Earlier this month, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association announced that a construction beam fell on top of a vehicle on US-95 at the Centennial Parkway Exit and killed the person inside. The construction beam was attached to a tractor trailer which was carrying large pieces of construction equipment that struck the vehicle that was following behind it. The person killed was a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer. Nevada Department of Transportation stated that the construction beam was a part of the ongoing construction on Centennial Bowl and noted that the height limit for driving under overpasses are 15 feet and an oversized truck must be cautious when passing through such areas.  Trucking laws and regulations have strict codes to securing loads while in transit and below we explore statistics, causes and safety precautions regarding securing loads.
Falling Debris on the Freeway and How to Avoid It
This tragic accident is not uncommon and in a 2014 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study they found there were 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths because of falling road debris. Common road debris can include vehicle parts, loose or unsecured objects, and unhitched tow trailers. The following are some ways to avoid these accidents:
- Always Remain Alert: sometimes noticing debris before it’s too late can help prevent an accident and can give you enough time to change lanes or swerve safely.
- Avoid Distractions: avoiding distractions allows you to keep your full focus on the road and allows you to react as soon as you see falling debris.
- Avoid Tailgating: This keeps a space between yourself and the truck carrying dangerous objects and gives you enough space to make necessary maneuvers with the car should something occur.
- Distance: If possible, keep enough space between you and the one lane on the side of your vehicle so you can swerve to avoid debris.
Causes of Debris Falling and Who is at Fault?
Negligence can be when a driver does not secure the items onto the truck properly or does not care to secure the objects at all because they believe it is too heavy to fall off. If a person is injured due to someone’s negligence, they are eligible to receive compensation. However, the following factors must be proved:
- the drier was responsible for the cargo and that he was supposed to protect other drivers/pedestrians from the cargo by preventing the cargo from falling.
- The driver breached duty by failing to secure the cargo.
- This breach was the cause of the accident.
- They suffered injuries or damages from the accident.
In the case of trying to prove driver fault, it is important that the driver was in control of the vehicle at the time and to ensure the victim did not contribute in any way to the accident. Contributing to the accident includes actions like tailgating. However, they would not be held liable for failing to avoid the falling object unless a warning was present for falling objects or oversized vehicles.
If someone rear ends you as you attempt to stop your vehicle from hitting the fallen objects from the person in front of you, and both parties are injured, it is likely that the driver of the vehicle with the load will be held liable if they did not secure the objects correctly. Fault can be a difficult and confusing thing to prove so it is best to contact an experienced Nevada injury attorney who can help you sort out the facts and contact all the parties involved.
Sometimes, the person may have secured the cargo, but the parts used malfunctioned. In this case it would no longer be a negligence case, but a personal injury attorney may still be able to look at your case due to product liability since the product malfunctioned. If the product were previously recalled or has a history of malfunctioning, a lawsuit may be filed.
Things to Keep in Mind When Securing Items to Your Car
Securing items to the car is not reserved to just construction or commercial trucks, as many Nevadans secure bikes, skis, kayaks, etc. to their cars on a daily basis. When doing so, it is important to keep some safety precautions in mind to prevent objects from falling. It is important to use thick rope and vehicle straps. Use lighter loads as overloading the vehicle can increase the chance of falling debris. Whenever you make stops, check the load and ropes/straps as they can loosen while on the freeway or over time. Lastly, it is beneficial to cover the haul with a secured tarp. 
Image Credit: Hamish Griffin