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While mechanical failures tend to be the number one cause of large truck accidents, most of these accidents also incorporate driver errors that could have been avoided. One of the leading driver errors that cause large truck accidents is the failure to secure cargo. Unsecured cargo poses a substantial risk of creating potentially catastrophic accidents, resulting in significant property damage and severe, sometimes fatal, injuries.
Federal Guidelines for Securing Cargo
To ensure motorist safety and prevent the conditions that lead to such devastating accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established within the Department of Transportation. This administration creates and enforces a specific set of data-driven guidelines for securing cargo on large trucks. These guidelines describe how to secure specific types of cargo to prevent it from shifting on the trailer or falling off completely.
When cargo is not secured or is imbalanced and begins to shift, this changes the vehicle’s center of mass and increases the risk of a jackknife accident or rollover. In a jackknife accident, the truck skids, causing the trailer to swing around to the point of connection between the cab and trailer to form a 90-degree angle. This can result in a rollover or overturning of the vehicle, which is one of the most dangerous first events in fatal crashes associated with large trucks.
When a truck carries improperly secured cargo, it only takes the slightest of bumps in the road to cause the cargo to loosen and fall off. Cargo that falls off of a truck poses a great risk of colliding with surrounding vehicles and causing large traffic accidents. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that unsecured cargo and other materials that unintentionally fall off of large trucks and into the road cause over 25,000 collisions every year that result in up to 90 fatalities.
The FMCSA guidelines include rules for how cargo securement devices are manufactured and tested for quality assurance, as well as how drivers should implement them to secure cargo on their trucks. These cargo securement devices include chains, cordage, steel straps, tie-downs, wire ropes, webbing, shoring bars, and dunnage bags, or inflatable bags that fill spaces between cargo to keep it immobilized. Drivers who do not follow these guidelines are punished by the FMCSA with fines and additional penalties.
Forms of Failure to Secure Cargo
Failing to secure cargo occurs in a number of forms, such as:
- Neglecting to use sufficient securement devices
- Utilizing worn out, damaged, or faulty securement devices
- Using securement devices in ways they were not intended
- Improper loading or balancing of cargo, decreasing the effectiveness of securement devices
- Overloading cargo, which reduces the ability of securement devices to function properly and greatly increases the potential of disastrous equipment failures, such as tire blowouts
Other Factors That Influence Unsecured Cargo
In addition to the forms of failure to secure cargo listed above, other factors may be involved that can result in unsecured cargo:
- Truck drivers receive inadequate training on how to load, secure, and balance cargo
- Truck drivers do not properly inspect their cargo before beginning a trip and/or at several points throughout travel to monitor the chances of shifting cargo and confirm that the cargo is secured
- Transportation carriers do not provide their truck drivers with necessary securement devices
- Transportation carriers establish unrealistic schedules or deadlines, leading to truck drivers taking shortcuts when they secure or inspect their cargo
Who Is Liable for Truck Accidents Resulting from Unsecure Cargo?
When the failure to properly secure cargo causes large truck accidents and injuries, there are several parties that can be held responsible for this error and liable for compensating victims for their injuries and losses. These liable parties include:
- Truck drivers
- Transportation carriers
- Shipping companies
- Workers in warehouses or loading docks
- Manufacturers of faulty securement devices or tracking equipment, when these devices or equipment directly contribute to shifting or falling cargo
Determining Negligence or Product Liability
Truck accident claims can focus on determining that the actions taken by the truck driver or other parties constitute negligence in their duty of care or the duty to follow certain safety protocols to prevent accidents and injuries. To successfully prove negligence in a claim, it must be proven that the truck driver violated this duty of care, that an injury was sustained, and that this violation directly caused the injury. In some cases, other parties that may be considered negligent are the employer of the truck driver, the owner of the transportation company, or the owner of the truck.
If an accident occurs due to a defect in the truck or its components, the manufacturer of the product may be held liable for the injuries sustained. This requires the victim to demonstrate that the defective truck or specific part could be considered “unreasonably dangerous” even though the vehicle was operated according to the correct standards. Equipment analysis, special testing, and expert testimony may be used to establish product liability.
Why Do I Need an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer?
To ensure you receive the maximum compensation for your truck accident injuries, it is absolutely essential to choose a personal injury lawyer with experience in settling claims that involve large truck accidents. An experienced truck accident lawyer has the knowledge, skills, and resources to properly investigate the accident, ascertain the extent of the damage, determine liability, and ensure fair compensation.
Your lawyer will take a number of steps to examine every aspect of your claim, including:
- Consulting police and accident reports
- Interviewing witnesses of the accident
- Reviewing photos and video footage, if they available
- Ensuring the preservation of vital evidence
- Analyzing your medical records
- Interviewing medical staff
- Consulting expert investigators to reconstruct the scene of the accident and recreate the specifics of the collision
- Ordering drug and alcohol testing of the truck driver
- Collecting cargo records, driving logs, and inspection reports
- Obtaining data from the Engine Control Module of the truck, a computer that gathers and stores data about the truck’s operation, such as sudden deceleration
Contact Kreeger Law Today for Expert Help with Your Truck Accident Injury Claim
The truck accident lawyers at Kreeger Law Firm are dedicated to providing victims of truck accidents with comprehensive, superior quality representation so they can receive fair compensation for their injuries, lost wages, and suffering. For almost 30 years, Christopher Kreeger and his expert team have vigorously advocated for client rights, guiding them through every step of the claim process and aggressively pursuing the justice they deserve. If you were injured in an accident due to a truck transporting unsecured cargo, contact us today by calling (916) 884-6093 for a free initial consultation.