How Falling Cargo Can Cause Harm
When you consider a car accident, it usually involves other motor vehicles running into each other and causing a collision. Most people don’t think of a car crash being caused by falling cargo. However, falling cargo constitutes is a common cause of many car accidents resulting in severe damage, significant personal injuries, and in some cases, tragic fatalities. In this blog post, our experienced truck accident attorneys examine the issues behind these falling cargo accidents and their ramifications for accident victims.
Cargo Should Never Fall From Trucks, but It Does
Trucks transport millions of tons of cargo over U.S. roads. The majority of that cargo rolls down highways inside of a tractor trailer. Sometimes the cargo sits atop a flatbed, in the open container of a dump truck, inside a specially designed tank, or on a purpose-built apparatus like a car carrier. Depending on the type of truck being used and most common in your area.
To travel safely over the nation’s highways and byways, this cargo needs to stay secure on or inside its vehicle, and most of it does. However, every once in awhile, cargo breaks loose, spilling onto the road. Depending on the size, shape, and nature of the cargo that falls, and the speed of the truck at the time it escapes, the cargo can immediately become a serious road hazard, be it a small object that turns into a deadly projectile, a large object that creates a dangerous road obstruction, or a substance that can catch fire or is toxic.
Why It Happens
As a cause of motor vehicle accidents, falling cargo is not particularly common, but when it causes a crash or incident on a road, the results are often catastrophic. Oftentimes, the driver of the vehicle that carries the cargo does not even realize the load has fallen and caused an accident.
Some of the more common causes of falling cargo include:
- Cargo straps fail: Flatbed trucks are critical to our nation’s transportation business. They usually transport irregularly-shaped cargo and oversized materials including everything from heavy construction equipment to the components of a prefabricated home. Shipping on these types of trucks requires drivers and shippers to secure the load with restraints and straps that are appropriately sized and rated for the cargo and the likely travel conditions the load will encounter. Straps can fail when the load is too heavy for them, when they are in poor condition, when not enough of them are used, when they are configured incorrectly, and when weather or travel conditions undermine their strength or durability.
- Trailer latch failures: Another common cause of falling cargo can be broken or improperly-secured trailer door latches that allow a trailer’s rear door to swing open. When this happens, a bumpy road or change of the truck’s direction can lead to the load inside spilling out onto the road behind the truck. Loads should be secured within a trailer, preventing this from happening, but that is not always the case.)
- Poor dump truck maintenance/overfill: Dump trucks carry raw materials, and they take a beating under ordinary use. These two factors combine to lead to dump trucks frequently leaking cargo from their rear gates (which tend not to be perfectly secure), or from their open tops. In either event, cargo that spills from the back of a dump truck can cause significant road hazards. Spilled sand makes roads slick. Spilled rocks and pebbles crack or shatter windshields. Accidents often follow.
- Tanker leaks: Truck trailers that carry liquids and liquified gas are purpose-built not to leak. Like other heavy trucks, however, they endure significant stresses and strains during their useful lives. The danger with these trailers, in particular, is that just a small leak can lead to a catastrophic incident, such as when a tanker leaks flammable liquid that catches fire and causes an explosion.
Of course, these are not the only ways falling cargo accidents can occur. No matter how you were injured in a falling cargo accident, the best way to obtain compensation for your injuries is to work with an experienced truck accident injury attorney.
Who Is at Fault?
Now that we understand what fallen cargo is and some of the ways it happens, the next significant question is: who is at fault? Usually, responsibility for falling cargo lies with one of the following parties: the cargo’s owner, the person or entity that loaded the cargo, the manufacturer of any equipment that failed and allowed cargo to fall, or the truck’s driver or operator.
Notably, according to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, trucking companies are responsible for the following:
- Inspecting their cargo.
- Making sure the cargo is secured correctly and does not obscure the driver’s views.
- Making sure that they recognize overloads and any poorly balanced weight.
- Making sure the cargo does not restrict access to the emergency equipment.
Failing to perform these checks can result in a falling cargo incident that leads to significant injuries, substantial traffic problems, and severe property damages. Having an experienced attorney who has handled trucking accidents can help investigate this issue further and figure out exactly who or what was at fault.
Get Legal Help for Falling Cargo Accidents
Falling cargo accidents can endanger people in many situations. Drivers can get into accidents because of a collision with falling cargo itself, or in taking evasive action to avoid falling cargo. Pedestrians can sustain injuries from cargo that falls and strikes them on sidewalks or road shoulders. Property owners can get hurt and face severe property damage when falling cargo causes an explosion.
No matter how a falling cargo accident has affected you, chances are you have legal rights to obtain significant compensation for your injuries and losses by taking legal action against one or more parties responsible for the cargo. Contact an experienced falling cargo accident attorney today for a free case evaluation.
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