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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger

Who's at Fault in Spilled Cargo Accidents: Determining Liability

Driving near a commercial truck should be completely safe, but cargo spill accidents injure thousands of people annually.

Truck accidents involving spilled cargo are often extremely dangerous, considering some trucks carry large and heavy objects, hazardous materials, or as much as 80,000 lbs. of goods.

The majority of people injured or killed in truck accidents are drivers or passengers in other vehicles. People facing injuries, medical expenses, and other costs following a truck accident involving a cargo spill may be wondering who is liable and whether or not they have a claim.

It comes down to proving fault. In cargo spills, this is not always simple, as there are various parties who could be responsible just like when trying to determine who's at fault in brake failure accidents.

Possible Liable Parties in a Cargo Spill Accident

Possible Liable Parties in a Cargo Spill Accident

Who's at fault in spilled cargo accidents? The answer is not one-size-fits-all, and it can be hard to tell at first in many cases.

In truck accidents caused or related to cargo spills, the fault can lie with anyone involved in the packaging, loading, securing, or transporting of the goods.

The Truck Driver

In most trucking accidents, the truck driver is the first person assumed to be responsible, even though this is not always the case. That said, there are some situations where truck drivers are liable if their cargo spills and causes an accident.

Drivers are usually expected to perform checks and take precautions to limit the risk of cargo falling. If they failed to do so, they could be found at fault.

This is a complicated issue with many truck accident cases- since there are often third parties involved in loading the cargo, and the truck driver may not have much say in what happens.

What is more common in cases where drivers or commercial trucks are found liable is negligence behind the wheel.

If the truck driver is tired, distracted, under the influence, or simply driving recklessly, and it causes their cargo load to spill, they are likely to carry at least some of the responsibility.

The Trucking Company

Drivers are often under the explicit instruction of the trucking company and are, therefore, not always necessarily to blame when things go wrong.

If the truck company told the driver they were cleared to or pressured them to overlook regulation breaches such as excessive cargo weight or over-extended working hours, there is a case to be made against the employer rather than the employee.

Truck companies are also responsible for properly maintaining their vehicles.

If a malfunction in the securing systems or truck setup causes a cargo spill accident, negligence on the part of the truck company may make them liable.

Third-Party Shipping or Loading Companies

Improper securement is the most common reason for a cargo spill. There are two parts to this:

  • How secure the packaging is

  • How well it is secured on the truck

Depending on where the issue is, the people who packed and shipped the cargo or the cargo loading company could be at fault.

Many trucking companies work with third parties who handle the prepping and shipping of goods to the truck warehouse for delivery.

They don't have anything to do with how the cargo is packaged, so if the securing is fine but a box breaks open and something gets loose, that fault goes beyond the truckers.

Although some truckers have their own loading teams, others work with external partners at loading docks.

If they are in charge the ensuring a secure cargo, but it spills during the journey because of how it was loaded, liability then passes to the loading company.

Local Municipality Governments

If a cargo-related truck accident happened because of poor road conditions, the fault (or part of it) could lie with the municipality responsible for roadway maintenance in that area.

Even a seasoned, focused truck driver could lose control of their vehicle and cargo on a poorly maintained road if a pothole causes a tire blowout or loose stones, chippings, or debris on their route leading to skidding and sliding.

However, a truck accident caused by poor road conditions could still be at least partially someone else's fault. If there is any issue with cargo securement, the person responsible for it shares the blame.

Can Other Drivers Be At Fault in Cargo Spill Truck Accidents?

Many people assume that a passenger vehicle cannot be at fault if there is a truck cargo spill accident, but that is not always true.

According to comparative fault laws in Texas, another driver whose negligence contributes to a truck carrier having a cargo spill can only claim compensation if they carry less than half of the blame.

If a driver suddenly stops for no reason, cuts off a truck on the road, or drives recklessly someone and forces the driver of the truck to make a swift maneuver that puts the cargo under strain, they may not be able to claim compensation at all.

It depends on whether or not there was also an issue with how the cargo was secured, or if their reckless driving alone caused the accident. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also explain what the most common oil rig injury is.

What Compensation Are Truck Accident Victims Entitled To?

What Compensation Are Truck Accident Victims Entitled To?

A truck accident claim works the same as most personal injury claims.

Victims can claim back their expenses for property damage, medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket costs- as well as additional damages to cover the pain and suffering caused by the incident and subsequent injury.

Claims are made against the liable party's insurance company through settlement negotiations. If that doesn't yield a result both sides can agree on, a personal injury lawsuit is then filed, and the decision goes to court.

How Can an Expert Truck Accident Lawyer Help?

Having the support of elite Houston semi accident attorneys like the ones at Schuerger Shunnarah means having a passionate, relentless, and experienced team of experts to back the victims as they seek compensation for their injuries.

Proving fault in a cargo spill accident is often tricky, and the defending insurance company will usually do or say whatever they can to throw victims off and lower the settlement demands.

An attorney is the first line of defense against these tactics and can use their advanced legal knowledge to get clients the settlement they deserve.


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