Can I Get In Trouble for Hitting a Trash Can? (Solutions)


Most of the times, it is simply an accident if you hit a trash can wit your vehicle, but many times, people want to punish the trash can owners for wrongly pacing them on the street or for not taking them back after the pickup is done, or for similar reasons. Whatever the reasons, can you get in trouble for hitting it?

Can I Get In Trouble for Hitting a Trash Can?

One reason that you’d think is unreasonable to actually qualify someone to be an offender of the law is ‘Hitting a trash can’. It sounds ridiculous, yet, it is a criminal offense in the United States. This is why simply hitting a trash can and causing damage to it can get you into trouble in the US.

Stationary objects (such as trash cans, lamp posts, trees, signposts, parked cars, etc.) obviously can’t move themselves to cause a collision with moving cars and neither can they get out of the way so moving cars don’t collide with them.

Hence, drivers are held responsible for any collision between their car and any stationary object in most US cities.

You can now see another reason why road users are always advised to be careful, focused, observant and alert to their surroundings while driving. Any collision you have with a stationary object is entirely your fault.

However, you won't get in serious trouble if there was no significant damage to the trash can, if no one got hurt, and if the accident didn't happen out of reckless driving behavior.

What Happens When Your Car Touches a Trash Can?

When your car (moving at a speed) hits an object, the impact on both bodies would very much depend on the force of the collision.

Your car could get dented or scratched. Your side mirror or headlights could also get broken too. The trash can could get cracked, bent, or broken too. In some cases, both your car and trash can might sustain damages and in some other cases, either or none would.

You or any passenger in your car at the time may also sustain injuries.

Take note that as long as you have hit the property, whether or not the owner had kept it in the right position would not matter anymore. You will be held liable for any damages to your car and the trash can as well.

That said, if you notice a trash can somewhere it shouldn’t be while driving, try as much as possible to avoid hitting it.

Can You Go to Jail for Hitting a Trash Can?

Hitting a trash can is a relatively minor traffic offense. So if the trash can was not seriously damaged, you have a better chance of solving the problem by contacting the owner and tendering a sincere apology.

In a case where your car hits a trash can and causes severe damage to it ( e.g. cracks, denting, bending, or physical dismemberment) yes, you could get reported to the police, charged to court for property vandalism, and may face criminal charges if there is enough evidence to the accident.

However, you will not be jailed if no one was injured and if you can pay the cost of any damage done to the property.

What to Do If You Hit a Trash Can?

More often than not, and especially when you think no one witnessed the incident, out of fear and panic, fleeing the scene the instant you hit an object would seem like the best thing to do to avoid getting identified or caught.

In most US cities, if you hit and cause significant damage to a stationary object while driving, and the run away, you fall under the purview of Misdemeanor Hit and Run.

So, if you do follow your first instinct and run, you could get charged with Misdemeanor Hit and Run if you get found out.

So what is it that you should do?

First, stop your car and try to remain calm. Whether it was just your side mirror that scratched the trash can or a way more serious hit, assess the damage done to your car and check whether it is still in a drivable condition.

For damages done to your car, you will decide whether it’s worth reporting to your car insurance providers for repairs from your insurance or if you would just repair it out-of-pocket. You could also just call them to make them aware of the incident in case their attention would be needed later on.

For damages done to the trash can, contact the owner. If you cannot find out the owner, you can call your Local Garbage management and make a report to them.

You should also make a documentary about the accident. Note any relevant piece of information such as the time, date, and the after-effects on both your car and the trash can. Also, Take pictures if you can.

In most Jurisdictions in the US, you are not required to report the issue to the police or homeowners if no damage was done to the trash can or if the damage isn’t above a particular threshold amount.

This amount is different for different cities. It normally ranges from $50 to $300, depending on which city you happen to live in.

However, it is always better to try to get across to the owner of the trash can and explain what happened to them. If you do not, you might get charged with a hit-and-run crime and you’ll eventually spend more money trying to get out of court. Contact your traffic defense attorney.

If the accident happened at a location where you had to interface with the police or any other relevant authorities, and they find that you defaulted in any other driving rules and regulations such as texting or calling while driving or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you would be needing a lawyer to defend you in court.

Final Thoughts!

You may likely not go to jail every time you hit a trash can but you should always take steps to address any property damage by covering the cost of any damage or injury you caused anyone.

Whether stationary objects such as trash cans were kept in the right place or not, it is your responsibility not to run into them.

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