Driving down the highway, you see an object up ahead in your lane. Before you can react, there’s a loud smack as you drive over or through it. Your car now has some brand new dents, cracks, or scratches thanks to that mysterious road debris. Will insurance cover the repairs?
Road hazards like loose cargo, tire treads, furniture, and even wildlife are a common occurrence on U.S. roadways. Debris strikes an estimated 200,000 vehicles every year, causing over $11 billion in damages. Fortunately, most standard auto insurance policies will cover debris-related damage. Here’s what drivers need to know.
What is Road Debris?
Road debris refers to any objects that end up on the roadway and pose a hazard to vehicles. Common examples include:
- Lost cargo like ladders, mattresses, appliances, etc.
- Tire treads separated from trucks and other large vehicles
- Furniture and construction materials that fell off vehicles
- Dead animals
- Tree branches and other vegetation
- Accident wreckage like broken glass and metal shards
- Large rocks, concrete, and other roadway fragments
In some cases, the debris falls directly onto vehicles from overpasses or the beds of trucks with unsecured loads. More often, it ends up loose on the road after being dropped, blown, or displaced.
How Does Insurance Handle Road Debris Claims?
If your car sustains damage after hitting road debris, the specifics of your auto policy and how the incident occurred determine whether it’s a collision or comprehensive claim.
If you collided with or ran over an object already lying in the road, your collision coverage will cover repairs like:
- Body work to fix dents, dings, and warped metal
- Replacing cracked windshields or windows
- Fixing damage to wheels, undercarriage, suspension, etc.
- Alignments, paint jobs, and other restoration work
You’ll pay your collision deductible, typically $250 to $1000. Rental car reimbursement also applies if included in your policy.
If something flew through the air and struck your car while driving, your comprehensive insurance kicks in. For example, a tread chunk separating from a truck and cracking your windshield would be a comprehensive claim.
Comprehensive covers damage from:
- Flying objects (debris, rocks, etc.)
- Falling or thrown items
- Weather events like hail or floods
- Fire, explosions, civil unrest
- Animal collisions
Again, you’ll pay your comp deductible (separate from collision) when filing the claim.
Does the Driver Who Lost the Debris Pay?
If it’s clear the debris came from an improperly secured vehicle, you may be able to claim damages from that driver’s liability insurer. A police report and dashcam footage can help identify the at-fault motorist.
However, debris often appears randomly on the road with no negligent party to pursue. Fortunately, uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) coverage handles hit-and-run debris claims in states where it’s available.
If no one is liable, your own insurer covers the damage per your policy terms. Rates typically don’t increase for comprehensive claims.
Tips for Preventing Road Debris Accidents
While sometimes unavoidable, you can take proactive steps to reduce road debris collisions:
- Leave ample following distance to spot and avoid objects.
- Scan the road ahead constantly, not just what’s right in front of your car.
- Slow down as much as safely possible before contact. Don’t swerve into other lanes.
- Make sure all cargo in your own vehicle is securely tied down.
- Report debris to authorities so it can be cleared from the road.
- Use caution at dusk and dawn when visibility is lower.
What Damage is Covered?
Standard collision and comprehensive insurance cover debris damage to your car’s:
- Exterior body
- Windshield and windows
- Wheels and undercarriage
- Interior from intruding objects
- Mechanical parts
- Electrical components
- Paint, detailing, alignments
Cosmetic damage like scratches and dents are covered. If the debris caused a major mechanical breakdown, damaged fuel/cooling systems, or totaled the car, those losses are covered as well.
Personal injury protection (PIP) and medical payments coverage will pay medical bills for any injuries to you or passengers. Liability coverage helps if the debris accident injures others.
Does Comprehensive Cover Damage From All Flying Objects?
Comprehensive claims must involve flying or falling objects, not collisions. Some examples:
✅ A tree branch breaks and falls on your hood.
✅ Hailstones pelt and dent your roof.
✅ A brick is dropped from an overpass, cracking the windshield.
❌ You crash into a couch lying in the road.
❌ A deer runs into the side of your car.
Those last two scenarios are considered collisions, so the collision portion of your policy responds.
What If My Car is Totaled by Debris?
If the damage exceeds your vehicle’s value, the insurer will total it and pay its actual cash value (ACV) at the time of loss.
ACV factors in the car’s age, condition, and mileage. Modifications typically don’t increase ACV. Make sure your policy includes replacement cost coverage if you’ve made major upgrades.
Review the total loss settlement offer carefully. Negotiate a fair amount if it seems low based on used car prices. Also account for taxes, title transfer fees, and any outstanding loan balance.
Can I Choose My Repair Shop?
Yes, you can have your car fixed anywhere you want after a debris claim. But using an in-network shop may get you:
- A fair labor rate to determine the claim payout
- Guaranteed work provided you pay your deductible
- Priority service for claims repairs
- Free estimates and assistance with the claims process
Insurers can’t mandate use of a particular repair facility. But they also don’t have to guarantee repairs performed elsewhere. Review policy details to understand how your chosen shop impacts the claims process.
- Collision insurance covers damage from debris you collide with in the road. Comprehensive covers debris that strikes your car.
- At-fault claims are possible if the debris came from an improperly secured vehicle.
- Take preventative driving measures to avoid debris collisions whenever possible.
- Standard policies cover vehicle repairs from debris damage. Injuries are covered by medical or PIP.
- You can choose any licensed repair shop, but using an in-network facility has some perks.
- If your car is totaled, carefully review the insurer’s settlement offer before accepting.
Keeping comprehensive and collision coverage with deductibles you can afford gives you peace of mind on debris-prone roadways. But don’t hesitate to file a claim when you need repairs.
What You Need to Know About Road Debris Accidents
What happens when you hit an object on the highway?
What should you do if you hit an object in your car?
Does car insurance cover hitting an object?
Who is responsible for road debris damage in Georgia?