Sticker Wars: Absolving Liability With A Bumper Warning

It’s an undesirable situation, and while we all do our best to avoid it, there are just times when we find ourselves trapped behind a semi as it lumbers down the highway. I recently found myself in this exact position, and couldn’t help but notice a sticker on the back of the truck that read “Stay back 200 feet. Not responsible for broken windshields.â€? I was struck by the fact that the sticker was only legible from a distance that was much shorter than two hundred feet, but more importantly, I had to wonder if I had waived all rights I had to recover damages if this truck should do anything to destroy my windshield.

Brazen Warning

It seemed to me to be a bold statement, almost arrogant. If they are able to absolve themselves of all liability with a simple decal, why shouldn’t I get a bumper sticker that reads “Not responsible for any damage to your vehicle, under any circumstances, EVER!”

Further still, I have to wonder if this releases them from any damage to my windshield that the truck may cause to my car. What if, for instance, a truck transporting bowling balls loses one and it ends up sitting in my passenger seat as we barrel down the highway. In the most extreme scenario I can imagine, would the driver be able to just laugh and tap the sticker with a tire iron after he just put it through my windshield in the middle of a road rage dispute? This couldn’t possibly be the case, but the sticker is so final and certain about the matter that it’s hard not to consider these admittedly absurd circumstances.

A less serious and much more common occurrence would be incidents involving a piece of gravel getting kicked up by a truck’s tire and chipping your windshield. In my own case, I’ve always accepted these chips as a part of life, and never pursued any legal recourse after hearing the pop that we all dread hearing.  I’m not sure if the warning stickers I’ve seen have contributed to this mentality, but they may simply be there to dissuade drivers from trying to recover the cost of repairing their windshields. Just looking at it from the perspective of a trucking company, if the sticker saves you from having to pay for even one windshield, it’s just paid for itself and for the stickers on all of the other trucks in your fleet.

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Results After A Little Research

The fact of the matter is that these trucks and their drivers are responsible for damage done to your windshield. If they haven’t secured their load, and a bowling ball ends up going through your windshield, you are entitled to recover for the damages. The biggest exception seems to be in the case of gravel getting kicked up by a truck’s tires. Typically this is handled by your insurance as a simple accident that isn’t the result of negligence. You may have to pay a deductible, but the damage is covered regardless of who kicks ups the gravel.

I was glad to find that out, as it justifies my rather apathetic approach to the situation. There have however been instances where trucks got softball-sized pieces of “gravel” lodged between their tires, which then became dislodged when they reached highway speeds. These rocks do a bit more damage than a simple chip to the windshield. I have to imagine that even I would do more in response to this event than shrug and continue to go about my day. This is also more than just a minor accident, and the driver may be guilty of negligence if they aren’t using equipment or protocols like wheel inspections to keep this from happening.  In any case, if a truck does cause serious damage to your car, even your windshield, don’t let the sticker talk you out of pursuing legal help.

In The End

I believe at the end of the day, the stickers are a means to relieve trucking companies and their drivers from having to pay for damages to windshields. There is a full spectrum of levels of damage that the trucks can cause to your vehicle, and for the more minor instances these stickers may very well dissuade gullible drivers from taking any action. Beyond that, the sticker serves as a warning. Sure it’s brash and almost seems arrogant, but it does impress upon you what can happen if you follow too closely. Reading it did make me rethink my proximity, and I realize that the most ideal situation would be to never have to decide who was responsible for damage to my windshield. Your best bet will be to never be close enough to one of these trucks to read the stickers in the first place.

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