Sometimes when driving, the roadways can seem more like an obstacle course than a safe place to operate a vehicle. Truck tire treads, construction debris, trash from other accidents, tree limb and even animals can litter the roadway. Let’s face it, deer and other wildlife on the road is well within the realm of possibility in Wisconsin. We have often been asked what happens if you do hit highway debris and it then causes an accident. Who is responsible for debris in Wisconsin roadways? What factors come into play?
The state of Wisconsin has special limitations to operating motor vehicles and carrying loads. These laws can potentially put the driver or owner, and ultimately their insurance company, of the vehicle hauling items at fault if their debris spills out onto the highway. Let’s review a few of these potential limitations below:
(a) Each junk or scrapped vehicle is securely fastened to the vehicle carrying the load by chains, steel cables or other attachment devices of equivalent strength whose safety is approved by the department. In this paragraph, “securely fastened” means that each tier of junk or scrapped vehicles is secured by at least two chains, steel cables or other attachment devices across the axis of its width.
(b) The vehicle carrying the load is equipped with stakes which are securely fastened by chains, steel cables or other attachment devices of equivalent strength whose safety is approved by the department and the top of the load is lower than the top of the stakes.
(c) The vehicle carrying the load is equipped with sides, sideboards or side stakes and with a rear endgate, endboard or rear stakes. These devices shall be of sufficient strength and height to prevent the cargo from shifting upon or falling from the vehicle. No device may have any aperture large enough to permit cargo in contact with one or more of the devices to pass through the aperture.
A more complete list of travel restrictions related to load carrying can be found on the Wisconsin Legislator’s website.
If you are in an accident involving highway debris, the first priority is of course your health and well-being. Also, if possible, pull over to safety call the proper emergency personnel and authorities. If you saw the vehicle responsible for dumping the debris, gather as much information as possible including the license plate number and make/model of vehicle. If you did not see the vehicle responsible, do your best to provide as many other details as possible. One of the biggest problems is tracking down the source of highway or other roadway debris. However, there may have been witnesses to the accident or debris who can help identify the source. Increases in video surveillance and/or recordings can also prove to be quite helpful in tracking down evidence. It is critical to involve the authorities as soon as possible.
The team at Gruber Law Offices can often help drivers who have been involved in highway debris accidents in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin. Our aggressive, innovative and experienced team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us today for a FREE and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options. Call (414) 276-6666.