At one time or another, most drivers have been passed by or stuck behind a large truck hauling a trailer enclosed by a loose tarp or an open bed of rock, gravel or rip-rap. Oftentimes, the truck has a sign that reads, “NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR BROKEN WINDSHIELDS,” suggesting such vehicles are protected from the harm they may cause on the roadway. Not true.
Commercial truck drivers have a duty to ensure the safety of their cargo and equipment. Federal regulations provide that commercial truck drivers must perform a safety inspection. No shipper can force a driver to accept a load the driver believes is unsafe. Nonetheless, a shipper may face liability if a defect in the load could not be uncovered by the driver through ordinary observation.
Careless loading and hauling of cargo and equipment can cause chipped paint, dents and broken windshields. However, sometimes serious and catastrophic injuries and even death can occur when a a vehicle is struck by unsecured cargo or equipment, such as a crane boom, or must leave the road to avoid such dangers. Because many companies and their insurers will seek to shift the blame to the victim for purportedly following too closely or not taking equally dangerous evasive maneuvers, the only recourse in such situations may be to seek a legal remedy.
If you or a loved one becomes a victim of a truck accident causing significant property damage or personal injury, it is important to document and safely photograph the location of the incident, damages caused and the offending cargo or equipment, exchange insurance information, and report the incident to the proper authorities. If the offending vehicle does not stop, try to safely obtain or photograph license plate and ownership information of the offending vehicle and report the incident to the authorities, owner and your insurer.
In addition to contacting your insurer, it is critical to pin down the precise manner in which the incident took place as soon as possible and to exercise your legal rights in a timely manner to avoid the loss of a civil remedy. An attorney experienced in motor vehicle negligence can help gather evidence, hire accident reconstruction, motor vehicle safety and electronic control module experts, and present your claim for settlement or file a civil action in a court of law if necessary.