Help! I Hit an Object in the Road

Is Hitting an Object In the Road a Comprehensive or a Collision Claim?

Black woman with braids is driving. She looks stressed, with a hand on her forehead.
••• FG Trade / Getty Images

Every driver is faced with perils while driving. Objects lying in the road or flying in the roadway can be unavoidable. Damage can be severe, leading you to wonder whether your car insurance policy will cover the costs of repairing the damage. In most cases, your insurance company will cover you if you have an accident involving road debris. How you're covered depends on your situation.

Key Takeaways

  • If you hit an object lying in the road, you will need to have optional collision coverage to make a claim.
  • If you are hit by an object flying through the air, you are likely covered under your comprehensive auto insurance.
  • If the cost of the damage is less than your deductible, you may be better off paying for repairs on your own rather than filing a claim.
  • If you are considered at fault in a collision with debris, your insurance premiums may increase after you file a claim.

Hitting an Object Lying in the Road

Hitting an object lying in the road can cause front-end and undercarriage damage to your vehicle, not to mention inuries to yourself or other passengers. Whether the object is road debris dropped by a pickup truck, a pothole, or a fallen tree, you're looking at a collision claim.

To make a collision claim, you need to have opted for collision coverage before experiencing your accident. Collision coverage is optional, and if you opted for state-minimum coverage, you might not have collision coverage.

Expect to pay a deductible when filing a collision claim. In most cases, hitting an object in the road is considered an at-fault claim, which could affect your car insurance rates in the future. Unless the damage is minimal, in most cases it's worthwhile to file a claim.

Getting Hit by a Flying Object

Debris flying out of the bed of a pickup truck or an overstuffed car trunk is handled a little differently as long as it's still mid-air while you hit it. It's very common to have a rock fly into your windshield, and flying debris is considered unavoidable. Insurance carriers consider flying debris to be a comprehensive claim. A deductible still applies.

Comprehensive coverage covers claims that aren't due to a collision. This includes fires, floods, vandalism, and getting hit by falling or flying objects like road debris. If the damage is to your windshield only, comprehensive is still the corresponding coverage. Some insurance carriers offer separate glass coverage that doesn't require you to pay a deductible even if the windshield needs to be replaced. It all depends on how your policy is set up.

Comprehensive claims usually don't increase your insurance rate as much as collision claims, since you're typically not considered at fault. Many insurance carriers only increase your rates if you’ve filed multiple comprehensive claims. It's best to check with your insurance provider to find out whether a claim will affect your rate, well before something happens.

Deciding Whether to File a Claim

The vehicle that dropped the road debris won't be held responsible for repairs to your vehicle. Make sure the damage sustained to your vehicle exceeds your deductible enough to make a claim worth filing. If your insurance company considers you to be at fault, you could see an increase in premiums. The amount varies, depending on your policy and your insurance company. It is common for a surcharge to last three years or more unless you have accident forgiveness.

Insurance companies can decide not to renew your claim if you have too many at-fault accidents. Keep that fact in mind when deciding whether to file a road debris claim. If the damage is minimal, or if you've had other at-fault accidents in the past couple of years, you may want to pay for the repair yourself. It’s also helpful to ask your insurance agent about the repercussions of being in an accident.

Accident forgiveness policies vary. Ask your insurance company whether it offers accident forgiveness and to explain the terms of the coverage.

Swerving to Avoid an Object in the Road

It's natural to want to swerve around road debris. You should resist that urge, though, as swerving can lead to even more extensive damage. Swerving to miss an object in the road and losing control can be extremely dangerous. It can also be much more expensive in the long run.

The road debris might only cause minor, manageable damage, but if you hit a guardrail, tree, or another vehicle, there could be extensive damage and injury. Swerving to avoid an object in the road and striking something else instead will be considered an at-fault collision claim. In most cases, you're better off hitting the debris. Only drive around road debris if you have plenty of time to get around it safely.