By Russ and Tiña De Maris
You’re happily motoring down the road in your RV. Ahead of you is a dump truck with a load of gravel. Suddenly, that awful thing happens! A chunk of gravel smacks your windshield, and a spidery pattern creeps across your view. Who’s responsible for that broken windshield?
How many? How much?
Here are a couple of “interesting” statistics. Each year in the U.S., around 13 to 14 million windshields are replaced. And how many more “should have been”? If your rig is a Class A unit, how much would it cost to have it replaced? There’s a wide range of prices, but one windshield installer says the average price of an RV windshield replacement is $2,000 – and he’s had them roll up to nearly $5,000! Who pays the price on that broken windshield?
If your rig has been victimized by the notorious “flying rock,” especially if you think it came off a truck, you know who ought to pay. But what about that sign on the back of the dump truck that reads: “Stay back. Not responsible for windshield damage.” If a rock flies off that truck and smacks your glass, is the company truly “not responsible”? Well, imagine you wear a sign that says, “Not responsible for nose damage,” and then you smack some guy in the face? Federal law requires trucking companies ensure their loads are secure. In our scenario, is the company responsible? Technically, yes. Getting satisfaction is another matter.
Hard case to win
Suppose your windshield is damaged from a rock that flies off a truck. First, it’s a matter of nailing down the culprit. Can you get a license plate number? A company name? Good on you. But even armed with that information, if push comes to shove, can you prove your case in court – because that’s where you’ll likely end up. The company will likely say, “How do we know that your windshield was damaged by a rock that came off our truck?” It’s a he says, she says issue, and a hard one to win.
Having a dash camera in your rig could work in your favor. Of course, the higher the resolution of the image, the better. If your dash cam can actually show the rock fly off the truck and directly impact your windshield, you’ve gone a long way to prove your case. But note, we said “directly” hit your windshield. What if the rock falls off the truck, bounces off the pavement, then hits your glass? In some states, a rock that comes up off the road and clobbers you is considered not the fault of the truck, but just an ordinary hazard that comes with driving. Your broken windshield is suddenly your responsibility. Bear in mind, even if you make your case in court, you’ll be looking at getting your damages covered – but not attorney fees. That’s the way the ball bounces – or is it the rock?
So what’s to be done? The best course of action is to avoid getting a windshield strike to begin with. Keep your eyes wide open and look for potential danger. If there’s a gravel truck ahead of you, stay way back. Small debris doesn’t usually travel too far. A couple of hundred feet is generally figured to be a safe following distance in gravel-tossing cases.
But our personal experience with windshield strikes says, be as cautious as you like but you still may fall victim. In more than 40 years of experience together, we’ve had several windshield strikes. One was when a rock came off a loaded truck – and no, they didn’t pay. The others were when another car – often an oncoming rig – picked up a rock already on the pavement and chucked it into our glass. If that happens to you, if it’s a “ding” or “bull’s-eye” hit, take action immediately. Get a piece of clear packing tape and stick it over the chip. Tape, to keep moisture out. Clear, so you can see through it. Get that ding fixed as soon as possible. By fixing a ding, you may prevent it from spreading. Here’s one outfit that has a nation-wide network of repair shops. If it spreads, you’re well on the way to needing a full windshield replacement.
Assurance through insurance?
Which brings us to the costs of replacing a broken windshield. If you don’t have “comprehensive” insurance coverage on your rig, then the costs are fully yours. It may be attractive from a financial standpoint to just cover the minimum insurance required by law. But weigh out that decision carefully. If your rig were to take a hit and suffer a broken windshield, how much would it cost to fix it? Call a glass company now and get a quote. Then figure out how much it will cost you to carry comprehensive coverage. Get quotes for various “deductible” levels – the amount you’ll have to pay before the insurance company picks up the rest of the tab. You may find it’s a better bargain than you thought.
Windshield damage. When rocks fly, it can make you cry. Try to avoid it in the first place. Fix a ding quickly. And consider carrying insurance that can take some of the sting out of a tossed rock.
[Note from editor: There’s also a glass shortage to deal with. Read about it here, from KOMOnews.com: National glass shortage means delays, increase costs for auto glass repairs.]