Commercial trucks, including tractor-trailers, flatbeds, logging trucks, oil tankers, and other large trucks, often carry heavy cargo, equipment, and hazardous materials. Many of these trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. A devastating accident can result if cargo is improperly balanced or left unsecured, or if the truck is overloaded.
The St. Louis truck accident lawyers at Sumner Law Group, LLC understand the many challenges you may face following a truck crash. If you have been injured in a truck accident that occurred due to improper loading, our skilled attorneys will fight tirelessly on your behalf to pursue the compensation you deserve. We have extensive experience representing victims of truck accidents just like you.
Contact us today for a free, no-risk consultation to learn more about how we can help you.
Why Do Unsecured Load and Improper Loading Accidents Happen?
Cargo loading companies, as well as trucking companies and truck drivers, are responsible for ensuring that a truck’s cargo is evenly distributed, properly tied down, and not overloaded. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has specific rules that carriers must follow to ensure that cargo is safely loaded and secured. A truck accident could result if any of these entities are negligent and fail to uphold their obligations.
If cargo is left unsecured on an open trailer, such as a flatbed, it could easily spill off the trailer and into the road. If the material is hazardous, it could cause fires and explosions. Even non-hazardous materials, such as machinery or logs, could cause collisions with nearby vehicles or cause motorists to swerve into occupied lanes.
An improperly loaded or overloaded truck can also cause a truck driver to lose control of their vehicle. Unsecured cargo stowed in an enclosed trailer can shift around, throwing off a truck’s center of gravity and causing the driver to swerve into other lanes of traffic. An overloaded truck requires more time and distance to stop and is more likely to roll over in a turn, making these vehicles more dangerous on the road.
Who Is Responsible for Securing a Load on a Truck?
There are usually multiple parties involved in securing a truck’s cargo load. Some of the typically responsible parties include:
- The truck driver – Truck drivers are responsible for inspecting a truck’s cargo load. If the trailer is “sealed” and can’t be accessed by the driver, they can review the freight bill to ensure proper loading procedures were followed. If adjustments need to be made upon inspection, the truck driver might need to redistribute the cargo load or properly secure it if the cargo loaders failed to.
- The trucking company – Trucking companies are responsible for hiring qualified drivers and properly training them to handle cargo. If a trucking company fails to uphold this obligation, it could be held liable for any accidents due to its negligence.
- Cargo loading company – Cargo loaders must follow specific procedures to ensure cargo is loaded correctly, while cargo companies are obligated to thoroughly vet their hires, provide sufficient on-the-job training, or properly supervise their employees. If they are negligent in some way, they could be held responsible for an unsecured load accident.
- Parts manufacturers – Manufacturers of securing straps and devices are responsible for ensuring their products work properly. If the cargo load became unsecured because of defective straps or devices, the manufacturer could be held partly liable for the accident.
Determining liability after an unsecured load truck accident can be challenging because there might be multiple at-fault parties. You will probably need the help of an experienced legal professional to conduct a full investigation of the accident and identify all possible sources of compensation.
What to Do After a Truck Cargo Accident
If you have been injured in a cargo-related truck accident, here are some steps you should take immediately following the accident:
- Call 911. You should pull over to a safe location and call the police or have someone call for you. When officers arrive on the scene, they will investigate the crash and create an accident report. This report will contain pertinent details about the accident, including an initial determination of fault, descriptions of injuries and vehicle damage, and driver information.
- Seek medical attention. You should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible after the accident. You might have suffered injuries you can’t detect yet. The longer you wait, the more likely you will endanger your health and your claim.
- Collect evidence. If you’re able to, you should take photos of your injuries, the damage to your vehicle, debris in the road, and the accident scene. You should also speak to any nearby witnesses and get their contact information.
- Gather documents. Retain your medical records, hospital bills, evidence of lost wages, and any other documentation related to the accident.
- Keep a journal. A journal can help your attorney demonstrate the crash’s impact on your life and determine a monetary value to your non-financial losses. Make a daily note of your level of physical pain and your emotional and psychological condition.
- Don’t post on social media. Don’t talk about the accident on social media. Insurance companies could potentially use anything you say against you.
- Speak to an experienced truck accident lawyer. The insurers will not want to pay out full and fair compensation without a fight. You need a knowledgeable attorney who will act as your personal advocate.
Filing a Truck Accident Personal Injury Claim in St. Louis
Once you have secured an attorney, they will conduct a thorough investigation into the accident, gather evidence to support your case, and establish liability. Your attorney can draft a carefully prepared demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance provider.
Your attorney will most likely begin settlement negotiations with the insurance company at this point.
If settlement negotiations aren’t productive or the insurance company refuses to accept liability, then you might be forced to take your case to court. Your attorney can file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf. There will be multiple opportunities for both parties to settle before trial, and most cases do, even after a lawsuit has been filed.
Missouri has a five-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases. That means you have five years from the date of the accident to initiate legal action against the at-fault party. If you fail to file a lawsuit in that time frame, you probably won’t be able to obtain compensation through the legal system.
Compensation for Unsecured Load Truck Accidents
If you were injured in an unsecured load accident due to someone else’s negligence, you deserve to be compensated for your losses. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you might be able to recover compensation for:
- Present and future medical costs
- Lost income
- Future lost income or reduced earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
- Punitive damages in exceptional cases