Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident Due to a Shifted Load?
Improperly secured cargo and loads that are too heavy often result in shifting in transit, a hazardous condition that threatens everyone on the road. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), nearly 500,000 commercial truck accidents occur annually in the United States, and accidents due to shifting loads are some of the most dangerous.
Tons of cargo are transported annually inside commercial trailers, in special containers for liquids, and on open flatbed trailers. The FMCSA enforces regulations regarding how shipping companies must load and secure cargo with securement systems that meet strict performance standards and can withstand the truck’s acceleration and deceleration. Negligent and careless trucking or loading companies and drivers who fail to inspect loads correctly set the stage for a hazardous and often fatal accident.
When accidents involving large commercial trucks happen, determining who is liable can be somewhat complex as responsibility may lie on multiple parties. In load shift accidents, the company responsible for loading the truck is likely the most liable; however, this could be the company that owns the truck, a third party that oversees the loading docks and crews, the driver, or all three.
Typical responsible parties for commercial truck accidents include:
- Truck driver
- Trucking company
- Shipping company
- Truck or trailer owner, which may be different than the driver or trucking company
Commercial shipping is heavily regulated under federal transportation laws. Truck drivers and shipping companies must load safely and adhere to regulations regarding loading, weight, securing, and inspecting the cargo. In addition to the load, all equipment must be in working order and meet specific standards for securing various types of cargo.
The FMCSA requires drivers to perform a pre-trip inspection of the load again 25 miles into the trip each time the driver parks the truck. Failure to do so can result in the driver’s liability should his negligence result in an accident.
What Types of Accidents Do Shifted Loads Cause?
When a commercial truck’s enclosed cargo unexpectedly shifts and changes position during transit, the previously distributed weight becomes unbalanced, increasing the risk of a rollover. Open-bed trucks can present even more danger if the load shifts. The most common accidents due to load shifts include:
- Lost loads: A load shift in an open-bed truck presents even more danger as a shift can cause the load to slip or break restraints, spilling the cargo onto the road and other vehicles.
- Lane departure: Some of the worst load shift accidents occur when a sudden and dangerous cargo shift causes a commercial truck to swing into another lane or fall entirely off the road from bridges and trestles, potentially onto other vehicles.
- Uneven loads: Federal laws require the cargo’s weight to be evenly distributed to reduce rollover risks. When that precaution is not taken, the truck poses a severe danger to the driver and other motorists of tipping over.
- Imbalanced loads: An imbalanced load can cause the truck to jackknife when stopping by causing the trailer to swing outward at an angle from the cab.
- Rear-end collisions: Federal regulations prohibit fully loaded trucks from exceeding 80,000 pounds without a special overweight permit. Overweight trucks become too heavy and difficult to stop, increasing the risk of deadly rear-end collisions.
Washington, D.C. Truck Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Represent Clients Injured in Commercial Truck Accidents
If you have been injured in an accident with a commercial truck due to a shifting load, contact our experienced Washington, D.C. truck accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King. Call 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington, D.C., Alexandria, and Falls Church, Virginia, we serve clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.