Truck accidents are often some of the most devastating that occur on the road, particularly due to the sheer size and weight of these vehicles. As a result, trucks can cause catastrophic injuries, resulting in hospitalization, surgery, and long-term care. Not only are the lives of the injured affected, but the lives of their families as well, taking a financial and emotional toll. The skilled personal injury lawyers at Ceja Law Firm, PLLC will make sure your interests are protected if you have been injured as a result of an overloaded or improperly loaded truck.
Improperly Loaded Truck Issues
Truck accidents may be caused by the following loading issues:
- Overloading Issues – If the cargo is bulging over the sides of the truck or stacked over the top, it is probably carrying more cargo than it should be. For example, if the truck or tractor-trailer is struggling to slow down, it is likely overloaded.
- Incorrectly Distributed Issues- If the cargo is incorrectly distributed, it can affect the handling and cause damage to the truck itself and its tires. Too much or too little weight on the steering axle can cause a dangerous steering situation; too much or too little weight on the drive axle affects traction. Incorrectly distributed loads on trucks could also lead to the truck tipping over.
- Unsecured Cargo Issues – Cargo that is not secured properly can cause the load to shift or slide around on the truck and affect the handling of the vehicle. If cargo happens to fall off the truck, it can create a road hazard.
On road trips, you may happen to see signs on the highway announcing upcoming weigh stations. Most states require commercial truck drivers to stop at weigh stations to make sure their trucks are not overloaded.
Weight regulations are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) and may vary depending on the type of truck and the cargo. As such, truck drivers and cargo loaders must pay attention to the truck’s identification plate to ensure they are at or under the maximum permissible axle weight and maximum permissible gross vehicle weight.
As a general rule of thumb, 18-wheelers must not weigh more than 80,000 pounds when fully loaded with cargo. When trucking companies break state and federal laws around weight restrictions, they can be held liable for the accidents that result.
Since improperly loaded and overloaded trucks can pose a serious danger, the FMCSA sets strict regulations that trucking companies are expected to follow. Commercial drivers in Texas must also comply with various state regulations. The bulk of these laws, which address many of the same items addressed in the federal laws, can be found in Title 7 of the Texas Transportation Code.
Liability for Overloaded or Unsecured- Load Trucks
As with any other trucking accident, victims have the right to sue for compensation if negligence is the cause of their load-related accident.
What’s more, if a truck driver violates a state or federal law, “negligence per se” might apply. When “negligence per se” applies, the victim does not need to prove all four (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:
- Truck drivers. Truck drivers could be held liable if they fail to make sure their truck’s load complies with federal and state laws.
- Trucking companies. Trucking companies can be held liable if they fail to properly train drivers on how to secure cargo loads. In addition, trucking companies may be held liable through the doctrine of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior is a legal doctrine that holds an employer liable for an employee’s wrongful acts committed within the scope of their employment.
- Truck manufacturers. Sometimes a defective product is the cause of the unsecured load. For example, a defective tie-down might come loose, causing the load to fall from the truck. If this happens, the manufacturer might be liable.
- Loaders of the truck. The people who loaded the truck may work for a different company than the company that owns the truck or that owns the cargo. This means there may be multiple parties at fault for an accident caused by an overloaded or improperly loaded truck.
In Texas, those injured in an accident involving an improperly loaded truck can seek compensation through various legal remedies. Here are a few potential legal claims:
- Negligence Claim: To prevail in a negligence claim, the plaintiff must show that the defendant (likely the trucking company or the truck driver) failed to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, that this failure caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and the plaintiff suffered damages as a result. In the context of an improperly loaded truck, this could involve showing that the defendant did not follow proper procedures for loading the truck or ignored obvious signs that the truck was improperly loaded.
- Product Liability Claim: If the accident was caused by a defect in the truck itself or in the equipment used to secure the load, a product liability claim might be appropriate. In this type of claim, the plaintiff must show that the product was unreasonably dangerous due to its design, manufacturing, or failure to provide adequate warnings, and this defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
- Wrongful Death Claim: If someone dies as a result of an improperly loaded truck accident, their family members might have a claim for wrongful death. This type of claim seeks compensation for the loss of the deceased person’s love, companionship, income, and more.
- Vicarious Liability: Trucking companies can be held liable for the actions of their drivers under the legal principle of vicarious liability. If the driver was an employee of the trucking company and was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident, the company could be held responsible.
It is important to always be mindful of the statute of limitations, which is typically two years from the date of the accident for personal injury claims in Texas. It is advisable to act as soon as possible so that any witnesses can remember the incident clearly.
As with any legal issue, it’s important to consult with a highly qualified attorney to explore the available options. The experienced attorneys at Ceja Law Firm, PLLC can review the details of your case, assess liability, gather evidence, and navigate you through the legal process. Contact Ceja Law Firm, PLLC today for a free initial consultation and case evaluation. You can reach us at 713-742-2079, or visit our office in Houston.