Who May be Liable for a Car Accident Caused by Loose Cargo?

red pickup truck overloaded

You have probably shared the road with many vehicles that looked like they were overloaded with cargo, such as pickup trucks with stacks of wood or metal building materials. 

While some drivers may change lanes to get away from these vehicles, others might not be able to. This leaves them in the path of any falling cargo, increasing the risk of a severe crash.

These accidents can be particularly dangerous when the cargo is falling out of a commercial truck trailer. These vehicles may be hauling hazardous or flammable chemicals. The cargo could also be quite heavy and could do serious damage to vehicles and their occupants.

If you were injured in a crash caused by falling cargo, contact Friedman, Domiano and Smith today. We have been taking on insurance companies for decades and obtaining compensation for crash victims in Ohio.

Our Cleveland car accident lawyers do not charge any upfront fees and an initial legal consultation with an attorney is free.

Experienced lawyers. Proven results. Call us: 216-621-0070.

Liable Parties for a Loose Cargo Collision

Drivers are often the ones held liable for a loose cargo collision. They may argue that someone else loaded cargo onto their car. For example, if they purchased an item and someone from the store loaded it onto their vehicle. However, it is still the driver’s responsibility to make sure his or her vehicle is safe to be on the road.

Your lawyer would need to prove the cargo was not secure and this was the reason cargo fell off and caused the crash. If the driver was also operating his or her vehicle recklessly, such as by speeding, your lawyer may be able to argue this made it more likely for cargo to fall off the vehicle.

Commercial truck drivers could also be liable if they were the ones responsible for securing cargo in the trailer. Sometimes this responsibility falls on a third party and they may bear liability for damages from a falling cargo collision.

If you got hit by another vehicle whose driver was trying to avoid falling cargo, that driver might be at fault. However, the driver of the vehicle with falling cargo may still bear most of the fault for the collision.

Why Cargo Falls Off Vehicles

There are many reasons why cargo falls off vehicles. Sometimes vehicles are simply overloaded. The vehicle would be able to safely carry less cargo, but for some reason, the driver chose to overload the vehicle.

Sometimes a vehicle is not overloaded but the cargo has not been properly secured. The cargo might not move too much if the driver maintains a consistent speed and avoids stopping or starting too quickly. However, sometimes there is no way to avoid slamming on the brakes. Drivers might forget they have so much cargo and may accelerate too quickly.

There are various ways to properly secure cargo, such as by tying it down or by putting things around the cargo to prevent it from moving.

Some cargo is more important to secure because of how heavy it is. For example, drivers need to be extra cautious about securing:

  • Mattresses
  • Furniture
  • Wood
  • Tools
  • Building materials, such as bricks, cement or things made of metal
  • Home appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, etc.
  • TVs
  • Luggage
  • Christmas trees

Sometimes drivers may be able to use a few bungee cords, or some rope, and the cargo will not move around. There are also tie-down straps that have ratchets on them to keep straps tight over the cargo. Covering everything with a tarp that is also tied down can be an extra step to keep cargo secure.  

There are various options for securing cargo, but too often drivers are lazy, or they do not think anything bad will happen because they are not going to be on the road too long. 

State Law on Securing Cargo

Securing cargo is not just the right thing to do, it is the law in Ohio. Under Ohio Revised Code Section 4513.31, it is illegal to drive any vehicle unless it has been built, loaded or covered to prevent any cargo from dropping, sifting, leaking or escaping from the vehicle.

If your lawyer can prove the cargo that caused your crash fell from a vehicle that was not in compliance with this law, it may be easier to establish liability for your claim.

Why Cargo Falls Off Commercial Trucks

Falling cargo is dangerous no matter how big or small it is or the type of vehicle it fell from. However, cargo from a commercial truck can be particularly dangerous. These vehicles are often hauling heavy or hazardous cargo. If this cargo falls onto your vehicle, the damage could be catastrophic. If cargo from a commercial truck falls on the road it could be difficult to avoid.

Overloaded cargo is usually the reason cargo may fall from a commercial truck. The trucking company may have overloaded the trailer so the cargo could be transported in fewer trips. Sometimes cargo is stacked too high, making it unstable.

There are also times when cargo is unevenly distributed in the trailer. When cargo is packed in this way it can move around in the trailer. This could cause the truck to flip over, and if the door to the trailer opens cargo could come flying out.

Sometimes shortcuts were taken in the loading of a commercial truck. The driver or cargo-loading company may have taken some steps to secure the cargo, but they clearly did not do enough. Maybe they needed to use more straps, tiedowns or webbing. It is possible the items they were using to secure the cargo were old or defective in some way.

Trucking Regulations on Securing Cargo

There are federal and state regulations on securing cargo in commercial trucks. These regulations dictate how to secure certain types of cargo.

For example, if cargo is not positioned as to prevent it from moving, there are a certain number of tie downs that must be used depending on the weight and length of the cargo.

There are also specific regulations on securing certain types of cargo, such as:

  • Metal coils
  • Paper rolls
  • Concrete pipe
  • Lumber
  • Large boulders
  • And more

Could the At-Fault Party Argue You Could Have Avoided a Collision?

Cargo falling off a vehicle is unexpected. There is also no telling where it is going to go when it lands. Some cargo may hit the pavement and slide or roll around before stopping. Drivers might not be able to avoid a collision.

Falling cargo can be particularly dangerous on an interstate highway or other roadway where vehicles are traveling at high speed. If you are traveling fast, it is tougher to slow down or veer away from cargo in the road.

However, sometimes it may be reasonable to expect a driver to avoid a collision with the cargo. He or she may have been distracted or following the other vehicle too closely. If you were speeding or being reckless in some other way and this contributed to the collision, you may bear partial fault for your damages.

That is why it is so important to avoid dangerous driving behaviors, like speeding, texting and driving, or following other vehicles too closely.

Was Your Crash Caused by Loose Cargo? Call for Assistance

If you were injured in a collision and have medical bills and other damages, contacting an experienced lawyer may be an important step in your recovery.

For decades, our lawyers have been assisting crash victims in their time of need. We can take on the insurance company on your behalf, negotiating for the full compensation you need to try to move forward.

Have car crash legal questions? Call us today: 216-621-0070.


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