It’s more than an annoyance. If you drive long enough, all the stuff you see left on roads and by their side could stock a department store. Unsecured cargo falling on a street or highway can cause an accident that leaves someone severely injured or killed. The driver and possibly others could be held accountable for the harm they cause.
State and for commercial vehicles, federal laws mandate cargo in or on a vehicle or trailer be well secured so it doesn’t pose a hazard to others. The material must not only stay in place during normal driving but continue to do so if the driver takes evasive action or brakes suddenly. Drivers should drive reasonably safe vehicles. That means securing anything that may fall one and cause an accident.
What Dangers Does Debris Pose?
These types of accidents are only limited by what falls into the paths of drivers:
- A 49-year-old woman was killed after a boat broke off its trailer and struck her vehicle. The accident happened on a San Diego area highway in February. After the boat fell off, the trailer became detached from the pickup towing it, according to the Lexington Herald. The woman’s husband was injured, and the truck’s driver was arrested for vehicular manslaughter and gross negligence
- A driver on an Australian highway had tools come through his windshield, causing him to lose control of his vehicle, which hit a barrier and flipped over. The tools and a toolbox came off a truck in front of him
Not only can a vehicle strike debris in the roadway, causing an accident, other accidents may happen after this vehicle becomes disabled and blocks traffic.
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How Many People are Involved in These Accidents?
In New Jersey and Delaware, there were dozens of deaths and thousands of road debris-related vehicle accidents, according to a 2018 news report from NBC10 in Philadelphia. The Delaware Department of Transportation stated most of the debris came off tractor-trailers.
Road debris caused 1,200 vehicle crashes in New Jersey and 334 in Pennsylvania in 2016. That year ABC News reported nationwide road debris caused about 50,000 crashes annually, killing nearly 450 people. In 2020, there were 2,551 road debris accidents in Texas and about another 1,400 in the first half of 2021, according to KHOU.
How Can Someone Responsible for Unsecured Cargo Be Held Accountable?
The driver could be held administratively and criminally responsible by being issued a ticket or arrested for their role in causing an accident and injuries and or deaths. In civil court, a personal injury lawsuit would claim the driver’s negligence caused the accident and injuries, so they should pay compensation for the harm they caused. For a successful negligence case, you would need to establish:
- The defendant (the party sued) owed you (the plaintiff) a legal obligation or duty to secure cargo in or on their vehicle and or trailer
- The defendant failed that obligation or breached that duty by not doing so, shown by the fact the cargo came off the vehicle, onto the roadway
- That breach or failure was the factual and legal (or proximate) cause of the accident and your injuries
- Under Kentucky law, the defendant must pay you damages (a measurement of your harm in dollars)
The fact the driver paid the ticket or was found guilty of a related crime can be evidence the defendant acted negligently.
Have You Been Injured in an Accident Caused By Cargo Falling Off a Vehicle or Trailer?
If you have any questions about your legal rights to compensation and how they can be protected, contact The Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. We’ll talk about the accident, the law, and your best options to proceed. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.