A 2012 study from the Government Accountability Office, authorized by Congress, indicated that 440 deaths and 10,000 injuries, in more than 51,000 incidents, were the result of unsecured loads and road debris. Perhaps you—like most people—have never really thought about a trucking accident caused by unsecured cargo until it happens to you. After all, we assume there is someone responsible for ensuring a truck’s cargo is securely attached to the truck. While there are few problems with unsecured cargo, when a problem does arise it is typically a large one. In one instance, an entire load of phone books toppled from a loaded semi-trailer in rush hour traffic because they were not properly strapped down. There are reports of all types of cargo coming loose from the trailer, due to being improperly secured.
Innocent drivers have been injured and killed when unsecured cargo lands on the road in front of them or smashes into their windshield. In some cases, heavy equipment is not properly secured, causing it to roll off the trailer, potentially in heavy traffic. Imagine you are on your morning or evening commute, to and from work. You are rolling down the highway at 65 mph or more when a massive object crashes through your windshield or appears directly in front of you, leaving you no time to make an evasive maneuver. Any cargo which falls from a tractor-trailer can lead to serious accidents, injuries, and death.
LAWS CONCERNING UNSECURED LOADS
Under Texas law, Transportation Code Section 725.001, it is a misdemeanor offense for a driver to fail to secure a load. The code details that cargo or loose materials should be prevented from falling from a truck or trailer onto the roadways, and that no materials which are capable of blowing or spilling (dirt, gravel, sand, etc.) shall be transported unless it is in a completely enclosed trailer, with a canvas or tarp covering the top of the load securely. This Texas law also relates to “regular” passenger vehicle, and, unfortunately, the penalty for violating the statute is a maximum fine of $500. For this reason, those injured by cargo falling from a commercial truck would more likely benefit from speaking to a Texas truck injury attorney, and filing suit against the responsible party.
GOAL OF TRUCKING COMPANIES IS THE FINANCIAL BOTTOM LINE
Trucking companies have a single-minded goal, which is to transport the greatest amount of cargo in the shortest amount of time. By doing so, the trucking company is rewarded with the highest possible profit margin. Taken together, these are the primary factors in a truck being overloaded or loaded with unsecured cargo. An overloaded truck or truck with unsecured cargo can be a danger to all the vehicles sharing the road with the truck. Some of the most common causes of unsecured cargo include:
- Cargo falling off the truck;
- Imbalanced loads leading to a rollover accident;
- Improper or lack of tie-downs;
- Unstable stacking of the cargo, and
- Negligence on behalf of the truck driver in failing to check the load frequently along the way.
FEDERAL REGULATIONS REGARDING UNSECURED CARGO
Federal regulations require cargo to be secured according to specific rules. These rules require the use of cargo securement systems which can withstand minimum forces. There are additional requirements for cargo such as concrete pipes, heavy machinery, hazardous materials and metal coils. The securement system must be appropriate for the cargo’s size, shape, strength, and characteristics. There are strict statutes of limitations in Texas, as in every state, for filing a personal injury claim following a truck accident. Therefore it is advantageous to seek legal counsel soon after the accident. The earlier you begin the legal process, the greater the chance of recovering fair compensation for your injuries.
DANGERS OF CARGO SHIFTS
Shifting cargo resulting from improperly secured loads can also be responsible for serious accidents to others on the roadways. While all cargo shifts to some extent during transport during turns, accelerations or stops, it must be loaded in such a way that the weight is distributed to reduce cargo shift. The cargo could be overweight, making it much more likely shift and spill or the weight could be unevenly distributed, leading to braking difficulties which can cause the truck to top over during a turn. Some trucks also carry hazardous materials, including toxic chemicals or highly flammable liquids. These liquids, like any liquids, can begin to slosh back and forth, resulting in a truck wreck. Proper restraints are required on cargo loaded on a flatbed trailer. If it is not, the weight of the cargo can suddenly shift, causing those restraints to be rendered practically useless.
As with any trucking accident, litigation for injury or death can be very complex due to the number of potential defendants. If you were injured by unsecured cargo, you may be entitled to sue a variety of people or entities. The loading company could be at fault if they failed to secure the load properly. Perhaps the fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the truck driver. Although the driver does not personally load the truck, he or she is responsible for ensuring the load is safely strapped down.
The trucking company who employs the trucker may be responsible if they hired an inexperienced driver or neglected to perform a proper background check. In some instances, the cargo which falls off the truck could be related to a manufacturing defect in the truck or trailer. Your attorney may well find there is more than one person responsible for your accident. An experienced truck accident attorney will be well-versed in the complexities associated with unsecured cargo accidents and will gather all information pertinent to your accident including logbooks and hiring information for the driver.
CONTACT A HOUSTON TRUCKING ACCIDENT ATTORNEY TODAY
If you or someone you love has been injured in a trucking accident in Houston or anywhere in the state of Texas, it is important to know that you are not alone. Call a Board Certified personal injury attorney specializing in trucking accidents to evaluate your potential claim.