trucks and may not be tied down properly. The FDOT and the Florida Highway Patrol aim to remove debris from highways as soon as possible, but the average clearance time is about 50 minutes. 

Who Is Liable For Falling Debris? 

The driver and owner of a vehicle that causes a road debris accident (including a loss of control due to avoiding debris) is liable for a collision. But what happens if (1) the driver does not stop or (2) you have no idea where the debris came from? If you don’t know who the other driver was, you will not be able to file a claim against their liability insurance. If you maintain Uninsured Motorist Coverage, which is highly recommended, this may cover you. However, you will need to prove the debris was the cause of your injury. Report the accident and get medical attention immediately. 

Get a Free Consultation With a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer 

If you’ve been injured in an accident involving debris on a Florida freeway or highway, contact the Coleman Law Group to schedule a free consultation. We will listen to your story and review your legal rights and options. If we represent you in your case, we will not charge any legal fees unless we recover money for you. Call us at (877) 822-9292.