• Wed. Sep 21st, 2022

A rock hits your windshield, so who pays for the damaged glass?

ByElla E. Kidwell

Sep 15, 2022

Highway debris can be scary, dangerous and expensive. When a Payson woman says a construction company refused to pay for the damage she caused to her car, she decided it was time to Get Gephardt.

Any Utah driver has probably experienced the frustration of rock slamming into your windshield and leaving a nasty crack. But what hit Diane Van Nosdol’s windshield wasn’t just a pebble or a small piece of gravel from the platform. It was a fist-sized stone that left a fist-sized circular fissure right in the line of sight.

“When it cracked like that,” Van Nosdol recounted, “I thought it was going to hit me. I did. I thought it was going to pass.”

She says she saw him fall from the dump truck in front of her, which from a photo she took has an uncovered bed. She thinks the company owes her $450 for her new windshield. The company disagrees.

“They told me they wouldn’t be responsible for this after their investigation,” Van Nosdol said. “And I’m just like, it can’t happen.”

Ascent Law attorney Michael Anderson says it can and does.

“It’s one of the costs of driving on the road and driving on pavement,” Anderson said. “As for someone who doesn’t have a secure loadout, that’s a very different story.”

Anderson does not represent Diane Van Nosdol or the company that owns the dump truck.

He explained that a driver is liable for any damage they cause if something falls from their vehicle. But they are not responsible if their car knocks over debris that is already on the road.

“If it’s coming from the road itself and it just gets knocked into someone’s car, that’s bad luck,” Anderson explained. “You have your own insurance so you can take care of it. The law does not protect against standard debris lying on the side of the road. »

But in cases where the rock came directly from the truck, this could be difficult to prove.

“If you’re talking about rocks in the road that look like little bits of asphalt, it’s really, really hard to prove.”

Van Nosdol’s photo showing an uncovered load could, perhaps, persuade a judge that the driver was negligent. But there’s a common misconception that just having an uncovered charge is against the law.

Utah’s tarp law states that the load need not be covered if its highest point is no higher than the bed of the truck and the outside edges of the load are at least six inches below the top of the bed.

And while those signs on the backs of trucks that read “Keep clear – we are not responsible for rock damage” give sound advice, they don’t automatically absolve liability. And the consequences of having an unsecured load can have far greater consequences than just paying to fix a windshield.

“It can be anything from a simple violation of the law to a misdemeanor that can carry a sentence of 180 to 365 days in jail,” Anderson said.

So what kind of evidence could help tip the scales in your favor?

Anderson said to take pictures right away.

“I need a picture of what the load looked like,” he said. “And if you’re able to get a picture of the license plate of the person whose thing you know fell off their truck.”

You may have to wait until you get to a red light or, if you have a passenger, ask them to film the truck. Dashcam video is even better.

We contacted the company that owns the truck, which Van Nosdol says dropped the large rock that broke its windshield. They did not respond to our requests for comment.

Free windshield replacements are mandatory under some state auto insurance laws, but Utah is not one of them. So the deductible for a new windshield could be higher than if you bought one out of your own pocket.