Headlines for falling cargo accidents sometimes read like the punchline of a joke: “Truck Spills Beer” or “Big Rig Dumps Avocados” or “Cattle Fall From Truck” all seem surreal and ridiculous after-the-fact. But falling cargo from a commercial truck is anything but a joke if it causes you to have an accident.
For example, one driver was lucky to escape major injuries when his car was impaled by cargo from a log truck. Around the same time, a truck carrying compressed natural gas wrecked in Massachusetts, killing its driver, spilling hazardous and highly flammable material all over the road, and resulting in the evacuation of nearby residents. Two months earlier, in Connecticut, a tractor-trailer carrying plate glass spilled its cargo, and its fuel, all over I-95, causing big delays.
Every day, across the nation, commercial trucks haul goods across interstate roadways. These goods aren’t necessarily dangerous in-and-of themselves. But when they fly off of a vehicle traveling at highway speeds, the results can be catastrophic. If you were injured by cargo falling or any other type of truck accident, you may be eligible for compensation. An experienced truck accident attorney at Benson & Bingham can help you understand your legal options.
The Dangers of Improperly Loaded Cargo
Improperly loaded cargo can cause a truck accident in one of two ways, either of which can cause the cargo to come out of the truck and onto the roadway:
- Shifted loads. Cargo that has not been properly secured can shift during transport. The weight of the cargo can move to one side, causing an imbalance that makes maneuvering a large truck both difficult and dangerous. Due to a truck’s high center of gravity, a load shift while rounding a corner can cause the truck to roll over.
- Unsecured cargo. The other way that an accident can occur due to improperly loaded cargo is if the cargo is either unsecured or improperly secured due to neglect or unqualified employees. This can cause the cargo to slip out of the truck, where it becomes a missile that may shoot through the windshield of another vehicle, or can litter the roadway with obstacles that other drivers either hit or swerve to miss—either of which can lead to an accident.
According to an article from Commercial Carrier Journal, failure to properly secure one’s cargo is the third most common truck driver violation that results in the truck being taken out of service, coming behind only brake issues and problems with tires or wheels. In one inspection blitz, inspectors of heavy trucks issued more than 16,000 violations resulting in a truck being taken out of service, and 13 percent of those violations were related to the securement of loads. What is even more frightening, the article notes, is that about a quarter of the violations involved trucks that were hauling hazardous materials.
The top 10 cargo securement violations discovered during truck inspections in 2018 were:
- No or improper load securement, which resulted in 18,193 violations
- Failing to secure vehicle equipment, which accounted for 16,808 violations
- Leaking/spilling/blowing/falling cargo, which racked up 12,816 violations
- Insufficient tie downs, which accounted for 9,724 violations
- Loose/unfastened tie down, resulting in 8,133 violations
- Damaged securement/tie down, which recorded 8,060 violations
- Failing to secure a load, which caused 7,747 violations
- Driver may not operate commercial motor vehicle without proper load securement, cited in 7,046 violations
- No/improper heavy vehicle/machine securement, which accounted for 5,756 violations
- No/improper securement of roll/hook container, which resulted in 2,548 violations
Federal Guidelines Regarding Secure Cargo
The federal agency responsible for regulating and overseeing the transport of goods via commercial vehicles is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The requirements of truck drivers to secure their loads include:
- The truck’s cargo must be properly distributed and adequately secured.
- The vehicle’s structural equipment must also be adequately secured, including tailgate, doors, tarpaulins, spare tire, other equipment used in the vehicle’s operation, and the cargo equipment itself.
- The cargo must not obscure the driver’s vision, interfere with the free movement of the driver’s arms and legs, interfere with easy access to emergency equipment, prevent the truck’s occupants from freely exiting the vehicle’s cab or driver’s compartment.
- Cargo must be secured so that it does not leak, spill, blow off or fall from the vehicle, otherwise become dislodged from the vehicle or shift so that the vehicle’s stability or maneuverability is adversely affected.
Violations of the federal guidelines not only may cause the truck to be removed from service but may also result in a civil penalty, usually a fine. The penalties are particularly severe if the unsecured load involved hazardous materials.
If You Are Injured…
Individuals who are injured due to cargo falling from a commercial motor vehicle may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover expenses such as:
- Medical expenses, including expenses related to ambulance transport, emergency services, physician services, hospitalization, surgery, prescriptions, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and medical devices or modifications to the victim’s home or vehicle that may be needed due to the injuries he or she incurred.
- Lost income due to being too injured to work or being forced to miss work to obtain injury-related treatment. You may also be eligible to claim loss of future earning capacity as well if your injuries are severe enough to prevent you from working in the future or from working in as high paying of a position as you held before the accident.
- Pain and suffering and related damages regarding the impact your injury have on your ability to live a quality life free from pain.
It is a truck driver’s responsibility to ensure that his load is properly secured before taking the truck onto the roadway. However, additional liability may reside with the trucking company responsible for ensuring that the driver is properly trained in load securement. Employers are ultimately responsible for the actions of their employees.
Is that the case in your situation? Telling the details of your case to a truck accident lawyer can help you decide whether to seek compensation through legal action.
Benson & Bingham Accident Injury Lawyers, LLC
626 S 10th St
Las Vegas, NV 89101