Most of us have seen flatbed trucks piled with heavy materials on the road and thought, “I hope that’s tied down tight!” or watched small rocks fly from an un-tarped corner of a dump truck and changed lanes or sped up to stay out of their path. Usually, all is well, and we pass safely by. But, unsecured cargo and poorly-secured cargo can be very dangerous, in more ways than one.
The most obvious danger involving a poorly-loaded truck or other vehicle on the road is that of falling cargo—items tumbling or flying off of the truck into a vehicle or into the path of a vehicle.
A four-year study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that an average of more than 19,000 traffic accidents occur each year when a vehicle strikes or is struck by an object falling from another vehicle. These accidents result in an average of more than 3,000 injuries and about 28 deaths each year. Some reported examples include:
While falling and flying objects in traffic sound more dangerous, the injury and fatality rates are higher for traffic crashes involve debris left lying in the road. These accidents involve everything from branches and rocks to steel beams, car parts, and even furniture and appliances. Often, these items are unsecured cargo or improperly secured cargo that has fallen from vehicles, either commercial or personal.
Debris-related accidents generally happen in one of two ways:
On average, these two types of accidents account for about 8,500 injuries and 125 deaths each year.
While a steel bar flying off a truck and striking a car or a sofa in the center lane may seem like a freak event, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that any items carried in or on the vehicle are safely and properly secured. Failure to properly secure cargo is generally considered negligent, which means that the person or entity that left cargo unsecured or poorly secured may be liable for any damages the accident victim suffered.
However, it isn’t always easy to determine who is responsible. First, if the item is lying in the roadway rather than falling from a truck, it may be difficult to determine where it came from. Even when you see the item fall or are able to identify the vehicle it fell from, it may not be immediately apparent who is liable.
For example, when cargo is poorly secured on a commercial vehicle, the driver may or may not have been the person to load the vehicle. And, the driver may be an independent contractor, may be an employee of a shipping company, or may be an employee of the company that owns or supplies the materials being shipped. In addition, there may be flaws in the vehicle design or the design or manufacturing of the equipment used to secure the cargo.
Commercial vehicles often travel across the country, meaning that the truck involved may be owned by an out-of-state company or individual, and may depart the area shortly after dropping the cargo. Commercial vehicles may also undergo frequent maintenance, meaning that evidence may be lost or destroyed.
If you’ve been injured by an object flying or falling from a vehicle or an accident caused by road debris, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. But, this type of claim typically requires careful investigation to identify possible responsible parties and assemble evidence. The sooner after the accident you choose an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney, the easier it will be for your attorney to contact witnesses, gather physical evidence, and move your case forward efficiently.
Let Attorney Kevin Broderick answer your questions and evaluate your personal injury or vehicle accident case for free!
The information you obtain on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.