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Who Is Responsible for an Unsecured Load Accident?

Posted on October 31, 2022

Every year, hundreds of traffic accidents involving large commercial trucks are reported to law enforcement in Alabama. While most of these accidents are vehicle-to-vehicle collisions between trucks and passenger vehicles, some involve unsecured cargo and lost loads. If a tractor-trailer loses its cargo in transit and a victim gets injured or dies as a result, one or more parties could be held responsible.

The Trucking Company

The first possibility of defendant in an unsecured load accident claim is the trucking company. Trucking companies (also known as motor carriers) and their employees have to obey specific rules and requirements related to cargo, as enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These rules include cargo securement regulations that are in place due to the dangerous nature of carrying cargo in a closed or open-bed truck.

Some trucks weigh 80,000 pounds or more because of the loads that they carry. It is imperative for a truck’s cargo to be loaded and secured properly to prevent it from shifting or falling out of the truck. Federal load securement rules entail special regulations for hazardous materials (hazmat) to protect the safety of the general public. They also list the specific securement systems, tiedowns and anchor points that must be used to reduce the risk of a load becoming unsecured in transit.

If a motor carrier or one of its workers does not comply with federal cargo securement rules, the cargo may shift in the bed of the truck or fall free. A shift in the weight distribution of the cargo in transit could throw the truck off balance and cause a rollover or jackknife accident, where the truck driver loses control of the 18-wheeler. Cargo falling free could bounce into the road and strike other vehicles.

The Truck Driver

A truck driver could be found at fault for an accident caused by an unsecured load if the driver contributed to the accident through an act of negligence. An example is a truck driver who failed to safely operate the big rig, causing the load to shift in the bed of the truck and a crash to occur. If the truck driver used the incorrect braking method or yanked the steering wheel, for instance, this could lead to a lost cargo load even if the cargo was properly loaded and secured.

A trucking company can be held responsible for the errors of its truck drivers through the rule of vicarious liability. This law states that an employer will speak for its employee in a liability claim when the employee has been negligent. Although many truck drivers are classified as independent contractors and not employees, federal laws hold trucking companies vicariously liable anyway.

Third Parties

If the trucking company or one of its employees is not directly responsible for an unsecured load accident, liability could go to a third party. A third party is someone who was not directly involved in the truck accident or present at the scene but that still contributed to the crash. An example is the cargo company that employed the individual or team that loaded the truck. Another example is the broker that arranged for the truck to carry the cargo in the first place.

What to Do After a Lost Cargo Load Accident

After a large truck’s cargo load becomes unsecured and causes an accident in Alabama, an investigation will be launched to determine the source of the cargo issue. Lost cargo loads can be traced back to improperly loaded truck beds, unbalanced loads, incorrect securement procedures, loose tiedowns, unsecured trailer doors, missing or broken latches, or the failure to properly inspect a load before driving. Liability for a truck accident will be assigned to one or more parties based on the mechanics of the lost load accident.

If you need assistance determining liability for your unsecured load accident in Alabama, contact a truck accident lawyer for help.