Any motor vehicle accident can be stressful, especially if you suffered an injury. Truck accidents, though, can be even more challenging. Commercial trucks are large, crashes are often severe, and injuries can be devastating or fatal. There also are potentially more liable parties for the accident: the driver, trucking company, truck maintenance company, and the shipping company.
This post describes important aspects of truck accident liability, including how the shipper can be responsible for the injured party’s injuries and other losses. They can be responsible for your losses if an unsecured or improperly secured load contributed to the accident. If you sustained injuries due to truck accident reach out a truck accident lawyer immediately for legal assistance.
Truck Accident Liability
Truck accident liability is usually based on the negligence legal theory. Negligence means that a person or entity failed to act with the appropriate level of care that another party in the same situation would have. Proving negligence in a truck accident means proving these statements:
- The driver or entity had a duty of care, such as obeying traffic laws and getting the shipment to the destination without endangering others.
- The driver or entity violated the duty of care. For instance, perhaps the shipping company overloaded the trailer, or the driver was speeding.
- The breach of the duty of care led to your injuries, such as a broken leg and head trauma.
- You suffered damages because they violated the duty of care, such as lost earnings and medical bills.
If the person or entity is found liable for causing the truck accident and resulting injuries, they must bear the monetary responsibility for the losses.
Who Can Be Liable For A Truck Accident?
The complex nature of the shipping industry means there may be several parties to blame for a truck accident:
The Truck Driver
In many accidents, the truck driver bears at least partial fault for the accident. This might be because of reckless driving, speeding, driver distraction, driver fatigue, driving under the influence, or not obeying traffic rules. Your attorney can review the accident evidence to determine if driver error was a factor. Important evidence can be the truck’s black box, accident reports, physical evidence at the scene, and eyewitness testimony.
The trucking company is liable for its employee’s actions and can be responsible if their driver causes an accident. The trucking company also can be liable if the driver was unsafe, didn’t receive proper training, or had a questionable safety record. If the truck driver was a contractor or independent driver, the company may not necessarily be responsible for damages. Your attorney will review the case to determine if the trucking company or other parties are liable for the crash.
Truck Maintenance Company
The company that maintains the truck can be responsible if improper maintenance contributed to the crash. Your attorney will review the accident report and determine if improper maintenance was a factor. If so, the lawyer can review the maintenance records to see if the company performed regularly scheduled maintenance.
Truck Parts Manufacturer
If a defect or broken part in the truck contributed to the crash, the parts manufacturer or installer can be liable for damages.
How Improper Cargo Loading Can Cause Truck Accidents
Truck accident liability is often on the driver or employer, but improper cargo loading by the shipping company can also be a factor. When cargo is incorrectly loaded, it can move during transit. This can cause the truck to be unstable and unbalanced. The loss of balance can make the truck more likely to roll over during turns or evasive action. An improperly loaded trailer also can increase the risk of a jackknife accident.
Improper cargo loading also can lead to overloading and placing too much stress on the vehicle’s suspension and tires. This problem can increase the odds of a blowout and other hazards that are especially dangerous in such a large vehicle. Furthermore, poorly secured cargo can fall from the truck during transit and endanger other motorists.
The following cargo loading mistakes can contribute to serious truck accidents. Your attorney will review the accident evidence to determine if the shipping company engaged in any of the following:
- Distributed cargo unevenly in the trailer
- Distributed the weight of the cargo with too high a center of gravity
- Used the wrong strength or size of tie-downs
- Used defective or worn tie-downs
- Did not use enough tie-downs to make the load safe
- Overloaded or underloaded the trailer
- Improperly blocked or braced the load
- Not putting protection around sharp cargo edges that can cut tie-downs
- Cover cargo improperly
- Obstructed driver’s view with the cargo
- Did not check the work of employees when the cargo was loaded
If an improperly loaded truck caused the accident, a truck accident attorney can investigate the situation. Several shippers might have performed cargo loading at various locations. One or all of them can be responsible. Also, the ultimate responsibility for a safe cargo load is with the driver. The trucker is supposed to inspect cargo and secure it before the drive, during the initial 50 miles, and at the start of every driving period.
Improper Loads That May Cause Truck Accidents
Almost any type of truck cargo can cause a truck accident. A crash can happen if the load is too big, improperly loaded, or incorrectly secured. Unsecured cargo accidents can happen with:
- Scrap metal
- Equipment and machinery, including other vehicles
- Landscaping and construction materials
- Sand, gravel, mulch, or masonry
It isn’t hard to imagine how any of these loads can be improperly loaded or unsecured. They might not have been correctly secured from the start, which can happen when the shipper is in a rush to get the rig rolling.
How Do Unsecured Loads Happen?
If the cargo gets loose during transit, there can be a horrific accident. The following scenarios can cause a load to be unsecured:
- A tie-down strap breaks or loosens
- The vehicle’s vibrations cause a piece of cargo to get loose
- A road hazard causes the trucker to lose control and spill cargo
- Wind stemming from high-speed travel tears cargo loose
- Steep hills and curves make the cargo shift
- Fuel leaks from improperly secured containers and causes an accident
- The center of gravity shifts, and the truck rolls over
Unsecured and improperly secured loads all look different. Drivers and trucking and shipping companies sometimes don’t obey the rules and do not secure the load correctly. Or, they overload the trailer, which is just as dangerous.
How Do You Know If A Truck Has Improperly Secured Or Loaded Cargo?
As a driver, there are some signs that you can look for that a truck’s cargo is improperly loaded or secured. Looking for these hints can help you avoid accidents. However, if you are in an accident, tell your attorney if you noticed any of these signs:
- Tie-downs are loose or ragged
- No netting or flags on an open load
- Objects not clearly tied to the trailer
- Falling, rolling, or shifting objects
- Trailer listing to one side or the other
- Loose materials that are not fully covered or enclosed
- Sudden, steep changes in truck speed
Speak to your lawyer if you noticed any of these troubling signs with the truck before the accident.
FMCSA Study Highlights Improperly Secured Load As Cause Of Truck Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducted the Large Truck Crash Causation Study of 239 truck rollover accidents. There were several causes mentioned in the study conclusions and highlights:
- About 50 percent were caused by drivers not adjusting speed to road curves. Brake condition, road surface, and intersection conditions were causes. Also, the type and size of load carried influenced the likelihood of accidents.
- Another general cause of rollovers was driver inattention, distraction, and falling asleep, all of which increased the chances of a sudden direction shift causing a rollover.
- Also, a major cause was steering errors, including oversteering during evasive maneuvers, under-steering to stay in lane, and over-correcting.
- The study also mentioned multiple problems with vehicle load. There were cases of improper loading. Also, the driver may not have considered the load’s size, weight, security, or height.
The study also stated that better pre-operation checks might have prevented at least 15 rollovers reviewed. Researchers noted that these crashes may have been avoided if the load had proper securement. If the load had not shifted in these 15 rollovers, the rig would have stayed upright.
“In these instances, it was the driver’s job to ensure the load was correctly secured before driving, and this wasn’t done,” according to the document. Also, the study reported 26 other cases where the truck’s speed combined with the stability, height, or weight of the load contributed to accidents.
What If An Improperly Loaded Or Secured Cargo Truck Causes An Accident?
Sometimes, you cannot avoid a truck accident. If the shipping company made a mistake and was negligent, the accident may be inevitable. If you’re involved in a truck crash and suspect a problem with the cargo, there are several critical things to do:
- Get immediate medical attention. Almost any tractor-trailer accident will cause serious damages and injuries. You need to ensure your health by getting medical attention. Even if you think you were unhurt, remember that a giant truck just hit you, which can cause trauma to your body. So, you should have a doctor look you over. They might find an injury you didn’t notice. It is also important for a future claim to have your injuries immediately noted in your medical record.
- Speak to a truck accident attorney: Always retain an attorney after any truck accident. These incidents are usually serious and complex, and an extensive crash investigation will be needed. The trucking and shipping companies will have their own insurance adjusters and attorneys representing their interests, so you should have an experienced attorney representing you. Tell your lawyer if you think a problem with the truck’s cargo caused the accident.
Some trucking accidents are caused, at least in part, because of the shipper’s error in securing cargo or loading it into the trailer. If the shipper doesn’t do its job, there can be serious or fatal consequences. If so, the shipper and possibly other parties can owe you damages in a lawsuit.
Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help With Multi-Party Truck Accident Liability
Truck accidents often have more than one cause. For example, the truck driver may have nodded off at 3 AM on the interstate, and the improperly loaded trailer tipped over onto another vehicle as it drifted onto the shoulder. In these complex cases, your case is greatly helped by having an experienced truck accident attorney. They will navigate the complex legal issues and who is liable for the accident. Whether an improperly secured load or driver error caused the accident or a combination of factors, your attorney will get to the bottom of it.
Speak To A Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Few things are more terrifying than a huge tractor-trailer slamming into your passenger vehicle. Between the deafening noise, twisting metal and plastic, and shattered glass, the experience is horrifying, and injuries can be severe. However, you might be entitled to ample compensation for your injuries if the trucker or another party caused the crash.
Speak to an experienced truck accident attorney promptly to learn if your case qualifies for compensation. Consultations cost nothing and you never pay anything up front to hire their legal services. A personal injury attorney in Bakersfield can assess who should be liable and what you might expect from your claim. Acting sooner allows your lawyer to preserve evidence and build a stronger case, so never delay in scheduling your free consultation.