Accidents involving large commercial trucks are inherently dangerous because of their massive size and weight. However, they can also be dangerous due to the cargo they carry. Sometimes the cargo itself can cause accidents and injuries to other motorists.
A recent tragedy in Philadelphia illustrates how cargo can cause crashes. According to news reports, a semi-truck was transporting watermelons when it overturned. The watermelons came loose and spilled across three lanes of South I-95. One of the watermelons flew into the air and struck a Honda HR-V. The driver of the HR-V lost control and went off the road, trapping the two occupants inside. Though they both were transported to the hospital for treatment, the 61-year-old passenger did not survive. This fatal accident occurred without the car colliding with the truck at all. When cargo comes loose, even ordinarily non-hazardous produce can have devastating results.
Different Types of Cargo Can Have Different Risks
There are innumerable types of products carried by commercial trucks. Traditional tractor-trailers carry goods ranging from foodstuffs to furniture and everything in between. Trucks with specialized trailers carry cars, livestock, and other cargo that needs customized securement. Flatbed trucks haul oversized or oddly-shaped cargo, such as large timber, heavy machinery, or even houses. Tanker trucks carry liquids and gases, including fuel and toxic chemicals.
Almost any kind of cargo can cause serious injuries if it spills. Smaller products can fall into the path of traffic and either hit cars directly or cause chain-reaction crashes if cars collide with the cargo. Obviously, larger cargo such as cars or lumber can create chaos scene if they fall onto the highway. Toxic cargo poses special hazards. If the tank of a tanker truck is punctured, it can release flammable or toxic substances, causing fire, explosions, or widespread exposure to toxins.
Improper Cargo Loading
When a truck rolls over or otherwise crashes, cargo can spill even if it was properly loaded and secured. However, sometimes, cargo spills due to improper loading – and these spills can happen even in the absence of a truck crash. In some situations, improper loading can actually cause a truck accident.
Each type of cargo has its own requirements for loading and securement. Proper securement is so important that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues regulations that truckers must follow by law. When cargo loading crews violated these rules or otherwise act carelessly, accidents may happen. If cargo shifts while a truck is moving, the trailer can become imbalanced, causing the driver to lose control or the truck to jackknife.
Who is Responsible?
Accident claims involving cargo spills can be complicated – specifically, determining who should be held liable for the injuries or deaths of motorists. If the cargo spill happened because the truck initially crashed, the driver and/or the trucking company may be liable. An attorney can help to identify whether the driver or company was negligent and gather evidence to prove a negligence claim. Common acts of negligence that can cause a truck accident include:
- Distracted driving
- Fatigued driving
- Improper lane changes or passing
- Aggressive driving
- Impaired driving
- Violating traffic laws or trucking regulations
- Hiring unqualified or potentially dangerous drivers
- Inadequate supervision
On the other hand, if improper loading was the original cause of the crash, you need to determine who was responsible for loading the cargo. Sometimes, trucking companies may have their own crews. Often, warehouses will have dedicated crews, in which case the company that employed the crew may be held liable.
It is likely that any accident victims will be dealing with an injury claim against a business entity, whether a trucking company, cargo loading company, or a manufacturer. This can be beneficial, as companies often have substantial insurance policies that may fully cover injury or wrongful death losses. However, insurance claims against companies can also be complicated, so you should always have the proper legal representation from the very start of your claim.
Insurance companies will try to avoid liability whenever they can – for both themselves and their commercial policyholders. There are many tactics insurance adjusters use to limit, delay, or deny valid claims, which include:
- Getting you to make a recorded statement and then using comments against you.
- Trying to convince you that they are on your side and you can trust them – they are truly on the side of their company.
- Influencing you to think your claim is worth less than it is.
- Getting you to agree to an initial settlement offer, which is almost always far less than you deserve.
- Convincing you that you do not need a lawyer to help with your claim.
When you do have a truck accident attorney on your side, your chances of receiving full compensation for your losses improve. The right lawyer can help you with a truck accident claim in several ways, including:
- Determining the proper measure of damages for your claim
- Fighting against any disputes regarding liability for the accident
- Filing a persuasive insurance claim with the right parties
- Presenting evidence to the insurer to support your claim
- Reviewing settlement offers and advising you to reject offers that are too low
- Engaging in negotiations to obtain full and fair compensation
- Taking additional action by filing a lawsuit in civil court if needed
Contact a Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorney for More Information
At The Levin Firm, we know from experience how technical and complex commercial truck accident cases can be. The trucking company will not make it easy for accident victims to obtain evidence or to pursue a successful insurance claim. If you are dealing with serious injuries, the last thing you need is the stress of battling against a commercial trucking company and its insurer. Instead, call our highly skilled truck accident attorneys and let us help navigate the process for you. Please call 215-825-5183 or contact us online for a free consultation today.