By Ed Rebenack, Esq.
How Improperly Loaded Cargo Regularly Causes Truck Accidents
There are many reasons why truck accidents happen, including everything from the driver not being aware of their blind spots to the truck itself being incorrectly loaded. In 2019, injuries occurred in around 127,000 truck accidents, many of which resulted from issues with how cargo was loaded on the truck. If you suspect that an accident you were involved in was caused by cargo not being loaded properly, it’s important that you understand the legal options available to you.
Importance of Properly Loading Cargo
While semi-trucks can accommodate cargo that weighs well over 10,000 pounds, it’s important to understand that poorly loaded cargo can always pose a problem to the driver of the vehicle and any other vehicle on the road. If the cargo is loaded incorrectly, it could fall off the truck or create an imbalance in weight distribution that would cause the truck to crash or tip over.
Keep in mind that the maximum weight of tractor-trailers is 80,000 pounds, which means that any accident involving one of the trucks could cause severe injuries or even fatalities. In recent years, the percentage of truck accidents that were caused by cargo problems was around 4-5%. Even though this percentage may seem low, it still ranks among the 10 most common causes for truck accidents.
It’s also important to note that the relative risk of improperly loaded cargo is just over 56%, which is the highest percentage among all truck accident causes. This means that it’s very likely that accidents and similar problems will occur when cargo has been poorly loaded.
Trucks that carry cargo are required to meet a specific set of guidelines pertaining to how cargo is stored and secured during transportation. These guidelines have been set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which means that any driver who doesn’t adhere to them could face significant consequences. The standard Cargo Securement Rules say that every load placed on a truck needs to be firmly secured or immobilized with the use of shoring bars, tie-downs, or similar items.
The driver for the truck in question will also be tasked with making sure that the number of tie-downs they use is adequate for the weight and length of the load in question. The FMCSA warns that drivers who do not abide by these rules could lose control of their vehicle or may experience road spills or rollover accidents, all of which could lead to serious problems. If an accident occurs as a result of cargo being poorly loaded, the vehicle driver may be liable for any damages or injuries that resulted from the accident.
Most Common Loading Mistakes
There are numerous reasons why someone could make a mistake when loading items, equipment, or food onto a truck. These mistakes are so common that the FMCSA created a book detailing the steps that drivers can take to mitigate loading mistakes. In some instances, the loading problem may result from defective equipment.
As mentioned previously, tie-downs and shoring bars are necessary for securing cargo. There’s always a possibility that this equipment is defective, resulting in the cargo becoming loose. If the equipment is defective, the driver may not be directly responsible for improperly loading the cargo.
Some of the more common loading mistakes that drivers make from time to time include loading over legal limits, not verifying the work that others did when loading their vehicle, using incorrect tie-downs, poor bracing and blocking, having poor cargo distribution, and blocking the driver’s view. When these mistakes occur, the possibility of an accident becomes much more likely.
If you are involved in a truck accident and believe that the other vehicle was poorly loaded, our lawyers will assist you in identifying what mistakes may have been made. The outcome of your case depends on the amount of proof that’s gathered. In some cases, it’s easy to identify that a truck was poorly loaded and that this issue was the reason for the accident. At other times, proving that cargo was improperly loaded may be more difficult and require a more comprehensive investigation.
Types of Compensation Available to You
Before you can obtain compensation for any injuries that occurred as a result of the accident, you must first prove that the other driver was negligent in some manner. New Jersey is known to be a contributory negligence state, which means that the amount of compensation available to you depends on how much of the accident is deemed to be your fault. If the other driver is assigned 100% of the blame for the accident, you would likely be able to obtain a high amount of compensation. On the other hand, your compensation could be lower if you were responsible for 25% of the accident.
When you hire our attorneys, we will work hard to prove that the other driver’s negligence caused the accident. Proof of improperly loaded cargo must be gathered before the case goes to trial. Keep in mind that it will also need to be proven that the poorly loaded cargo was the cause for the accident in question. When you file a lawsuit relating to the truck accident you were involved in, you can seek many types of compensation. This compensation includes economic and non-economic damages as well as punitive damages. Some of the economic damages you could qualify for include:
- Total medical bills
- At-home nursing care
- Physical therapy sessions
- Property damages
- Any lost wages
- Modifications to residence
If your injuries are severe, modifications to your residence may need to be made to accommodate your situation. When you’re injured in a truck accident, your expenses can be high, which is why you might want to work with an experienced attorney like ours to increase the likelihood that you receive more compensation.
Some non-economic damages that may apply to your situation include pain and suffering, the potential for lost earnings, and grief counseling. These damages are considerably more difficult to accurately calculate, making it more challenging to estimate how much non-economic damages you could receive if your case is successful.
As for punitive damages, these damages are only sought in situations where the other driver or company knowingly ignored regulations and safety laws. Trucking accidents that result in death could lead to punitive damages. However, it’s important to understand that this form of compensation is rarely awarded since the other two types of compensation typically suffice.
Seeking Help From Our New Jersey Trucking Accident Attorney
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident and would like to seek compensation for your injuries, our New Jersey trucking accident attorney can provide you with the legal representation you deserve. We’ll conduct a thorough and in-depth accident investigation to identify the specific cause for the accident while also gathering proof to eventually use in court or to negotiate a settlement agreement beforehand.
While the case is ongoing, we’ll take care of all paperwork and communication, which will give you time to relax and heal following your accident. Our goal is to streamline the entire legal process to make it easy for you to understand. We’ll be able to better understand what your legal options are in the first consultation you have with our attorneys.
If you were recently involved in a truck accident and believe that the cause was improperly loaded cargo, contact our New Jersey trucking accident attorneys today at (732) 394-1549 to request our legal representation.