As one can imagine, the size and weight of a commercial truck alone already make it a risk to all drivers. Trucks often carry cargo weighing thousands of pounds, and when a load falls or shifts, the damage it can do to the truck and surrounding vehicles is astronomical. The resulting accident can cause significant physical injuries, property damage, and even death, and someone is usually responsible for paying for all that financial damage. However, who is at fault when truck cargo falls? If you suffered an injury when debris fell from a truck, the first step toward compensation is discovering who is liable.
How Does Cargo Fall or Shift?
There are many different truck trailers with differing methods for carrying cargo. The flatbed trailer leaves the cargo exposed and is typically used to transport large material with an irregular shape. A flatbed load is secured using cargo straps of particular size and strength to meet the security needs of the materials. Under certain circumstances, the straps may fail. Some examples include:
- The straps are worn and aged.
- The load exceeds the weight limit of the straps.
- The configuration of the straps is incorrect.
- The cargo loaders did not use enough straps to secure the load properly.
- Environmental factors compromised the integrity of the straps.
Other common examples of truck trailers and the risk of cargo spillage include:
- Covered trailers, such as the dry van or reefer, face issues with door latches. When the back doors are not properly latched, something as familiar as a pothole or broken pavement may cause the door to open and the cargo to spill out onto the road.
- A tanker trailer, which carries liquid upwards of thousands of gallons, can leak and cause a disastrous effect. The problem with a tanker trailer leak is typically the actual content as much as it is the volume of leakage. For example, if anything hazardous leaks, it could cause significant environmental consequences in addition to personal injuries.
- Dump truck trailers present more than one type of spill. Because the dump truck has an open top, gusty winds can blow debris from the top of the load onto the road and tailing vehicles. Dump trailers also have a gate at the rear that will leak when not adequately secured.
This list does not fully encompass all the possible dangers of unsecured truck cargo. Additionally, other elements, such as the truck’s speed and the location at the time of the spill, may add to the severity of a resulting accident.
Who Secures the Cargo in a Truck Trailer?
Per the regulations put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck drivers and trucking companies are responsible for securing the cargo load on their trucks. There are specific rules for every type of cargo and trailer, and every driver and company has access to a guide to help them check off all the requirements. If you were injured in an accident caused by fallen cargo from a truck, liability for your accident may not be so straightforward. Sometimes, the person or company that loaded the cargo or the truck equipment manufacturer is responsible. Other times, multiple parties are liable, and you need to file separate claims or lawsuits. This is what commonly differentiates a truck accident from other traffic accidents.
Trucking Company Negligence
Most trucking companies follow strict safety regulations that mandate regular inspections of company trucks and the cargo after loading. For example, trucking companies should:
- Ensure that the cargo does not block access to necessary equipment
- Ensure that cargo does not create blind spots for the driver
- Ensure that the size and quantity of the straps used to secure the cargo are correct
- Inspect the weight of cargo to avoid overloading and imbalance
Fallen debris is not the only danger on the road. For example, if trucking companies do not adequately secure cargo, shifts inside a covered trailer may cause an imbalance that could tip the truck over, resulting in catastrophic damages.
How To Prove Negligence in a Lawsuit?
To successfully recover compensation from the party responsible for the truck’s fallen debris, you need each of the following elements:
- You must prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care on the road. This means that the defendant had a responsibility to maintain reasonably safe conditions for everyone around them on the road.
- You must show that defendant breached the duty of care by not following the cargo security regulations.
- You must prove that the fallen debris directly caused the accident, and the accident directly caused the damages you suffered.
In general, there must be a direct correlation between your losses and the defendant’s negligence.
What Are the Recoverable Damages From a Truck Accident Claim?
Damages in any personal injury case refer to the losses that resulted from the incident. Compensatory damages encompass the following quantifiable losses:
- Past and future medical treatments for your injuries
- Past and future lost income when you are unable to work because of your injuries
- Repair of damaged property or replacement of any irreparable property damaged during the accident
- Pain and suffering, measured using the opinions of medical experts, a pain journal, testimony from people in your daily life, and prescriptions for pain medication
Recovery of compensatory damages should make whole what you lost because of the accident, but some cases may also call for a claim of punitive damages. The court only awards compensation for punitive damages if the at-fault party in the accident acted heinously. For example, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs denotes a complete lack of concern for the safety of other human beings. This is even more true in a truck accident because the driver operates heavy machinery with a higher risk of causing severe damage or death.
Can a Truck Accident Attorney Assist You?
Every state sets a statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for a truck accident. In most states, you have between two and three years to file starting from the accident date. In some states, you have even less time to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a loved one who died due to the accident. One of the many benefits of legal representation is that your attorney will file all the necessary paperwork for you and ensure that you meet all the required deadlines. Some other advantages to hiring an experienced truck accident attorney include:
- They help you avoid mistakes that could be detrimental to your claim.
- They can accurately value the pain and suffering caused by your injuries or loss.
- They fight to protect your rights.
- They often negotiate a settlement before the case enters the lengthy and expensive trial phase.
- They relieve the burden of dealing with insurance companies, which can be dishonest and difficult when you try to collect on a valid claim.
As you recover from the physical and mental injuries you suffered in a truck accident, you should not face further financial burdens as well. That is why Jason Stone Injury Lawyers requires no upfront fee to get started on your case right away. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee ensures we get paid only after you get paid. Contact Jason Stone Injury Lawyers for a free consultation today. There’s No Obligation, Just Information.