As careful a driver as you may be, some road hazards are impossible to avoid. An animal may dart out onto the highway or another driver might cut you off suddenly, for instance. When unexpected obstacles cause serious car accidents, who should be held responsible? Sometimes it can be hard to determine.

A 32-year-old woman from New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, died recently as a result of an unpredictable road hazard. She was driving on Route 283 in Lancaster County late one night when a wheel flew off another vehicle and struck her Honda Accord head-on. Police said the wheel had been ejected from a large vehicle heading in the opposite direction. The wheel flew across the median and into the westbound lanes. It collided with the woman’s car and appeared to crash through the windshield.

The woman was found unresponsive in the driver’s seat with her seat belt on and her foot on the brake, as though she saw the tire and tried to slow down. But a regional police lieutenant said that with fog in the area at the time, she might not have seen the wheel until it crashed into her car.

Police are asking anyone who might have information about a truck or trailer with a missing tire to contact them so the driver can be tracked down. The operator of the vehicle where the wheel came from may not be aware of what happened, but depending on whether the driver was negligent in securing the wheel in the first place, he or she could face charges or a civil lawsuit for causing the fatal accident.

Source: Lancaster Online, “Tire strikes car on Route 283, claims motorist’s life,” Ryan Robinson, March 23, 2012