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Large trucks crisscross our nation on a regular basis. These behemoths are the 18-wheeled workhorses of the country, delivering everything from food and household goods to lumber and heavy machinery. The drivers of these semi-tractor trailers require special training, and so do the people who load their cargo. That’s because one mistake, one person cutting corners to make a deadline, or one broken strap, can result in a catastrophic accident.
Trucking companies, drivers, and cargo loading companies all have safety responsibilities. They must do their best to keep other motorists safe. Neglecting to take this duty seriously can cause traumatic injuries and even death; improperly loaded or unsecured cargo poses a significant safety risk to other motorists. When an accident does happen, can you guarantee that a trucking company or third-party cargo company will pay you the compensation you deserve?
Don’t trust a for-profit company to hand over their money to you because you were an accident victim. Contact a Seattle truck accident attorney with Caffee Law first. We can review your situation and let you know how much your case is worth, and we can negotiate for fair compensation for your injuries.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident where unsecured cargo was to blame, contact the legal team at Caffee Law for help. We offer a zero-obligation, free consultation to help get you started. Call us today at (206) 312-0954 to talk to an experienced Seattle truck accident attorney.
Common Types of Unsecured Cargo Accidents
Poorly loaded or unsecured cargo on semi-trucks can cause a wide variety of problems. Not only does an unstable load make the truck harder to control, but it can also lead to hazardous situations for everyone sharing the road with the truck. These are some of the most common types of accidents that can result from unsecured loads:
- One of the most obvious ways that unsecured cargo can cause an accident is by simply shifting and falling off the truck itself. This falling cargo can hit or crush cars caught in its path. If the truck is traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of the shift, the falling cargo can gain momentum and turn into lethal projectiles that can easily pierce through a passenger car’s windshield.
- When cargo is unsecured and shifts inside of a tractor-trailer, it can change the truck’s center of gravity. It can also make maneuvering the vehicle more difficult. A sudden shift in weight or change in the center of gravity in the trailer can also cause the truck to jackknife. Jackknifing is a dangerous type of accident that happens when the cab and the trailer fold inward on themselves, forming a 90-degree angle or a “V” shape. These accidents are particularly hazardous because they can block traffic or cause serious pileup accidents.
- Shifting cargo that throws off the truck’s balance and shifts its center of gravity can cause rollover accidents as well. If weather conditions are windy or the force of the shifting cargo hits the inside wall of the trailer hard enough, it can cause the entire tractor-trailer to rollover. Other drivers caught up in a rollover accident can be seriously injured.
Flying Debris/Hazardous Debris Fields
- Improperly loaded or improperly secured cargo can fall from a truck bed or tumble out of a trailer. The falling cargo creates a significant hazard for other motorists on the roadway. Flying debris can hit other cars and cause serious accidents. Trucks that lose their cargo also leave significant debris fields behind them. Unsuspecting motorists may not see the fallen cargo until it is too late, and if they drive over or into the cargo, there may be an accident. These debris fields can impact multiple vehicles and can even lead to pileup accidents.
How Do Unsecured Cargo Accidents Happen?
Unsecured cargo accidents can happen for a variety of different reasons. The one thing that all these accidents tend to have in common is human error. The job of a truck driver can often be stressful and filled with tight deadlines. Yet, strict deadlines and tight timetables are no excuse for cutting corners, especially when it comes to safety. Loads must always be properly secured, inspected, and frequently re-checked during the transportation process. Failing to properly follow even one simple step in the process can be a recipe for disaster out on the road.
Some of the most common reasons that unsecured cargo accidents happen include:
- Overloading the truck beyond its capacity
- Overloading beyond the capacity of the straps and tie-downs
- Failure to secure cargo
- Failure to check the stability of the cargo upon loading
- Failure to check the stability of the cargo at regular intervals during transportation
- Failure to use the proper equipment to secure the load
- Failure to check for broken or frayed straps
- Failure to follow FMCSA cargo loading regulations
- Defective straps or loading equipment
- Failure to train truck drivers or other workers on proper load placement and balance
Cargo Loading Rules and Regulations
Properly securing cargo is not a guessing game. In fact, it is strictly regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA continues to revamp and republish cargo securement rules for large trucks in order to maintain high safety standards and help prevent accidents. These regulations apply to truckers, trucking companies, and cargo loaders. They stipulate how all loads must be secured to be in compliance with federal law. The general rule states that all cargo must be immobilized on a truck or trailer within structures of adequate strength. Other regulations govern the following:
- Cargo placement and restraints
- Minimum load limit for securement devices
- Minimum number of tie-downs that must be used according to weight and size
- Loading of special purpose vehicles
- Loading certain type of commodities like logs, concrete pipes, heavy machinery, boulders
Failure to follow these rules not only violates FMCSA regulations but also creates a safety hazard for every other motorist sharing the road with the truck.
Common Injuries Associated with Unsecured Cargo Accidents
From jackknife accidents to rollovers and flying debris, unsecured cargo can cause numerous types of significant accidents. These accidents put innocent motorists in harm’s way and can result in traumatic, even fatal injuries. Some of the most common injuries involved in unsecured or improperly loaded cargo accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Head, neck, and spinal injuries
- Facial and dental injuries
- Broken bones
- Crushing injuries
- Puncturing injuries
- Organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Wrongful death
Who is Liable for an Unsecured Load Accident?
Establishing liability after a serious truck accident case can be challenging, and is generally considered to be more complex than an average auto accident. Numerous factors can play into an unsecured load accident, making it difficult to pin down exactly what happened, when, and who is to blame. An in-depth investigation of the accident may be necessary to reveal whether unsecured or improperly loaded cargo is to blame. It also takes time and resources to get to the bottom of who was responsible for leaving the load unsecured in the first place. In general, the liability for an unsecured load accident can fall on:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- A third party or third-party company responsible for loading/securing cargo
Any one of these entities could be responsible for causing an unsecured cargo accident. In some instances, more than one party may be held liable for causing an accident. This is why it is imperative that victims of suspected unsecured cargo accidents contact a skilled and experienced truck accident attorney.
An attorney has the knowledge and resources to fully investigate the cause of serious truck accidents. During the investigation process, an attorney can to secure critical evidence, like a truck’s black box, video recordings, safety inspection reports, cargo loading reports, and other crucial information. This evidence can strengthen a victim’s claim and establish liability for the accident itself.
Establishing liability is imperative because, in Washington state, the amount of money a victim may receive following an accident can depend on what percentage of fault each party bears in causing the accident.
Contact a Seattle Truck Accident Attorney Today
An unsecured cargo accident boils down to one thing: negligence. Should a victim be responsible for paying significant medical bills while trying to put their shattered life back together one piece at a time? At Caffee Law, we don’t think so. That’s why we work tirelessly to hold negligent drivers and trucking companies responsible for their actions.
If you have been seriously injured in a trucking accident and believe unsecured or loose cargo was to blame, contact the experienced legal team at Caffee Law. We can review your situation and discuss your legal options for recovering compensation. Don’t let a trucking company get away with offering you less than what your claim is worth. Talk to an attorney first and find out how much you really deserve. Call us today at (206) 312-0954 for a zero-obligation consultation.