You’re driving down the Southwest Freeway in Sugar Land, Texas. All of a sudden, the remains of slaughtered cattle come loose from the 18-wheeler driving in front of you.
It sounds like the set of a horror movie.
But for several Texas drivers on their way to work, there was no need to imagine this scenario. A Double D Trucking employee failed to properly secure his cargo and the result was a highway full of animal waste.
Fortunately, no one was hurt and hazmat crews from the Texas Department of Transportation cleaned up the waste without further incident. Not all unsecured-load accidents are as harmless though.
In Texas, roughly 1,200 crashes are caused by unsecured loads every year. Unsecured-load accidents don’t all look the same.
Common examples include:
The seriousness of the accident can vary considerably depending on the characteristics of the cargo load. For example, a truck carrying improperly secured fuel presents a significant fire hazard. A truck transporting other vehicles creates a significant hazard due to the weight of the load.
However, even cargo that doesn’t weigh much can be deadly if it falls off a truck. According to the US Department of Transportation, an object that weighs 20 pounds and falls from a truck traveling 55 miles per hour has the striking pressure of a half-ton.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets numerous rules and regulations for the proper security of a truck’s cargo. Their general rule states:
"Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage (loose materials used to protect cargo) or dunnage bags (inflatable bags intended to fill the space between articles of cargo or between cargo and the wall of the vehicle), shoring bars, tie downs, or a combination of these."
Trucks aren’t to be loaded beyond the available means of securing that load. Additionally, any cargo that could easily roll or move around inside the trailer must be secured in a way that prevents movement.
In addition to the federal regulations for securing cargo, truck drivers in Texas must comply with the state regulations.
Like the federal regulations, Texas requires that all truck drivers transporting loose material ensure that the material is covered and firmly secured at the front and back or else completely enclosed.
The failure to do so is a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of up to $400.
As with any other trucking accident, victims have the right to sue for compensation if negligence is the cause of their unsecured-load accident.
What’s more, if a truck driver violates a state or federal law, negligence per se might apply. When negligence per se applies, a plaintiff doesn’t need to prove all 4 elements of negligence. Rather, they only need to prove that the truck driver violated the law and that the violation caused the accident.
When it comes to unsecured-load accidents, several parties can be held liable depending on the circumstances, including:
If it’s determined that the truck driver or some other party was responsible for the unsecured-load accident that caused your injuries, you’re entitled to compensation.
In Texas, you can receive both economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
These damages may include:
Additionally, if your loved one was killed in an unsecured-load accident, you may be entitled to compensation for funeral expenses, loss of income, and loss of companionship. To recover these damages, you’ll need to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
The good news is that unsecured-load accidents can often be avoided.
“Road debris can be extremely dangerous but all of these crashes are preventable,” said Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Drivers can easily save lives and prevent injuries by securing their loads and taking other simple precautions to prevent items from falling off the vehicle.”
To properly secure a load, you should:
To avoid an unsecured-load accident, other drivers on the road should: