Overloaded or Insecure Cargo Resulting in Truck Accidents
Large cargo trucks are dangerous even when they are not carrying excessive cargo. Because these vehicles weigh tens of thousands of pounds, a negligent truck driver or defective truck can cause severe injuries and death. When a trucking company overloads its vehicles, the risk of serious injury or death increases exponentially. There is a similar risk when truck loaders or truckers fail to secure a load properly. If you or a loved one have suffered injuries in a truck accident, call Heiting & Irwin at 951-682-6400 for a free consultation. You may have the ability to receive compensation for your medical bills and other damages.
What Is the Maximum Load for a Cargo Truck?
Large trucks, commonly known as 18-wheelers or semi-trucks, can carry a heavy load. Per the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), trucks must maintain a gross weight of 80,000 pounds or less. An 18-wheeler must have no more than 20,000 pounds on a single axle or 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle.
Who Ensures the Proper Loading of a Truck?
The truck driver is the last line of defense for an improperly loaded truck. Whether the truck is carrying too much weight, unevenly distributed cargo, or other safety hazards make the truck unsafe, it is the driver’s responsibility to make changes. While cargo loaders should secure and spread the load correctly, the truck driver has ultimate responsibility over their vehicle.
A trucking company is usually liable for its employees. Suppose a truck driver leaves the lot with an overloaded truck or insecure cargo. In that case, the trucking company is generally liable for resulting injuries and deaths.
How Should a Truck Driver Respond to Overloaded or Insecure Cargo?
As soon as a truck driver identifies a cargo issue, they must not proceed any further. Driving an overloaded or improperly loaded truck is dangerous. Every truck driver with an active Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) knows better than to drive a dangerous vehicle and doing so exposes the truck to liability.
Rather than continuing to drive, a trucker should:
- Adjust the weight distribution on the truck to balance the load properly
- Secure any loose cargo with straps, ropes, chains, or other security devices
- Return to the loading bay to unload cargo
- Secure a trailer door that has come loose
- Follow their company’s protocols for ensuring a safe load
A truck driver’s response will depend on the specific cargo-related issue.
Truck drivers undergo extensive training. Each trucker must follow several steps to ensure cargo is within the legal weight range and properly loaded. Failure to follow these steps and ask for any necessary help exposes the trucker, other motorists, passengers, and pedestrians to tragic consequences.
Consequences of Overloaded or Insecure Cargo on an 18-Wheeler
The most tragic consequence of an overloaded truck is death. When truckers fail to secure cargo or continue to drive an overloaded truck, they put lives at risk. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more than 4,000 people died in large truck accidents in 2020. Most of those victims were passengers in other vehicles, not truck drivers.
Dangerous trucks can also cause severe injuries. The victim of an accident with an overloaded truck may suffer:
- Broken bones
- Brain injuries
- Oral injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Injuries to organs
- Severe burns
- Severe cuts
- Other injuries
Injuries from a truck accident can be disabling, causing paralysis or other lifelong symptoms.
What Types of Accidents Result from Overloaded and Unsecured Cargo?
There may be incentive for trucking companies to overload vehicles. Moving more cargo could mean increasing the value of each trip, but overloading trucks is illegal for a good reason. As the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health explains, overloaded trucks contribute to road deterioration, bridge collapses, and other events that can cause death and injury.
When a truck is carrying too much cargo or its cargo is loose, resulting accidents may include:
- Jackknife accidents: When a truck driver loses control of their vehicle, the trailer and cab may contort in a “jackknife” position. The trailer may slide across lanes of traffic, resulting in one or more collisions with other vehicles.
- Other vehicles striking fallen cargo: Loose cargo that falls from a large truck become obstacles for other drivers. Motorists trying to dodge the fallen cargo may instead hit the cargo, swerve into other vehicles, or veer from the roadway causing single-car accidents.
- Rollover accidents: Large trucks cannot safely handle more than 80,000 pounds in cargo. An overloaded vehicle may roll over, perhaps as it navigates a curve in the road. A truck may roll on top of another vehicle or stop in the middle of traffic, leading other vehicles to strike it.
- Multi-vehicle accidents: A truck driver who loses control over their cab, trailer, or cargo may veer into oncoming traffic, cross into a neighboring lane, or become an obstacle for other vehicles. These events increase the risk of multi-vehicle accidents.
Truck accidents are usually more serious than passenger vehicle accidents. A truck’s size and weight, and the cargo it carries, pose an outsized risk of injury and death to accident victims.
How Truck Accident Victims Can Seek Justice
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a truck accident, you may have the ability to receive justice as well as compensation for your injuries and losses. In order to build a strong personal injury case after a trucking accident you should consider doing the following:
- Gather the facts and evidence related to your truck accident
- Interview, or at least list, witnesses to the accident or to negligence by a truck driver or trucking company
- Identify all liable parties
- Calculate the cost of your damages
- Contact a good attorney
- Take your case to trial if necessary
Call Heiting & Irwin Today for a Free Consultation About Your Truck Accident
Our team will handle every step of your truck accident case. You can focus on your recovery, while we work to ensure your legal rights are protected under the law. Contact our experienced and compassionate attorneys at Heiting & Irwin today at 951-682-6400 to learn more.