Truck Accident Case
We took more than 60 depositions in five different states. Because of Stephenson’s tireless advocacy, shortly before the trial was to commence, the defendants settled the case for $48.5 million.
Indianapolis Unsecured Truck Load Lawyer
You might not imagine that you’d ever need the help of an unsecured truck load lawyer, but that day may come.
A roadway hazard could come as a complete surprise. It could tumble off the vehicle in front of you or be resting in the travel lane. It may be dark, the weather may not be good, and you may be fatigued, but you need to take immediate action. Despite your best efforts, you, your passengers or others may end up being injured in an accident.
If you escaped without any problems, you’re one of the lucky ones. A poorly secured load might not only land on your vehicle, it can be set loose on the highway or street during normal driving or if the driver suddenly swerves or hits the brakes. In this situation you may need to …
- Brake hard to avoid it and risk being rear-ended, or
- Swerve out of the way, potentially striking other vehicles, light poles, telephone poles or guardrails.
Another vehicle facing this situation may accidentally strike you while trying to avoid a sudden, dangerous obstacle in their path.
A vehicle with an unsecured load is in violation of the Indiana motor vehicle code. A driver cited for this faces a fine of up to $500 and may have his or her driver’s license suspended. Under civil law, driving a vehicle with an unsecured load could be negligence.
- The driver owes a duty of care to others on the roadway to be reasonably safe.
- That duty is violated or breached when the driver fails to ensure that what’s in or on the vehicle or a trailer is sufficiently secured so that, under normal driving and emergency maneuvers, the load stays in place.
- If, as a result of that breach, it causes an accident and you are injured as a result, you may have a valid personal injury claim against the driver.
- That claim may result in compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, past and future medical treatment and rehabilitation.
The Kinds of Loads Can Make a Difference
All kinds of items or goods that can be carried in or on a truck or trailer, from boxes or containers filled with tiny objects to massive pieces of construction equipment or industrial machinery. Some kinds of unsecured loads are more likely than others to cause accidents, including …
- Heavy equipment that could roll or slide off, or upset a truck’s center of gravity, tipping the truck over
- Garbage, debris, or scrap metal
- Construction materials, such as lumber or rebar
- Gravel and stone
- Large, unsecured household goods, such as a refrigerator or piece of furniture
- Loads of items piled on top of each other haphazardly, with insufficient tie-downs.
Other materials may be hazardous and cause great damage if they fall into the roadway even though they’re not heavy or solid.
- An object weighing only twenty pounds, if it falls from a vehicle traveling 55 miles per hour, will have an impact of half a ton when it strikes your vehicle.
- Liquids leaking from a trailer can make the road slick, making stopping more difficult or causing your vehicle to spin out.
- Even something light spilling out into the roadway can cause harm, if there’s enough of it, because it may distract you or make visibility difficult.
Crashes and injuries caused by unsecured loads are a chronic problem for motorists.
Accidents due to unsecured loads are common.
- A woman in Florida had a sheet of plywood slice through her windshield while she was driving, causing minor injuries. It was a neck height for the driver, but it was stopped by the pillar holding up the roof of the car in front of her. The leading edge of the plywood went through the windshield and may have been able to decapitate a front-seat passenger if there had been one, according to Autoblog.
- A Seattle man had a sheet of plywood go through his windshield while driving down a highway, reports Q13 Fox. He said it stopped about six inches from his face.
- A man riding a motorcycle was seriously injured on I-495 in Haverhill, Massachusetts, after he was hit by an unsecured ladder that came from the back of a pickup truck. The driver of the truck was fined for “operating with an unsecured load,” reports WWLP.
- Two passengers in an SUV were killed in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, while travelling on a state highway. A truck hauling rocks was travelling in the opposite direction when a large rock came off it and went through the SUV’s windshield, according to News 9.
More than 200,000 vehicle accidents involved debris on U.S. roadways, most of which was left behind by vehicles, from 2011 to 2014, according to the AAA Foundation. A study by the organization estimated that road debris caused about 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths during that time frame.
The study found:
- Almost 37% of all fatal road debris crashes resulted from the driver’s swerving to avoid hitting an object. This sudden, last-minute swerve increases the risk of losing control of the vehicle and potentially causing it to roll over.
- More than a third of debris-related accidents occur between 10:00 a.m. and 3:59 p.m., when many people haul or move heavy items like furniture or construction equipment.
- Debris-related crashes are much more likely to happen on interstate highways. High speeds increase the chances that vehicle parts or cargo can become detached.
The AAA Foundation estimates that about two-thirds of debris-related crashes are caused by items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance and unsecured loads. The most common types of vehicle debris are:
- Parts which have become detached from a vehicle (tires, wheels, etc.) and fallen onto the roadway
- Unsecured cargo, such as furniture, appliances and other items, which have fallen off the vehicle
- Trailers which have separated from vehicles and hit another vehicle or landed on the roadway.
Someone Didn’t Do Their Job
Road accidents due to unsecured loads can have a number of possible causes, all of them arising from human error or negligence. An unsecured load lawyer can determine if the accident happened due to one of the below causes or something else:
- The load was not secured at all. No tie-downs, net or tarp.
- The load was insufficiently secured. There was an attempt to secure the load but it was insufficient because of the nature of the load, the quantity or quality of the equipment used to secure it or how the vehicle was driven.
- Speeding or sudden maneuvers caused the load slide off, fall off, or tip the truck over.
- Not checking that the load is adequately secured at the start of the trip and at regular intervals afterward.
The load may become unsecure because the equipment used to hold it in place, or to keep the door of a trailer closed, failed or was used improperly. It could have been worn to the point that it shouldn’t have been used, or the equipment may have been defective because of its design or manufacture or because warnings and directions were missing or insufficient.
Unsecured loads are not only a problem with open-bed trucks. Loads inside a commercial truck or a semi’s trailer can be loaded improperly or not secured, causing the load to shift and making it difficult or impossible to safely drive the truck. Anyone in the path of such a tractor trailer is in danger should the truck’s center of gravity be thrown off even a little. The result could be a loss of control, causing the truck to leave its travel lane and jack-knife, or the entire truck could tip over.
What Should Have Been Done
The AAA Foundation states that there are several things that can be done to make loads more secure and our roadways safer.
Drivers should have their vehicles regularly checked and maintained by trained mechanics. Worn or underinflated tires can blow out and leave pieces of tread behind on the roadway. Exhaust systems and the hardware used to attach them to the vehicle can rust and corrode, causing mufflers and other parts to break loose and fall from the vehicle. Possible tire and exhaust-system problems can be easily found by trained mechanics as part of routine maintenance.
If you’re hauling a load on a truck or trailer, make sure all items are secured.
- Tie down the load with rope, netting or straps.
- Tie large objects directly to the vehicle or trailer.
- Cover the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting.
- Don’t overload the vehicle.
- Always double check the load to make sure it’s secure.
Unsecured Truck Load Lawyers Can Help Determine the Responsible Party
Causes of accidents need to be determined before any legal claims can be filed. These investigations are important jobs for unsecured truck load lawyers representing accident victims. If the unsecured load was on a passenger vehicle or light truck, the responsible party is normally the driver, who needs to make sure the vehicle is safe to drive.
If the vehicle at issue is a commercial truck, a number of parties along the commercial freight distribution chain could be at fault for unsecured-load accidents involving semis, flatbeds, and other trucks. A responsible party could be the …
- Originator of the load, the shipper who put the cargo on the truck. It’s possible someone did not tie down the load, used the wrong kind of truck for the load, or overloaded the truck.
- Driver, who is supposed to inspect his load before every trip and periodically on long hauls.
- Driver’s employer, who failed to properly train the driver and/or who supplied insufficient or defective equipment used to secure the load.
State and federal agencies have strict guidelines and regulations regarding truck loads, their security and balance, and the duty to inspect the load at several points while transporting it from point A to point B. Sometimes, a case can be made for negligence, and the bad actors can be more than one party. Little room for error exists when it comes to loading a commercial vehicle.
When Something Goes Wrong, We Are Left to Wonder
While monetary compensation can never undo the damage done as the result of a truck accident, a financial recovery can ease the burdens caused by overwhelming medical bills, loss of income, and disability. By choosing to talk with Indianapolis unsecured truck load attorney Mike Stephenson, you will benefit from more than thirty years of experience, significant investigative and financial resources, and high standards of client care.
Call Mike today at 317-680-2501, or use our online form. At Stephenson Rife, when others breach their duty, we keep ours.