Due to their size and weight, trucks are not only an imposing threat to typical passenger vehicles, but they are also difficult to stop. As a result, truck accidents are often very severe, especially for the occupants of a smaller vehicle that collides with the tractor-trailer.
If you’ve been in a truck accident, you could have serious or even catastrophic injuries, leading to many difficulties, including medical expenses, lost income, permanent disability or disfigurement, chronic pain, and more.
Although there are many kinds of truck accidents, improperly loaded cargo is a common issue that can cause a collision in multiple ways. In a truck with an open bed, poorly secured cargo can actually slide off and crash into another vehicle; this is the scenario most people picture when they think about improperly loaded cargo causing an accident.
However, incorrect cargo loading can cause accidents in a more insidious way. When cargo inside a trailer isn’t secured, it can slide around, causing the trailer to sway or even fishtail on the road.
Loading heavier cargo on top is another potentially dangerous error that could result in the trailer flipping. In the worst cases, the truck could have a rollover accident, damaging other vehicles in its path.
When these types of accidents occur, the cause usually isn’t immediately apparent, as there may be other reasons for the crash.
Why Do You Need a Denver Improperly Loaded Cargo Car Accident Attorney?
Truck accidents can cause life-altering injuries. You need a settlement covering all your current and future expenses, including medical care, physical therapy, mobility aids, lost income, etc.
Unfortunately, the trucking company, their lawyers, and their insurance company will not be eager to pay you fairly for your damages. As soon as the driver reports the accident, they will leap into action, investigating the crash—and you—so they can argue that you were at least partially at fault.
Under Colorado law, they can reduce your settlement or pay you nothing, depending on your percentage of responsibility.
To complicate matters, the trucking company might not be the liable party or the only liable party. Later in this article, we’ll discuss the complexities of identifying the at-fault parties.
After a cargo accident, you need an experienced Denver car accident lawyer who will also investigate the collision, gather evidence, determine the liable party or parties, and fight to get you every bit of compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one have suffered a large truck accident, please contact Olson Law Firm for a free consultation.
We’ll review your case, answer your questions, and explain the options for recovering your damages.
Who Is at Fault When Improperly Loaded Cargo Causes an Accident?
As we mentioned earlier, there is more than one potentially liable party in this situation. One of the first questions we ask is, “Who loaded the cargo?”
There are several possible answers:
- The driver. Some trucking jobs require a driver to load and unload the truck in addition to driving it, while others are “no touch freight” jobs in which the driver never interacts with the cargo.
- Someone else who works for the driver’s employer. Some truck drivers may work for a specific company that loads its own freight, and there may be workers at the delivery end who unload the truck. For instance, a large retail store might load its own trucks at a warehouse, and when the truck arrives at its destination, workers at the store unload it.
- A third party. In some cases, the trucking company picks up freight from one location and delivers it to another, with employees from third-party companies loading and unloading it.
Often, the trucking company is responsible when a driver’s negligence causes an accident. However, if the driver is an independent contractor, they may be solely responsible if they loaded the cargo incorrectly.
Either way, there is usually at least $750,000 in liability insurance available, as federal laws require at least this much for most truck drivers (An independent contractor is expected to pay for their own insurance policy). Some truckers may have as much as $1 million in liability coverage, especially if they carry hazardous materials.
If another employee at the trucking company or a third party loaded the freight, your damages may be covered by the company’s business liability insurance.
What Happened After the Truck Was Loaded?
This is another crucial question.
Let’s say that the cargo is loaded onto a flatbed trailer at a junkyard. The junkyard employees tie down the large pieces of scrap metal and eventually tell the driver the trailer is ready.
Shortly after, the driver sets out to their destination. Along the way, they hear a loud banging noise coming from the trailer, so they pull over, get out, and examine the trailer.
The driver finds a scrap item that looks like it’s coming loose, so they undo the straps and re-secure the item, then head on their way. Later, the item comes loose and crashes into the windshield of a sedan behind the trailer.
Who was at fault here? The junkyard loaded the cargo, but they could argue that they loaded it securely and the driver reloaded some of it incorrectly.
The trucking company could argue that if the junkyard had loaded the truck securely in the first place, the scrap item wouldn’t have been banging around, and the driver wouldn’t have stopped and re-secured it. In some cases, both parties may be jointly liable for the accident.
As you can see, determining who is at fault in an improperly loaded cargo accident can be complicated. Still, a knowledgeable car accident attorney can investigate the accident and identify the liable parties.
What if You Are Injured By Improperly Loaded Cargo on a Passenger Vehicle?
These situations are less common, but they do happen. For example, you might be driving behind a pickup truck loaded with boxes and furniture items.
As you drive uphill, a bookcase slides loose, flies off the back of the truck, and slams into your windshield.
In this kind of situation, it’s most likely that the driver is at fault. Even if a friend helped them load the truck, the driver has a responsibility to ensure the items in the truck bed are firmly situated so they won’t fall out and cause a hazard.
In most cases, retail stores that sell large items will not secure merchandise into a customer’s car for them. The store’s employees may carry a heavy item to your vehicle and place it in the backseat, the trunk, or the truck bed, but they won’t tie it down.
This policy is in place to protect the retail store from liability in improperly loaded cargo cases.
Personal car insurance policies typically cost much lower amounts than commercial trucking insurance. In Colorado, the minimum requirement for car insurance is $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability ($50,000 per accident) and $15,000 for property damage.
You can buy more extensive coverage, which is highly recommended. If your damages exceed these amounts, we will consider other options to recover the rest.
What if You Were Hit by Improperly Loaded Cargo, and You Don’t Know Whose Vehicle It Came From?
Sometimes, this happens in situations where the cargo is large and flies into the windshield, essentially blocking your view. The driver of the other vehicle may be unaware that their cargo has fallen and caused you to veer off the road because you can’t see where you’re going, or maybe they saw the accident and chose to flee the scene to avoid responsibility.
Either way, you’ve suffered injuries and property damage due to circumstances beyond your control. But you don’t have the license plate number of the vehicle that lost its cargo. What can you do?
First, file a police report explaining what happened and describing the vehicle. Then, we can file a claim with your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UI).
The insurance company will usually treat this like a hit-and-run and assume the driver is uninsured. If you don’t have UM/UI coverage (optional in Colorado), you will probably be unable to recover your damages.
How Can You Get Help From a Denver Improperly Loaded Cargo Car Accident Law Firm?
Large truck accidents cause a disproportionate amount of damage to people in passenger vehicles, and your losses may be extensive. The trucking company and its insurer will do everything possible to avoid paying your claim or to reduce its value, even blaming you or undervaluing your damages.
Don’t rely on an insurance adjuster to have your best interests in mind; instead, contact Olson Law Firm for a free consultation about your accident. We’ll review the accident report, determine liability, and explain your options for recovering compensation.
Attorney Sean Olson founded Olson Law Firm in 2012 to advocate for injured people and their families. A member of the Colorado and Wyoming Bar Associations, Mr. Olson has been a Super Lawyers Rising Star for five consecutive years.
His passion is helping people move forward with their lives after suffering serious or catastrophic injuries, and he is always available to talk with clients. You, too, can work with his expert team when you call Olson Law Firm at (720) 730-4325.