North Carolina law states truck drivers are required to keep their loads covered and on their trucks. If something comes out of the truck, they are responsible. If something that fell off is kicked up from the road, they are not.
Jennifer Byrd's windshield cracked when, she said, a rock flew out of a North Carolina Department of Transportation truck, on Interstate 85 last November.
Byrd flagged down the driver and followed him to the DOT truck lot in Hillsborough, where she spoke with a supervisor.
"They took a picture of the windshield and stated, 'You know, this happens all the time and it would be taken care of,'" Byrd said.
Byrd assumed "taken care of" meant paid for. Four months later, she received a letter from the state's insurance carrier stating the DOT is not responsible for the damage.
Furious, Byrd called the insurance company which directed her to the DOT supervisor she first talked to. He told Byrd that by "taking care of it," he meant he filled out the paperwork. Byrd was told she could fill out dispute forms to appeal.
"I asked for copies of the accident report, but was told that wasn't my property. It's the state's property and I couldn't have copies of anything," Byrd said.
So Byrd called Five on Your Side.
"I don't think I should have to pay anything for something that wasn't my fault," she said.
The DOT gave Five On Your Side copies of the accident reports. One report states "debris flew from the truck." Under North Carolina law, that means the driver of the truck is responsible.
When Five On Your Side questioned the DOT about that, they took another look at the case and agreed.
"I hate this went that far," said Mike Mills, DOT division engineer. "Since our own investigation team said the cause of the accident was a rock flying from our truck bed, I feel like we owe that to her and anybody else," Mills said.
The DOT paid $398.91 to replace Byrd's windshield. She said she is glad she did not give up.
Mills said he will make clear to all his supervisors that people like Byrd are entitled to copies of incident reports.
Bottom line, when a rock comes from a truck bed, regardless of who owns the truck, the best thing to do is file a police report even if the truck driver agrees to pay for it. That way the incident is documented.
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