There are a number of factors that can contribute to the cause of a truck accident, including a distracted driver, fatigue, bad weather, poorly maintained vehicle, and malfunctioning parts. One factor that is often overlooked is the truck’s cargo.
There are several issues that can occur when cargo is not properly loaded onto the truck. The first is overloading, which occurs when the truck is so heavy that it exceeds weight limits put in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The weight will vary depending on the truck, which is why truck drivers and cargo loaders should pay close attention to the vehicle’s identification plate, which should have the maximum permissible axle weight and maximum permissible gross vehicle weight.
If a truck is overloaded with cargo, it may have mechanical issues because of the extra weight. These mechanical failures could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle and get into a catastrophic accident. Even if the weight does not lead to a complete mechanical failure, the extra weight could still make it difficult for the brakes to properly stop the truck.
A truck that exceeds the legal weight limit could also be difficult to control when the driver is going down an incline. Gravity could pull the truck forward, causing it to collide with another vehicle on the road.
Trucking companies, cargo shippers, and drivers are well aware of the dangers that overloaded cargo can cause. However, that doesn’t stop some of them from overloading trucks in order to meet tight deadlines or increase profits by shipping per truck.
Unevenly Distributed Cargo
People who are loading cargo onto a truck have to pay attention to how much cargo is loaded and also how it is loaded. If cargo is not loaded correctly on to the truck, it could still cause problems even when it is well within the acceptable weight range.
The cargo must be evenly loaded on both sides of the truck. If one side is heavier than the other, making simple maneuvers such as changing lanes or turning could be deadly. The uneven distribution of weight could cause the entire truck to turn on its side, putting the truck driver and other drivers in grave danger.
If the cargo is properly loaded and within the acceptable weight range, it can still lead to an accident if it’s not secured. The cargo could easily topple over at some point during the trip, creating a loud noise that could take the driver by surprise and cause him to swerve into another lane. Unsecured cargo could also affect the distribution of the weight if it begins to shift around. If too much cargo falls to one side, then the truck may flip over the next time the driver turns or changes lanes.
Of course, unsecured cargo could also cause injuries or fatalities if it begins to fly off of the back of the truck. Drivers may not have time to swerve out of the way to avoid cargo that is heading in their direction. Even if the cargo doesn’t hit a vehicle, it could still be dangerous if it lands in the middle on a highway and creates a road hazard.
Liability in Truck Accidents Involving Overloaded or Improperly Loaded Trucks
If you are involved in one of these truck accidents, it’s very likely that you could sustain serious injuries. Fortunately, a personal injury attorney may be able to help you recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. But first, you have to determine who is liable for the accident.
The company that is shipping the cargo from Point A to Point B is often responsible for loading it into the truck. If the cargo is loaded without a driver or representative from the trucking company present, then the driver and trucking company can usually not be held liable. Instead, the company that loaded the cargo would be liable for your injuries. However, if a truck driver or another representative from the trucking company observed the cargo being improperly loaded onto the truck, he may be held liable if he did not speak up about safety issues.
Truck drivers are required to stop and inspect their cargo at certain points during their trip. This regulation was put in place to reduce the number of accidents caused by cargo loading issues. The driver must inspect the cargo within the first 50 miles of his trip to ensure everything is still secure. The driver has to check the cargo again whenever he makes a change of duty status, or after he has driven 150 miles or 3 hours. Drivers who fail to comply with these regulations may be held liable if a problem with the cargo causes an accident. The driver’s employer can also be held liable due to the “respondeat superior” legal doctrine, which holds employers liable for their employees’ negligent actions.
To determine who is liable, a personal injury attorney will need to conduct a thorough investigation of the accident. He may need to interview people involved with the loading of the truck, the truck driver, and representatives from the trucking company. He may also need to request records from the trucking company that shows how the cargo was loaded, how much of it was loaded, and how often the driver inspected the cargo.
If you have been injured in a crash caused by an overloaded or improperly loaded truck, contact Trial Lawyers for Justice today to schedule a consultation regarding your case. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will help you seek justice against the negligent parties and recover the compensation that you deserve.