Get Gephardt: A rock hits your windshield. Who pays for damaged glass?

Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

PAYSON — Highway debris can be scary, dangerous and costly. 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 said she saw him fall from the dump truck in front of her, which – from a photo she took – appears to have an uncovered bed. She believes 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 just tell myself that 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 doesn’t cover standard debris that’s on the side of the road.”

The law does not protect against standard roadside debris.

–Michael Anderson, attorney at Ascent Law

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…that’s a really hard thing 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 indicates that the load does not need to 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.

Diane Van Nosdol talks to KSL.  She says a rock from a dump truck damaged her car's windshield and the trucking company wouldn't pay for the damage.
Diane Van Nosdol talks to KSL. She says a rock from a dump truck damaged her car’s windshield and the trucking company wouldn’t pay for the damage. (Photo: KSL-TV)

And while those signs on the back of trucks saying “stay back – 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 could be anything from a simple violation of the law to an A offense that they could serve anywhere from 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. He 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.


Most recent stories from KSL Investigates

Matt Gephardt

Matt Gephardt has worked in television news for over 20 years and as a journalist since 2010. He is now a consumer investigative reporter for KSL TV. You can find Matt on Twitter at @KSLmatt or email him at [email protected]

Sloan Schrage

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