The cargo that large trucks carry can weigh thousands of pounds. Trucking and loading companies must follow strict guidelines for cargo securement to prevent shifting, spilling, leaking, and falling cargo. Unfortunately, not all companies properly secure and load cargo, which can result in falling cargo accidents.
When cargo falls from a commercial vehicle, devastating accidents are bound to happen. Falling cargo accidents often lead to severe injuries and deaths. Besides, improperly secured cargo shifting inside the trailer can cause the vehicle’s center of gravity to change, increasing the risk of a truck rollover.
Cargo loads that fall from trucks can strike other vehicles or cause them to swerve and collide with other vehicles or fixed objects. According to a study by the AAA Foundation, cargo falls contribute to over 200,000 accidents in four years, resulting in 500 fatalities and 39,000 injuries.
Dangers of Improperly Secured Cargo
There are federal regulations that require trucking and loading companies to load and secure cargo in a way that evenly distributes the weight and prevents cargo from shifting or falling.
When people fail to properly secure cargo, it creates a number of hazards, including:
- There is an increased risk of a tire blowout or vehicle malfunction due to overloading;
- Improperly secured cargo can fall out of the vehicle and hit other vehicles or become road debris;
- Shifting cargo inside the trailer can cause the vehicle to roll over when changing lanes or turning; and
- When carrying hazardous materials (HazMat), cargo that falls out of the vehicle could explode.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires a minimum number of tie-downs to ensure that cargo is properly secured. The required number of tie-downs depends on the cargo length.
How Do Failing Cargo Accidents Occur?
Despite the strict cargo securement rules, falling cargo accidents still occur. Unfortunately, these accidents are not an uncommon occurrence on our roads.
While accidents caused by cargo falling out of vehicles can happen due to a number of factors, some of the most common causes of these accidents are:
- Cargo shifting. As mentioned earlier, the FMCSA imposes strict cargo securement rules to prevent cargo shifting and falling. In a poorly loaded truck, the weight of the cargo may shift to one side of the truck, causing the vehicle to roll over. Shifting may also cause the cargo to fall out of the back of a vehicle.
- Improper stacking. Many trucking and shipping companies try to save costs by overloading their trucks and stacking their trailers high to reduce the number of trips. However, an improperly stacked or balanced load inside the trailer may come off the truck when performing certain maneuvers such as turning or changing lanes.
- Inadequate or broken tie-downs. The FMCSA requires a minimum number of tie-downs depending on the length of the cargo. Unfortunately, not all cargo loaders use tie-downs properly, not to mention that they can come loose mid-trip. That is why truck drivers must perform regular checks to ensure that the cargo is secured in its place. Unfortunately, very few drivers actually do that.
- Uncovered trucks. Uncovered trucks carrying gravel, rocks, and sand are very common on our roads. However, when these materials fly off the truck, they pose a danger to everyone around the vehicle. That is why loading companies must make sure not to overload an uncovered truck.
If you were in a falling cargo accident, contact an experienced attorney to help you determine liability and hold liable parties accountable for the crash.
Injuries in Falling Cargo Accidents
When cargo falls out of a truck, occupants of other vehicles are at risk of suffering severe and life-threatening injuries. Falling cargo may strike other vehicles or cause a driver to swerve to avoid hitting the debris and end up crashing into another car.
Some of the most common injuries caused by a failure to secure cargo on a truck include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Loss of a limb
- Crushing injuries
- Back and neck injuries
- Bone fractures and broken bones
- Permanent scarring
- Soft-tissue injuries
- Internal organ damage
In the worst-case scenario, people may suffer fatal injuries in falling cargo accidents. When this happens, surviving family members may pursue compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against at-fault parties.
Liability for Falling Cargo Accidents
When cargo becomes loose and falls off the truck, who must pay for the resulting accident?
In most cases, liability for falling cargo accidents may involve several parties:
- The truck driver may be responsible for loading the cargo or performing regular checks to make sure that the cargo is properly secured throughout the trip.
- The trucking company may be responsible for loading or securing the cargo and making sure that the cargo carried by the truck does not exceed federal limits.
- The loading company might be responsible if it failed to properly secure the cargo or loaded more cargo than the truck can handle.
- The truck manufacturer might be liable if the falling cargo accident was the result of a defective truck or its parts.
In many cases, there may be multiple at-fault parties. That is why it is vital to contact a skilled attorney to determine liability in your specific case and hold negligent parties responsible for the crash. An experienced attorney will investigate the falling cargo accident and determine what caused it and who is responsible for failing to prevent the accident.
How a Falling Cargo Accident Attorney Can Help
When you suffer injuries in a falling cargo accident, you might want to consider speaking with a truck accident attorney to help you obtain compensation for your damages and losses. A knowledgeable attorney can help you investigate the cause of the accident, identify liable parties, calculate the value of your claim, handle all communications on your behalf, and represent your interests in court.
Seeking compensation can be a complicated matter, which is why you might need a falling cargo accident attorney to help you navigate the legal process while you focus on your medical treatment.