If you’ve ever come across unsecured cargo lying in the middle of the interstate, you know how hard it can be to avoid. Motor vehicles regularly crash into unsecured cargo that has fallen off of tractor-trailers, and this road debris causes thousands of car accidents every year. When you or a loved one has been injured in this way, this is a truck accident case and recovering compensation can be complicated.
When someone hits unsecured cargo lying on the road and is injured in a truck accident, how can the negligent party be held liable? Who is ultimately responsible for paying victims for their injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and property damage? Your Phoenix truck accident attorney can answer these questions, but here is some general information about liability and unsecured cargo crashes from our truck accident lawyers.
How Often do Unsecured Cargo Crashes Happen?
It happens more often than you might think. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that over 200,000 unsecured cargo crashes happened between 2011 and 2014. Here’s what else they found:
- About a third of these crashes happened between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM
- Nearly 40% of the fatal crashes from unsecured cargo happened because the driver swerved to avoid hitting it.
- Most unsecured cargo crashes happen on interstates, which increases the chances of cargo falling at high speeds.
Unsecured cargo isn’t just items falling off the back of a truck. It also includes parts falling off vehicles and tow trailers being separated from vehicles.
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Potential Liable Parties in Unsecured Cargo Crashes
Unsecured cargo crashes are preventable if people follow cargo securement regulations, but too many semi-truck drivers and companies try to move as much cargo as they can as fast as they can. This means that regulations can slip and create the right conditions for an unsecured cargo crash.
In most cases, there are three potential liable parties in an unsecured cargo crash. The first is the driver. Drivers are responsible for inspecting their cargo and ensuring that their tie-down devices work properly. They’re also responsible for driving safely for the load they’re carrying.
Trucking companies can also be liable for the wrongdoing of their employees. They may also have direct responsibility if they push their drivers to ignore safety regulations and cargo securement guidelines from the FMCSA.
A third-party contractor may also have liability if the trucking company is outsourced to another company to handle cargo loading and securing.
How do Lawyers Decide Who Is Responsible for Unsecured Cargo Crashes?
Finding out who is responsible for an unsecured cargo crash depends on evidence. In some cases, drivers can lose a bit of cargo and not notice until they’re long gone from the scene. This makes it hard to track down who is responsible, but we can do it through evidence like:
- Traffic cameras monitoring the highway may catch when the cargo fell
- Markings on the cargo may give clues about who shipped the cargo or where it was going
- Dash cameras from victims or other drivers
- Witness reports of the cargo falling or shifting on a truck
Once our Phoenix truck accident lawyers can identify the truck that carried the cargo, we can call for an inspection of the vehicle and the cargo securement devices. This helps us learn how the cargo fell off the vehicle in the first place. Some reasons cargo may fall off include:
- Unbalanced loading
- Missing or broken restraints
- Poor maintenance
- Poor cargo securing practices
- Unlocked trailer doors
As causes for the unsecured cargo crash come to light, the evidence will point to which parties have the most liability for the crash. Fortunately for victims, this work is all done by lawyers.
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What Happens if the Liable Party Cannot Be Found?
If you get in a crash because of unsecured cargo and we cannot find the liable party, the next step is to look at your insurance policy. If you have UM/UIM coverage, you can make a claim with your own insurance company to get compensation.
Uninsured motorist insurance covers you if you cannot find the liable driver in an accident. The minimum coverage amount is $25,000 for one person and $50,000 per accident. Underinsured coverage also gives you a route to more money if the liable party doesn’t have enough money to cover your expenses.
While many unsecured cargo accidents happen because of commercial trucks, anyone hauling a load could cause one. Tracking down a non-commercial driver who lost cargo is difficult. If you don’t have UM/UIM coverage and drive on Arizona interstates, we encourage you to add this coverage to your auto insurance policy.
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How Can I Haul My Cargo Safely?
If you want to protect yourself from liability from cargo falling off your vehicle, you should know how to haul cargo safely. The first thing is to maintain your vehicle. Bad tires or a corroded undercarriage can cause parts to fall off your vehicle and cause crashes.
Next, know how to secure your vehicle loads. You should have rope, netting, or tie-down straps appropriate for the size of your load. Tug on the load from all directions to ensure it won’t shift during transit after you’ve tied it down.
Finally, don’t overload your vehicle. A heavy load is harder to control and more likely to shift at high speeds. Braking suddenly on the interstate or taking certain turns that can tip heavy vehicles at higher speeds can cause your load to slip.
Who Should I Contact if I Hit Unsecured Cargo in Arizona?
If you live in Arizona and strike unsecured cargo on the road, first call the police, then call the experienced truck accident injury lawyers at Zanes Law. Our law firm has both Tucson and Phoenix personal injury attorneys who can help you find out who is liable for your crash and explain your legal options for compensation.
If you took any photos of the accident scene and the cargo, take them with you to the consultation. The police will want to clear the road as soon as possible. Any evidence you can capture at the scene will help us determine who might be liable for your accident.
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