How it Works if a Truck’s Cargo or Load Causes an Accident

Key Points:

  • Accidents that involve cargo that falls from a moving truck can cause severe damages and injuries
  • While regulations are in place that can minimize the incidents of falling cargo accidents, the accidents still can and do happen
  • Often negligence on the part of the truck driver, the truck owner and others is to blame for these accidents
  • In Atlanta the liability for damages from cargo loss accidents may be assigned to any number of parties deemed to be negligent
  • Because these kinds of accidents can be complicated and the liability difficult to assign,  victims may wish to consult with a lawyer prior to filing or settling an insurance claim

Truck accidents are entirely too common. Unfortunately, a significant number of these accidents are caused by improperly secured cargo items falling off truck trailers, particularly flatbeds.

Flatbed trucks are often used when the cargo being transported does not need refrigeration and won’t be harmed by exposure to the elements. When such cargo isn’t properly fastened and secured on these unenclosed trailers, it can fall off the truck becoming a deadly projectile hurtling at great speed toward other vehicles and their occupants sharing the road.

What type of accidents can happen from lost cargo?

Cargo falling off a moving truck can lead to a variety of accidents. Some of the more common accidents are these:

Collisions: Vehicles behind or passing a truck as it travels down the highway may not have enough reaction time to avoid the falling objects. If other drivers swerve to avoid the falling items, it can potentially lead to crashes with other vehicles.

Rollovers: When other drivers must swerve to avoid falling cargo all manner of accidents may result. Swerving is practically instinctive, however, doing so can sometimes lead to losing control of the vehicle, veering off the road and often colliding with other vehicles.

Head-On Collisions: When a road has two-way traffic, swerving to avoid falling cargo can lead to head-on collisions. Head-on collisions can be the most dangerous of all accidents.

Debris on the road: Debris from fallen cargo can create hazardous road conditions. This can create a domino effect leading to more accidents as other drivers try to avoid the hazard.

Property damage: When heavy items fall from a moving truck, it can cause damage to other vehicles, highway infrastructure, and surrounding property.

Accidents caused by improperly secured cargo can result in injuries and fatalities. It is crucial for truck drivers and transportation companies to ensure that cargo is properly secured to prevent such accidents from occurring.

Understanding Liability When Cargo Causes an Accident

When cargo is improperly loaded and/or secured, it often leads to lost cargo accidents. Cargo that is not evenly distributed, overloaded, or loaded in a manner that compromises the stability of the vehicle can lead to accidents. Additionally, when cargo is not properly strapped down or otherwise secured, the load is at greater risk of shifting or falling off the vehicle during transit.

Poor vehicle maintenance can also contribute to cargo loss accidents. Worn-out tires or faulty brakes can contribute to cargo shifting or falling off the vehicle.

Driver error is a very common cause of these kinds of accidents as well. When drivers engage in aggressive driving, sudden lane changes and/or failure to compensate for high, heavy, or awkward, top-heavy loads it can increase the risk of accidents.

What Constitutes Negligence in Cargo-Related Truck Accidents?

Cargo-related truck accidents can be influenced by various negligent actions or inactions that fail to meet the high standard of care that is expected from those involved in the transportation industry. This includes but is certainly not limited to truck drivers, trucking companies, cargo loaders, and other parties.

Failure to properly secure cargo: Failing to use a sufficient number of straps, chains, or other securing devices to properly immobilize the load. Also, using damaged or inadequate equipment to do so can be considered negligent.

Improper loading: Improper weight distribution of the cargo and/or overloading a truck can lead to the truck becoming unbalanced and unstable. An unstable load can shift violently, causing the load to be dislodged and fly off the truck.

Inadequate cargo inspections: Truckers should regularly stop to inspect the condition of the load. If a driver fails to  check securing devices before and during transit, it can be considered negligent.

Poor vehicle maintenance: Failing to maintain the truck and its systems in good working order can contribute to accidents. This means keeping tires and brakes in good working order so they don’t contribute to accidents.

Driver error: Bad driver behaviors can be considered negligence when they include distracted driving, speeding, aggressive driving, or not adjusting speed and maneuvering to account for cargo onboard.

What Regulations and Laws Are in Place to Prevent Cargo Loss Accidents in Georgia?

The State of Georgia has adopted many of the rules established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that regulate trucking activity both interstate (between states,) and intrastate (within the state of Georgia.)

These regulations relate to the various aspects of trucking safety, including securing and inspecting cargo, hazardous materials transportation, and other factors that can contribute to trucking accidents.

In its efforts to improve safety in the trucking industry and reduce the number of accidents involving commercial trucks, Georgia has actually incorporated most of the FMCSA regulations as state law. This means that these federal regulations apply to trucking within the state as well as interstate trucking.

Who Gets Sued When Lost Cargo on a Semi Causes an Accident?

In Georgia, as in many other states, multiple parties can be sued when lost cargo on a semi causes an accident. The truck driver, trucking company, truck owner, and cargo owner and loader as well as the manufacturer of the truck and its parts or systems might potentially be held liable depending on the circumstances of the accident.

Since Georgia follows a fault-based system used in determining liability for accidents, the party or parties found to be at fault for the accident are responsible for compensating the injured parties. In these accidents, which can be complex and difficult, an experienced personal injury attorney can help determine which parties may be liable and pursue compensation on your behalf.

How Does it Work if the Driver is Not Responsible for the Lost Load?

In lost load trucking accidents, there are some situations in which the driver may not be held responsible for the cargo loss. The following examples might mean the driver is not at fault:

Unexpected road hazards: If the falling cargo was caused by sudden unexpected obstacles, such as potholes, debris on the road, or other unpredictable hazards, the driver may not be held responsible.

Third-party negligence: Often, a truck driver is not involved in the loading of his/her trailer. In these cases the loading is done by a loading crew or the shipper. This is very often the case with flatbed loads, which may require the use of heavy equipment such as forklifts. If the cargo was improperly loaded or secured by someone other than the driver, they may be held liable instead of the driver.

Equipment failure: In cases where the cargo loss was caused by a failure of the truck or the equipment used in securing the load, and the driver had no reason to suspect the equipment was defective, he or she might not be held responsible.

Acts of God: In rare cases, cargo loss may be caused by natural disasters or other events beyond the control of the driver, such as severe weather conditions, earthquakes, or failure of infrastructure such as a collapsing road or bridge.

If the driver could not reasonably be able to predict or prevent the event, and took reasonable steps to protect the cargo, he or she would probably not be held responsible.Typically in such cases, the driver would only be held responsible if there were evidence that he or she failed to take reasonable precautions or acted negligently in response to the event by ignoring warnings about an impending natural disaster or continued driving over a bridge that was visibly damaged or closed, they may still be held partially liable for any resulting cargo loss.

What is load insurance?

Load insurance or cargo insurance is an insurance policy designed to protect trucking companies from liability in the event that the cargo they are transporting is lost, damaged, or causes harm to others. This insurance usually covers cargo only during the period of time it’s in the care of the trucking company.

Cargo insurance will usually also cover situations in which the cargo is lost due to fire, collision, or accidental dumping on a roadway. Some load insurance policies may also cover removal or clean-up expenses, pollution mitigation, legal expenses related to claims, and freight charges lost due to undelivered cargo. Many shippers require truckers to carry load insurance in order to protect themselves and their clients from potential losses.

Injuries from Cargo loss of Load Accidents

Cargo falling from trucks can cause injuries to others in several ways:

  • Collisions: Cargo that falls off a truck can collide with other vehicles, potentially causing serious injuries to the occupants.
  • Road debris: Cargo that spills onto the road can create hazardous conditions for other drivers, leading to accidents and injuries as they attempt to avoid the debris.
  • Pedestrian injuries: People walking or biking near the road can be struck by falling cargo, resulting in severe injuries or even death.
  • Property damage: Cargo can damage buildings, structures, and other property, potentially injuring people in the vicinity.
  • Tipped trailers: In extreme cases, unevenly distributed or improperly secured cargo can cause a trailer to tip over, potentially injuring the driver and others on the road.

The kinds of accidents listed above can result in extensive injuries including, head and neck injuries, back and spinal injuries, lacerations, broken bones and even death. Some of these injuries can be long-term or permanent and be life-changing for the victims.

What are the Key Measurements for Cargo Securement that Truck Companies Should Be Following?

Guidelines for cargo securement are provided by The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for use by the trucking industry in ensuring safety.

Guidelines for length and weight of the cargo suggest that for a general freight load that is 5 feet long or less and weighs 1,100 pounds or less, one tie-down at minimum  is required. Loads longer than 5 feet but shorter than 10 feet require two tie-downs. Additional tie-downs should be used for every extra 10 feet of length. Truckers are encouraged to use extra tie downs if they are unsure.

Securement devices such as straps, chains, bungee cords, cable tie-downs and wheel chocks used for rolling cargo, should be fastened tightly, but not so tight as to damage the cargo.

Is it Considered a Hit and Run if a Truck Does Not Stop After Losing its Cargo?

Yes, it is generally considered a hit and run if a truck driver does not stop after losing cargo. Truck drivers have a responsibility to ensure that their loads are properly secured, and if cargo falls off the truck, they are required to stop. Drivers are required to check for any damage to other vehicles or property, assist any injured parties, and notify law enforcement of the incident.

If a driver does not stop after losing cargo, he or she can face criminal charges for leaving the scene of an accident. Drivers may also face civil liability for any damages or injuries caused by the fallen cargo. It is part of the drivers’ training and ongoing responsibility to stop and address any incidents involving cargo loss.

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