Dolman Law Group is an award winning Clearwater car accident and personal injury law firm. Matthew Dolman has been selected as a Florida Super Lawyers in 2013, 2014 and 2015 by his colleagues. Mr. Dolman has been nominated as a top 100 trial attorney and top 40 under 40 by National Trial Lawyers. He is a lifetime member of both the Million Dollar and Multi-Million Dollar Advocacy Forum.
Not all accidents related to commercial trucks actually involve the truck itself. Trucks haul all types of cargo across the country on a daily basis. If this cargo is loose or improperly secured, it can fall into the roadway and create a hazard for the drivers behind the transporting truck. Loose cargo can hit nearby cars, causing direct damage, or can cause other cars to swerve to avoid the flying debris and cause accidents and further indirect damage.
The Dangers of Unsecured Cargo
In order to be safely driven, trucks carrying large cargo must be loaded carefully. The weight of the cargo must be evenly distributed and then secured so that the cargo does not shift or become loose during transport. If the weight is not properly balanced, the truck may become difficult to control while driving. Loose cargo shifting within a truck can cause the vehicle to swerve in and out of its lane and can severely limit the driver’s ability to drive in predictable ways. Loose or improperly balanced cargo also increases the likelihood that the truck could tip over. Finally, it is possible that cargo could become loose and fall into the roadway, striking other drivers or causing them to swerve into traffic.
If unsecured cargo causes the truck to sway or tip over, or falls into the roadway itself, it is likely that nearby drivers will be unable to react in time. Accidents involving commercial trucks, especially on highways or other high speed roads usually results in a multi vehicle accident and can cause serious injury or even death. In short, failure to secure cargo properly is an extreme safety hazard and has the potential to cause deadly accidents.
The State of Florida has enacted laws designed to prevent accidents related to unsecured or improperly secured cargo. Florida Statute §316.5202 states:
A vehicle may not be driven or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is so constructed or loaded as to prevent any of its load from dropping, shifting, leaking, blowing, or otherwise escaping therefrom, except that sand may be dropped only for the purpose of securing traction or water or other substance may be sprinkled on a roadway in cleaning or maintaining the roadway.
The driver is required to make sure that all cargo is properly loaded and secured before taking off. This includes ensuring that all doors or miscellaneous loose items (other than cargo) are secured. The driver is also responsible for checking on the cargo at intervals during the trip, to ensure nothing is coming loose or has shifted in a dangerous way.
Liability for Accidents Caused by Unsecured or Loose Cargo
As noted above, Florida law specifically forbids driving a vehicle with improperly secured cargo on any Florida roads. But if someone does drive such a vehicle and an accident occurs, who is liable?
The same section cited above places blame with both the owner of the vehicle and the driver. If failure to properly secure cargo results in “serious bodily injury or death”, then the owner and the driver of the vehicle may be charged with a criminal traffic offense and a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment not to exceed 60 days.
If this section is violated, but no accident occurs, it is only a noncriminal traffic infraction and is punishable the same as other non-moving traffic violations.
Contact a Clearwater, FL Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation!
If you have been in an accident involving a semi-truck, contact a Clearwater personal injury attorney right away. Accidents involving commercial vehicles can be much more complicated than an accident between to individual drivers. The trucking company will have attorneys on its side that specialize in handling exactly this type of accident, so you should have a specialized attorney representing you as well.