Personal Injuries to Non-Employees and the General Public
If a non-employee or other member of the general public is injured because of improperly secured or loaded cargo, both the shipper and carrier may be liable. The carrier may be liable under a theory of vicarious liability if an agent of the commercial carrier or trucking company is involved in the loading and securing process (eg the driver). However, if the injury results from improper loading of a sealed container, the carrier will not be liable because no one from the company was given the opportunity to inspect the cargo.
A shipper participating in loading the cargo, may also be liable under a common law theory of negligence. Federal guidelines alluded to above, provide evidence of the proper standard of care the shipper and carrier must follow. If either failed to meet this standard for proper loading / securing procedures, liability is likely.
Trucking Driver Injuries
The general public are not the only people injured by unsafe or improperly loaded commercial vehicles. Often times, drivers themselves are injured due to improperly loaded and secured cargo. Generally speaking, the shipper is not liable in this scenario.
Nonetheless, liability depends in large part on what time of defect existed in the loading or securing of the cargo. A latent defect is a deficiency in the loading or securing the driver could not have discovered through reasonable investigation, such as faulty blocking concealed by cargo. On the other hand, the driver should have discovered patent defects. While patent defects will generally insulate a shipper from liability, latent, undiscoverable problems will often result in liability. Courts will consider a number of factors in determining the type of defect at issue including the experience of the driver and whether the shipper gave adequate assurances the cargo was properly loaded.
Loading and unloading is also a common cause of injuries
Injuries can occur to the driver, employees of the shipper, and by-standers. Notwithstanding mitigating factors, such as whether the person had a right to be on the shipper or consignee’s facility, the carrier’s (trucking company) liability is very much dependent on the rules applicable to the facility. Ultimately, the trucking company is subject to the same liability or freedom from liability as the facility.
If you or a loved one has questions about liability in a potential trucking accident case, talk to an experienced trucking accident attorney in your area for more specific information.
Trucking Accidents-Improper loading and securing Injuries and Federal FMCSA Safety Requirements.
Accidents due to Improper Loading and Securing Procedures
To prevent accidents, injuries, and even death, proper loading and strapping / securing procedures must be followed. Proper procedures are outlined by, but not limited to, Federal securement requirements (state and local laws may also apply as well as company policies). If the failure to properly secure a load results in a trucking accident, the driver, carrier, shipper, and other parties may be liable.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, numerous accidents are the result of inadequate loading procedures (eg overloading accidents). During emergency lane changes and other maneuvers or when traveling at excess speeds, the likelihood of rollovers is increased by overweight, offset, or high center of gravity loads. Rollovers can even occur when commercial vehicles are at the posted speed-this is especially common with high center of gravity loads.
Improperly loaded materials can result in driver control problems and lead to serious injuries when cargo shifts unexpectedly. Difficulty steering can jack-knife a trailer, force a semi into oncoming traffic, or litter the roadway with pipes, boulders, and other material. Fallen cargo is especially hazardous for other motorists who may not be able to avoid these unexpected obstacles.
Accordingly, commercial vehicles must be loaded and secured in a manner to prevent rollovers and ensure cargo and materials do not fall or spill from the vehicle.
General Federal Requirements for Properly Securing Cargo
Proper securement of cargo requires all types of cargo be secured in of three ways: fully contained, immobilized by structures, or immobilized / secured on or within the vehicle. To be fully contained, the enclosing structure (eg enclosed trailer or sided vehicle) must be sufficiently strong to maintain the load. The cargo cannot shift or tip, and is otherwise restrained from horizontal movement (left / right & front / back).
Proper Securement Requires Adequate Equipment and Knowledgeable Personnel
A properly secured load begins with proper equipment. Trailers must possess the proper equipment for securing loads such as tie downs, winches, shoring bars, blocking, and have adequate front-end structures. All cargo-securing devices must be in proper working order, regularly inspected and maintained, to ensure there are no damaged or compromised components. Proper loading and weight distribution of cargo followed by adequate shoring or strapping is pointless if the structural integrity of mounting points is compromised. Cargo and materials prone to rolling must be adequately secured by chocks, wedges, or other means designed to immobilize roll-likely items.
In addition to improper equipment, negligent loading can occur when drivers and dock personnel are not knowledgeable in the proper methods of blocking and bracing. The likelihood of improper loading procedures due to inadequate knowledge or experience increases when a driver is dealing with unfamiliar or unusual cargo. Unusual payloads may be especially prone to shifting and require special attention. Often overlooked, properly securing cargo means attention to accessory equipment also such as chains and spare tires.
Liability can result if an accident occurs because a driver or commercial carrier failed to follow proper cargo securement of certain materials outlined in the FMCA Driver’s handbook. Requirements apply to the securement of timber / logs, construction and building materials, metal coils, paper rolls, concrete pipe, intermodal containers (shipping containers), cars, light trucks, and vans, heavy-equipment, flattened or crushed vehicles, roll- on / roll-off and hook containers, and large boulders.
Trucking cases differ dramatically from the run of the mill auto accident.