Many of us have been on the road when a pickup truck is traveling with excess items in the bed and seen lightweight items blow out of the back. These items can easily cause an accident on a Texas roadway. Even a cloth blown loose can land on a windshield behind the offending vehicle and blind the driver, creating a dangerous situation for both the blinded driver and others on the roadway. Cargo trucks pose an even greater risk.
When cargo falls from a large truck there is an enormous risk of an accident involving serious injury because the cargo is seldom lightweight. According to a 2014 study released by the AAA Foundation for Roadway Safety, these types of accidents occur more frequently than many of us are aware.
Roadway Debris and Accidents
Fortunately, many cargo-related accidents do not occur during typical rush hour traffic. In fact, most falling cargo accidents occur between 10:00 a.m. and 3:59 p.m., just before and just after peak travel times for commuters. What may also surprise many drivers is the type of cargo that generally causes accidents. The top three types of debris are:
- Detached parts – These include tires or wheels that fall onto the roadway. Sometimes this occurs because they become detached from the vehicle, but in other instances these are spares that are not properly fastened to the truck.
- Poorly secured cargo – Imagine traveling down the roadway and seeing a washing machine, sofa, or other large household item in your path. This can be terrifying, particularly if you have no room to maneuver into another lane to get out of the way.
- Trailers – Trailers that become disconnected from an 18-wheeler’s cab can wreak havoc. Not only is it likely the trailer will strike another vehicle, but it is also likely the contents of the trailer will be dumped onto the road.
While these may be the most common types of debris that cause accidents, it is worth bearing in mind that other types of truck cargo can also come loose and cause accidents, including fruits and vegetables, lumber, including large pieces of wood or full trees, other vehicles, and hazardous materials.
Causes of Falling Cargo
Whenever a driver sees cargo falling from a tractor trailer, they may wonder how this could possibly happen. Commercial drivers are required to be well-trained and one of the aspects of their job is that they must have a firm understanding of how to properly secure cargo. The top reasons for falling cargo are poorly distributed weight, broken or poorly maintained restraints, and poorly secured cargo.
Trucks are already very heavy and when they add cargo, it is important that the materials be distributed properly to keep the truck’s weight balanced. Cargo is only as secure as the restraints used to keep it on the truck. Therefore, restraints must be in good working order and used properly to ensure other drivers are safe from falling cargo.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines the steps a commercial driver must take to secure their loads. These rules are strict to help protect others on the roadway from falling cargo accidents. There are requirements based on the weight, length, and type of cargo being carried. Commercial drivers who fail to follow these stringent requirements are subject to large fines, but this is of little comfort to someone who is injured in an accident caused by falling cargo.
Escaping the Path of Falling Cargo
Interstate highways are the most common roadways where you could be the victim of a falling cargo accident. What you may not be aware of is that in many of these accidents, victims are not injured directly by the debris but rather as a result of attempting to get out of the way of the debris. To be prepared for this and other hazardous situations on the road, familiarize yourself with defensive driving techniques.
Serious Injuries From Falling Cargo
Gashes, spinal cord and neck injuries, burns, respiratory problems, amputations, and broken bones can all occur as a result of cargo falling from a commercial vehicle. Victims can face long-term recovery, suffer ongoing pain, and in severe cases, may never be able to return to their previous jobs, hobbies, or lives.
Drivers who are struck by metal, broken glass, or flying wood can suffer wounds to any parts of their bodies including their eyes. These injuries can require painful surgical procedures. Drivers also may be thrust forward in their vehicle during the collision, causing them serious pain from spine and neck injuries. When the cargo is hazardous, the chances of burns or breathing problems is an immediate concern—these injuries can cause long-term problems. Broken bones and crushing injuries can also be very serious, and often require surgery. Complications from surgery including infections can have dire consequences.
Responsibility for Falling Cargo Is Complicated
While a typical roadway accident involving a truck may have a clear-cut person at fault, victims of an accident involving falling cargo are often unsure of who is responsible. The fact is, there may be multiple people who can be held liable. The driver is typically the first person to come to mind, but an employer who has failed to properly train their drivers, the company responsible for loading the materials on the truck, or the manufacturer of the restraints used to hold the cargo may also bear some responsibility.
If you have suffered an injury in a truck accident, contact a personal injury lawyer who works on and understands truck accident cases. Falling cargo accidents cause injuries that can result in time lost from work, ongoing medical bills, and other financially devastating issues. You need to focus on your recovery and let someone else handle the negotiations with the insurance company on your behalf. In the event an insurance company is not willing to offer an appropriate settlement, the right truck accident lawyer can also take the matter to court if necessary.