As statistical evidence shows, motor vehicle accidents are among the leading causes of death in the State of Louisiana and elsewhere throughout the country. Trucking accidents, in particular, have been known to be relatively more hazardous than other types of motor vehicle accidents. In fact, recent data show that a person is killed or severely injured in a trucking-related accident once per every 15 minutes, which amounts to approximately 500,000 casualties per year! Needless to say, society has a need to clamp down effectively on the damage caused by trucking accidents, and so various laws and rules have been in place to deal with trucking accident liability.
In this post, we will go over the primary federal law which applies to trucking accidents, and then discuss some of the issues involved in pinning down liability for “unsafe load” incidents. As we will discuss, the primary federal law deals with accidents caused by unsafe loads and includes direct references to load security; however, load security can be compromised by many different things, and so identifying the exact cause of a particular accident can be quite challenging.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a federal agency with the authority to implement rules on traffic safety, regulates the conduct of commercially operated motor vehicles in the trucking industry. The FMCSA recognizes the fact that having a secured load of cargo is immensely vital to promoting optimal safety, and consequently the FMCSA imposes rules regarding cargo security. If a trucker fails to abide these regulations, for any reason, that trucker (or the responsible party) can face substantial penalties. As mentioned, many things can play a role in compromising load security, and so the FMCSA references various types of “failures” which can cause accidents. If a trucker commits one of these “failures,” they may be liable for damages. Here is an incomplete list of failures identified by the FMCSA:
- Failing to secure cargo with satisfactory tie-downs or straps
- Failing to properly balance cargo
- Failing to keep cargo within certain limits, i.e. “overloading” cargo
In addition to these rules regarding failures, the FMCSA also provides rules on how certain equipment must be tested and used. For instance, the FMCSA outlines how steel strapping, ropes, wires, tie-downs, chains, cords, and other materials must be used to remain compliant.
Tracing Liability in Trucking Accidents
As far as liability in these scenarios is concerned, an accident caused by an unsafe or unsecured cargo load can be legally pinned to the driver, but ultimately this is a fact-sensitive issue. Unlike other types of incidents, truck accidents (via unsafe load) are not regulated by a “strict liability” rule, but instead require that negligence be demonstrated. If you’ve been involved in a trucking accident, and the cause may have been an unbalanced or otherwise unsafe load, you should know about the pieces of evidence which can help identify fault. Here are a few factors you should focus on when attempting to determine liability: (1) Driving logs – truckers are required to keep a record of their driving behavior; depending on the circumstances, this may be relevant (i.e. the driver was overworking, etc.); (2) Records relating to how the cargo was loaded or installed (i.e. service records with notes, descriptions, etc.); (3) Visual evidence of poor security (i.e. loose or broken straps, etc.); (4) Expert witnesses, such as engineers; (5) Accident witnesses who can testify regarding load security.
Contact Big River Trial Attorneys for Additional Information
Simply put, if you’ve been involved in a trucking accident caused by an unsafe load, know that you are potentially able to recover for damages. But, as we have discussed, this involves firmly pinning down liability, and that can require collecting various types of evidence. If you’d like to learn more, reach out to one of the professionals today by calling 225-963-9638 or click here to contact a member of our staff.