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Who Is Liable After a Crash Caused by Loose Truck Cargo?

April 24, 2023

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Loose truck cargo can be just about anything, including lumber, tools, furniture, and even other vehicles being transported by truck. Many people have been seriously injured and even killed by loose truck cargo.

Loose truck cargo can cause crashes in two ways. First, it can fall out of trucks and hit nearby vehicles, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.

Second, it can move or shift inside enclosed trailers. While this type of cargo usually won’t fall out and strike nearby vehicles, it can still cause truck drivers to lose control and crash. That’s because a sudden shift of heavy cargo can change a truck’s balance and handling. In some cases, it can even cause trucks to tip over or the trailer to swing out.

When these types of crashes occur and other people are injured, here’s who can be held liable.

The Truck Driver

Whether it’s a flatbed truck, a truck hauling a trailer, a box truck, or even a pickup truck—the driver of any type of truck that is being used for personal rather than business reasons can be held liable if loose cargo causes an accident. When loading open-bed trucks and trailers, it’s important to use bungee cables or ratchet straps to secure loose cargo. When loading box trucks, it’s important to not overload them and to secure cargo to keep it from shifting during transit.

If the driver is also the owner, such as when a truck driver works as an independent contractor/owner-operator, then they may also be responsible for crashes that occur when the truck is being used for work purposes.

Drivers can be held liable even if someone else (such as a store employee, friend, family member, or hired laborers) loaded an object into their truck that comes loose and causes an accident. Ultimately, truck drivers/owners are responsible for ensuring their cargo is safe and secure, regardless of who loaded it.

The Company Using the Semi-Truck to Haul Cargo

When it comes to semi-trucks, accidents caused by loose cargo are usually blamed on the companies that were using the trucks rather than the drivers. That’s because loading semi-trucks is typically done by employees hired by that company who are trained specifically to do just that.

If cargo shifts or falls out/off of the truck and causes a crash, then the company that was in charge of loading it can be held liable.

How Can Companies Prevent Loose Cargo Accidents?

To prevent cargo from shifting or falling while in transit, semi-trucks must be loaded carefully. The heaviest cargo should be placed towards the front end of the trailer closest to the vehicle and the weight of all the cargo should be evenly distributed on the left and right. When cargo isn’t loaded correctly or evenly, or it isn’t secured, it’s more likely to shift, which can cause a sudden loss of control of the trailer.

Semi-trucks that haul big objects such as lumber, vehicles, and even mobile homes must be loaded with extreme care and caution. There are detailed processes for loading these objects, but some companies cut corners to save time and money. When these objects come loose during transit, they can cause drivers to lose control or they can even fall off and hit nearby vehicles.

Another Driver May Be Liable if They Caused a Crash that Resulted in Loose Cargo

Even properly secured cargo can come loose or shift if the truck and trailer hauling it are involved in a collision. For example, a pickup truck may be hauling a properly secured dresser. Another driver crashes into the pickup truck, causing damage to its bed while it’s still in motion. The damage to the bed causes the dresser to come loose, and it falls off the truck and either hits or is struck by another vehicle.

In this case, the driver or owner of the pickup truck wouldn’t be held liable, as they had done their part in properly securing the dresser. Instead, the driver who crashed into them and caused the cargo to fall out would be held liable.

Contact Our Ohio Truck Accident Lawyers After a Loose Cargo Crash

If you were injured because of loose cargo, Ohio state law is on your side. Ohio Revised Code Section 4513.31 says that “no vehicle shall be driven or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is so constructed, loaded, or covered as to prevent any of its load from dropping, sifting, leaking, or otherwise escaping therefrom.” In other words, if there is any danger of cargo falling off, the truck driver is breaking the law.

Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy is on your side, too. Our Ohio truck accident attorneys have built and won many different types of claims for injured victims, including those involving loose and improperly secured cargo. Contact us anytime for a free case review. We want to help you get the full compensation you deserve.

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