Falling Cargo AccidentsTruck Accidents
At any given time, American roads have many trucks carrying cargo loads of all kinds of groceries, electronics, fuel, other vehicles, baby food, and other essentials consumers need. Those who carry cargo provide an invaluable service, but they must ensure, on every trip, that load is secure before they hit the road.
If you or a loved one was in an accident because of falling cargo, you might get compensation from liable parties. You may not have to pay for your medical costs, property repairs, or other damages resulting from your accident.
How do Trucking Companies Can Ensure Safe Cargo and Comply with Regulations?
The FMCSA provides clear instructions for how to properly secure cargo.
Some tools that trucking companies, their cargo loaders, and their truckers may employ are:
- Steel strapping
- Synthetic webbing
- Wire rope
- Anchor points
- Edge protection
These terms may be unfamiliar to laymen, but truckers and trucking companies must be familiar with them. Just as importantly, trucking companies must properly train employees on how to secure cargo, signs of loose cargo, and proper response to loose cargo.
Preventing falling cargo requires the cooperation of management, loaders, and truckers. However, if something goes wrong and falling cargo causes an accident, the trucking company may be ultimately liable for damages.
Safe Equipment Is Necessary to Prevent Falling Cargo
Just as important as the equipment trucking companies use to secure cargo is the condition of that equipment. Trucking companies and their employees must monitor the condition of all equipment, especially features that can cause falling cargo if they fail.
When loading and unloading the cargo transport vehicle, employees should:
- Ensure that tiedown anchor points are firm
- Ensure that tie downs show no signs of deterioration
- Ensure that locks on the cargo doors are secure and sturdy
- Ensure that that cargo trailer is free of weak points where cargo can fall out of
- Ensure that caps on liquid transport vehicles are leak-proof
The condition of the truck itself can also affect the security of cargo. Faulty brakes, for example, may increase the risk that a trucker is in an accident and that cargo can fall onto the roadway.
What Happens When Cargo Falls Onto the Road?
There are countless examples of cargo falling off trucks, causing severe accidents in several ways. The consequences are problematic if a truck rolls over, is in a multi-vehicle accident, or simply sheds unsecured cargo.
When cargo falls into the road, then:
- Motorists following the truck may strike the cargo
- Motorists may strike the motorists who ran into the cargo, causing a chain reaction and possible pileup of vehicles
- Vehicles may swerve to avoid the cargo, striking other vehicles, barriers, medians, road signs, or pedestrians
- Vehicles may hydroplane on any liquids that spill from the truck, resulting in one or more accidents
Roadways are dangerous enough without obstructions falling into the fray. When cargo falls, the risk of accidents happening is high.
What Are the Possible Outcomes of These Accidents?
When an accident happens, the two most concerning outcomes are injuries and death. Property damage also occurs, but the injuries and loss of lives are of greatest consequences.
Nearly every state in America loses more than 1 million people to motor vehicle accidents per year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). This is the cost when motorists act negligently and when trucking companies, cargo loaders, and truckers fail to take precautions against falling cargo.
Who Is Responsible When Falling Cargo Causes an Accident?
The attorney handling your falling cargo lawsuit will determine who is liable for your damages. Multiple parties can contribute to unsecured cargo, with primary the primary culprits being:
A Trucking Company
A trucking company is generally responsible for all failures by its employees and equipment. Therefore, a trucking company may be liable for your accident even if it did not engage in overtly negligent behavior.
Trucking companies often engage in negligent behavior that leads to falling cargo. Such negligence may include:
- Hiring under-qualified employees, including cargo loaders and truck drivers
- Failing to properly screen employees for drug and alcohol use
- Failing to regularly and properly inspect the equipment, including cargo-specific safety mechanisms
- Failing to retrofit or replace faulty or outdated equipment
- Failing to properly discipline employees who engage in risky behavior
Trucking companies must act with abnormal precautions. Their line of business involves massive vehicles driving at high speeds carrying heavy and potentially deadly cargo. If they don’t exercise proper caution, a trucking company puts lives at risk.
Those Who Load Cargo onto Trucks
Every employee within a trucking company has certain responsibilities, including cargo loaders.
Some duties that cargo loaders must fulfill are:
- Loading cargo properly
- Distributing cargo in a way that minimizes the risk of it coming loose
- Using all safety mechanisms to secure the cargo once they have loaded it
- Checking all tie downs and other safety features before approving the cargo for transport
Whether a negligent cargo loader is personally liable for an accident depends on the details. However, a cargo loader’s failures will generally make their employer liable for any resulting accident.
Truck drivers have responsibilities beyond driving the truck. Before departing with a load, the driver must ensure that the cargo is loaded properly. The truck driver must alert the proper parties if any possible problems can lead to cargo coming loose. Even if it interferes with their work schedule or pay, a truck driver must wait for someone to properly load the cargo before departing.
Again, any failure by an employee can make the trucking company liable for a resulting accident. This may be true of your accident.
What Should I Do After My Accident?
If you or a loved one were in an accident caused by loose cargo, you should first seek medical attention. Even if you received medical care from paramedics at the scene of your accident, it is generally wise to seek follow-up care.
Medical care is essential after a truck accident because:
- You may have injuries that you’ve yet to discover
- Injuries that you are aware of may have become worse.
- Documenting injuries as soon as possible after an accident will establish a clear connection between your accident and those injuries.
- You’ll want to obtain paperwork documenting all injuries and medical services you receive
Trucks weigh far more than passenger vehicles and may tip the scales at as much as 80,000 pounds. The cargo they carry is also heavy. Even if you haven’t observed any symptoms, there is a great risk that you’ve suffered injuries in your accident. Get medical treatment as soon as possible.
You may also hire an attorney after your truck accident. They will review your case and explain your options for seeking compensation.
How Can I Seek Compensation for an Accident Caused by Falling Cargo?
There are generally two options for seeking compensation after a truck accident:
- Insurance claim
Damages from a truck accident are often extensive. You may choose to pursue a lawsuit because insurance does not cover the cost of your damages. Or, you may have suffered damages that insurance does not generally cover like lost income or pain and suffering.
Once they’ve reviewed your case, an attorney will explain what they think is the proper action for you to take.
What Are the Recoverable Damages for My Accident?
Each truck accident victim has a unique set of damages.
Some common losses in truck accident cases, though, include:
- Medical costs: With serious injuries come medical costs. You may get compensation for ambulance transport, emergency care, hospitalization, individual doctor’s visits, medical equipment, and any other medical costs related to your truck accident.
- Pain and suffering: Lost quality of life, emotional anguish, pain from injuries, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are all forms of pain and suffering that may entitle you to compensation.
- Treatment for pain and suffering: You may require treatment for the psychological and emotional damage from your truck accident. This treatment will not be free, and liable parties may pay the cost of any counseling, medications, therapy, or other treatments you need.
- Vehicle damage: Damage to your vehicle is almost a certainty. Truck cargo is simply too heavy not to cause significant damage when involved in an accident. The trucking company or other liable parties may cover repairs or replacement of your vehicle.
- Damage to other personal property: If any other personal property, like electronics, clothing, sunglasses, or other valuables, suffered damage in the accident, your attorney may seek fair coverage through your lawsuit.
- Professional harm: Any lost income, lost bonuses, lost productivity, lost benefits, and other professional damages may be recoverable.
Identifying and valuing damages requires a detailed, meticulous investigation. An attorney can conduct this investigation while you focus on recovery.
How Can an Attorney Help with My Lawsuit or Insurance Claim?
In addition to identifying and valuing your accident-related damages, a personal injury attorney can:
Identify All Liable Parties
Your attorney will review all relevant evidence and details. Once they’ve investigated your accident, they’ll know who is liable for your damages. Defendants may include a trucking company, truck driver, or others.
It is not a given that a trucking company, cargo loader, or truck driver caused your accident. In some cases, a defective component like a faulty strap, anchor point, or door lock—may cause cargo to come loose and cause an accident. In such cases, the component manufacturer can be liable for the accident.
It’s your attorney’s job to sort out all matters of liability.
Preserve Evidence and Documentation
As they work through their investigation, your attorney will gather evidence of negligence and documentation of your damages. They’ll preserve these key pieces of your case until settlement negotiations or trial begins.
Handle Administrative Duties
A Lawsuit can be a grind, but you won’t have to endure it.
Your lawyer will handle the daily responsibilities of completing a lawsuit, including:
- Dealing with insurance companies and other lawyers
- Completing case-related communications
- Drafting paperwork, fact-checking the documents, and filing the paperwork
- Dealing with any courts involved in your case
- Monitoring the progress of your case in the civil system
- Arranging case-related meetings, including settlement negotiations
Many personal injury law firms have the resources to handle these duties seamlessly.
Pursue a Settlement
A settlement can mark the end of your case. Your lawyer will negotiate with liable parties for the compensation you deserve. If your attorney secures a fair settlement, you won’t have to wait for a trial to end before receiving compensation for your losses.
Complete Any Necessary Trial
Your lawyer will make your case in the courtroom if a trial is necessary.
Truck Accident Cases Are Notoriously Complicated—Don’t Handle Yours Alone.
Lawsuits involving trucking companies can be more complicated than other case types. Your lawyer may need to secure evidence from the truck and the trucking company and may need to take legal action to do so. Your lawyer may also need to interpret technical evidence and hire experts to help.
By hiring a lawyer, you avoid the direct cost and complications of your truck accident case.
Call a Truck Accident Attorney Today to Start Your Case for a Financial Recovery
Don’t wait to get legal help. Your attorney may have a fixed window for filing your case. Call a truck accident lawyer today for a free consultation about seeking justice for your truck accident.
Nathan Hughey, an attorney and fourth-generation South Carolinian, founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Before that, he spent five years defending nursing homes and insurance companies. Leveraging his experience, he now advocates for those injured or wronged by such entities, securing over $220 million in verdicts and settlements.