Tractor trailers and other commercial trucks transport thousands of tons of cargo on Indiana highways. If a truck’s cargo breaks loose during transit, its movement can abruptly shift the weight within the truck and cause the truck driver to lose control and crash. Unsecured cargo may fall off a trailer onto a roadway, causing flying debris on the highway.
If you have been injured in a truck accident caused by shifting or spilling cargo, you may have a right to seek compensation for your medical bills and related expenses. You may have a legal claim against the trucking company, the owner of the trailer if different from the truck company, the loaders of the cargo or others. They may be jointly liable for your losses in the accident.
The truck accident attorneys at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC in Indianapolis can assist with a claim arising from an accident caused by an unsecured load. Our lawyers have extensive experience representing injured victims of large truck crashes, including those caused by cargo spills.
How are Unsecured Cargo Accidents Caused
The dangers posed by unsecured loads has led the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to regulate cargo securement. The FMCSA also requires truck drivers to regularly check the loads they transport to ensure that they remain secure.
Large trucks have high centers of gravity compared to passenger vehicles. This makes them less stable. If the cargo shifts on an improperly loaded truck, the weight shift can cause the truck to abruptly swerve within a lane or across lanes, skid out of control or, in some cases, topple over. This action can cause a single-vehicle truck accident, a multi-vehicle truck collision, or crashes among other vehicles trying to avoid the out-of-control truck.
Two of the most common types of accidents among large trucks can be caused by unsecured or improperly loaded cargo:
- Rollover accident—Shifting cargo can easily cause a rollover, in which a truck falls onto its side or rolls onto its roof. A sharp curve or turn, or an incline, can be enough to set unsecured cargo moving just as the truck is already destabilized by the curve or hill. A rollover accident damages anything the truck hits as it rolls and usually causes cargo to spill.
- Jackknife accident—A jackknife crash occurs when either a truck’s cab or trailer loses traction and slides toward the other, coming together like a folding pocketknife. A jackknifing tractor-trailer can sweep across a highway and slam into other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists or anything else in its path.
Flying debris from damaged cargo that spills can smash into other vehicles, hit pedestrians and motorcyclists, cause oncoming cars to crash, or, in cases of hazardous material spills, cause environmental damage. Environmental damage can result in loss of property value far beyond the site of the truck accident.
Multiple vehicle crashes are not unusual when a large truck crashes and/or spills cargo.
A truck accident caused by an improperly secured load of cargo can result in:
- Personal injury
- Loss of life
- Property damage, both personal property (e.g., vehicles and cargo) and real property
- Issuance of citations/fines to the truck driver and/or motor carrier
- Civil liability of the truck driver, motor carrier and/or other parties.
Liability for Unsecured Truck Accident Losses
Commercial trucking is one of the most highly regulated industries in America. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations are detailed and carry the weight of law. Subchapter 392.9 of FMCSA regulations, “Inspection of Cargo, Cargo Securement Devices and Systems,” is relevant to our discussion of unsecured cargo on trucks and truck accidents. It is found in FMCSA regulations Part 392, “Driving of Commercial Vehicles.”
“A driver may not operate a commercial motor vehicle and a motor carrier may not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle unless the commercial motor vehicle’s cargo is properly distributed and adequately secured,” the regulations state.
Within the regulations are specifications pertaining to:
- Cargo placement and restraint
- Requirements for securement devices
- Number of tiedowns required
- How to use tiedowns
- Blocking and bracing, and materials to use
- Performance requirements of cargo securement systems for withstanding the force of deceleration of the truck in the forward direction (braking), and acceleration in rearward and lateral directions.
The standard also addresses requirements for certain types of cargo, including:
- Dressed lumber and similar building products
- Metal coils
- Paper rolls
- Concrete pipe loaded crosswise on a platform vehicle
- Intermodal containers
- Roll-on/roll-off and hook-lift containers
- Automobiles, light trucks, and vans
- Heavy vehicles, equipment, and machinery
- Flattened or crushed vehicles
- Large boulders.
The FMCSA also says truck drivers must regularly inspect and, if necessary, adjust their cargo.
The requirements include:
- Inspecting the cargo and devices used to secure the cargo within the first 50 miles after beginning a trip.
- Re-examining the truck’s cargo and making any necessary adjustments whenever:
- The driver makes a change of his/her duty status;
- The truck has been driven for 3 hours; or
- The truck has been driven for 150 miles, whichever occurs first.
In addition to the truck driver and trucking company bearing responsibility for cargo on a truck, cargo handlers and loaders may be held responsible for a truck accident caused by unsecure cargo or a cargo spill. For example, if an accident later occurred during the first 50 miles a trip because of a cargo shift, whoever loaded the cargo would come under scrutiny. Often, third-party service vendors that specialize in loading cargo are involved in packing a commercial truck.
What to Do If Injured in a Transfer Truck Cargo Shift / Spill Accident
Anyone who suffers serious injuries in a commercial truck accident should seek advice from an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Because of the multiple parties potentially involved in a truck accident case, insurance claims can become complex.
The truck accident attorneys of Craig, Kelley & Faultless can provide you a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal options and whether you have a valid claim. If we handle your case, our attorneys will investigate and determine the parties responsible for the truck accident.
Our firm’s managing partner, attorney David W. Craig, has assembled an emergency response team for truck accidents, including fellow attorney Scott A. Faultless, a private investigator, a mechanical expert, an expert qualified to download the commercial truck’s “black box” Event Data Recorder (EDR) and an accident reconstructionist. Not only can we determine what happened and why, but we can hold all parties responsible for your injuries accountable for the harm their negligence has caused you.
After a serious truck accident that has caused injury and/or extensive property damage, the truck’s owner or its insurance company typically either denies responsibility or contacts the injured very soon with a low-ball settlement offer. The insurance company’s goal is to protect the bottom line by not fully compensating accident victims. Any settlement offer made quickly after a truck accident is sure to be for far less than the fair value of your claim.
If our experienced Indiana truck accident attorneys represent you, we can make sure that your legal rights are protected and your losses are fully documented and accounted for in your claim. Our goal is to help you obtain a settlement that truly and fairly addresses your losses.
If you are not represented by an attorney, the trucking or insurance company has a huge advantage. They deal with accident claims every day and know what it takes to make even the most badly injured claimant go away. To recover full compensation, you’ll need an experienced and knowledgeable Indiana truck accident lawyer working on your case, and the sooner the better.
Contact an Indiana Truck Accident Attorney Now
If you have been injured in a commercial truck accident caused by unsecured cargo, our truck crash lawyers can help. The dedicated legal team at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC has the experience and skills to secure the evidence and identify all the potentially responsible parties after a truck accident.
We understand the cargo securement regulations that apply to trucking companies. We investigate truck accidents thoroughly and prepare each case as if it will go to trial. Careful preparation allows us to negotiate aggressively with insurers for trucking companies and other liable parties to seek the maximum compensation.
We offer a free case consultation, and our Indiana truck accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. We do not get paid until we recover a settlement or a jury’s award of compensation for you. Call us today (800) 746-0226 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and find out how Craig, Kelley & Faultless can assist with your Indiana truck accident claim.