Most people understand that when a large truck causes an accident, the resulting injuries and vehicle damage are likely to be severe. While you might assume that the truck’s driver is always responsible for causing a collision, that’s not always the case.
Did you know that shifting cargo can cause truck accidents? In those cases, other parties are potentially liable for your damages. Any injury claim involving a commercial vehicle is complicated and difficult to handle without an attorney on your side. Siegfried & Jensen focuses on car and truck accidents and helping their clients recover compensation for their damages.
How Can Shifting Cargo Cause a Truck Accident?
A fully loaded tractor-trailer may legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds. The cargo alone is likely to weigh 45,000 pounds. To transport that heavy cargo safely, it must be properly secured with the weight distributed evenly.
Semi-trucks are difficult to maneuver even when properly loaded, but shifting cargo can create a catastrophe:
- It can cause the truck’s center of gravity to become unbalanced, causing the truck to roll over.
- Straps may break, allowing cargo to fall off a flatbed or out the back of a trailer. The cargo can hit surrounding traffic or become an impossible-to-avoid obstacle in the road.
- If the cargo contents are toxic, fumes may be released even if the cargo doesn’t spill.
Any of these situations caused by shifting cargo can cause collisions, injuries, and even fatalities.
Who Is Liable in a Shifting Cargo Accident?
Any time a semi-truck causes a crash, many parties are potentially liable. These include:
- The driver
- The trucking company
- The truck’s owner or leasing company
- Truck or parts manufacturers
- The cargo’s owner, shipper, or the loader responsible for correctly securing the cargo
- Those responsible for truck maintenance
Even in accidents when cargo shifts occurred, an investigation is needed to determine why it happened:
- Did straps break?
- Did the brakes fail?
- Did the truck hit a roadway obstacle, causing the shift?
- Was there some type of driver error?
- Did a tire blow out?
As you can see, truck accidents are very complex. Although more than one party may be legally liable, none of them wants to pay your damages.
Siegfried & Jensen knows how to navigate the complexities to perform a complete investigation and assign blame where it belongs.
What Are Other Causes of Truck Accidents?
Many things can cause truck collisions. A critical factor is the truck’s size and weight. A fully loaded truck takes significantly longer to come to a stop than a car traveling at the same speed because of its momentum.
Car Drivers Not Giving a Truck Enough Time to Stop
Yes, cars can cause truck collisions. Most people don’t understand the extended stopping distance and steering difficulties that trucks can experience. A car may merge into a traffic lane in front of a truck, believing that the truck will have sufficient time to slow down if necessary. Unfortunately, a collision is sometimes unavoidable.
Weather and Road Conditions
High winds and slick roads affect cumbersome, heavy trucks more than passenger vehicles. Even loose gravel is a hazard that can cause trucks to crash.
No Man’s Land
All vehicles have blind spots, but truck blind spots are so broad that they have a name: No Man’s Land. Drivers are unable to see other vehicles or objects within that zone and may not know anything is there.
Driving a truck isn’t an easy job. It typically requires long hours behind the wheel with little to break the monotony. Laws mandate shift limits and rest periods for truck drivers to ensure that they’re properly rested, but drivers don’t always follow those rules.
Trucking companies must meet deadlines and expected delivery times. In some cases, these companies can require drivers to meet those deadlines regardless of how much rest they’ve had. Many of these deadlines are early in the morning, making nighttime travel necessary.
All of these factors can result in driver fatigue. This condition is more than just being tired. The effects it can have on your body are similar to those produced by drug or alcohol use:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Impaired judgment
- Delayed reaction times
- Blurry vision
- Falling asleep
- Diminished motor coordination
Truck drivers need extensive training and experience to operate a semi-truck safely. Even drivers who meet those requirements can be negligent and cause accidents by:
- Failing to follow traffic laws and regulations
- Aggressive or reckless driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (even some over-the-counter or prescription medications can impair you)
- Improper merging
Many drivers are guilty of distracted driving. This covers anything that takes your attention from the road or your hands off the steering wheel:
- Using a cell phone to text, talk, or other hands-on uses
- Eating, drinking, or smoking
- Interacting with passengers
- Grooming activities, such as combing hair
- Looking somewhere other than the road or mirrors
- Reaching for something in another seat or floorboard
Any of these actions can cause an accident. If a driver is doing one or more of these things when a cargo shift occurs, they’re less likely to be able to maintain control of the truck.
How Can a Cargo Shift Accident Lawyer Help You?
With so many possible causes of truck accidents, even those involving cargo shifts, determining who all is at fault is often challenging. That challenge is compounded if any form of government is involved. A competent attorney from Siegfried & Jensen helps our clients by:
- Assessing your claim and investigating your accident
- Gathering evidence to hold the guilty party or parties accountable
- Providing information and legal advice
- Preparing and filing paperwork related to your claim
- Carefully preparing your case
- Becoming your spokesperson with insurance companies
- Fighting to obtain maximum compensation for your damages
Trucking companies, cargo loaders, and insurance companies have something in common: they don’t want to pay you for your damages even if they are at fault for causing your accident. You need someone on your side who will make sure that they don’t take advantage of you. Your lawyer from Siegfried & Jensen will protect your interests throughout the claims process.
You should keep bills and receipts for all expenses related to your accident, including medical treatments, medications, and vehicle repairs. You’ll also need documentation from your employer if you miss time from work because of your accident to show the wages you lost.
Ask your attorney for the full list of documents they’ll need from you. You’ll likely qualify for reimbursement for many of these expenses, but you’ll need supporting evidence.
When Should You Contact a Cargo Shift Accident Lawyer?
In Utah, you typically have four years to file a claim if you sustain injuries in an accident. If a government agency is involved, that limit is only one year. Especially with cases as complex as truck accidents, your attorney needs sufficient time to investigate your accident thoroughly. It takes even longer to compile all the evidence and prepare your claim.
Although you can wait, why would you? Your attorney can get to work building your case as soon as you hire them. When you contact a lawyer soon after your accident, that lawyer may be able to find evidence that may become lost over time. Witness recollections are much clearer in the days following an accident than they would be three years later.
You’ll give your lawyer a better chance at building a solid case with supporting evidence if you contact Siegfried & Jensen immediately.
Why Does Fault Matter?
Fault determines who is liable to pay compensation to injured accident victims. In many collisions, there are multiple parties, each partially responsible for causing it. The degree of fault each party holds determines how much that party may have to pay.
If you’re 20% responsible for causing an accident, that percentage is deducted from the total compensation you might recover. For example, if total damages are $200,000, you’ll have to subtract 20% of that or $40,000.
Utah’s modified comparative negligence rules mean that if you are at least 50% at fault for an accident, you can’t recover any damages.
One of the most important tasks your attorney has is to ensure that fault is assigned fairly. Insurance companies and attorneys representing opposing sides may try to blame you or each other for causing the accident. What you need is reasonable compensation, not unfair accusations.
Is Siegfried & Jensen the Right Choice?
If you sustained injuries in a cargo shift truck accident, you need an attorney who focuses on truck accident cases. Not only does Siegfried & Jensen focus on truck accidents and other types of personal injury claims, but we have also won over $1.2 billion for our clients. We have over three decades of experience serving Utah and surrounding states, and we can help you as well.
Request your free case evaluation today by calling (801) 845-9000 or submitting our online request form. You won’t pay us unless we win compensation for you, so you have nothing to lose and much to gain.