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Truck Accidents Due to Improper Loading

Written by: Portrait Photo Of Tyrone J. Maho Tyrone J. Maho

Being involved in a commercial truck accident is always dangerous. The total weight of these enormous vehicles vastly increases the likelihood of injuries, particularly if you’re the one who is in a smaller, personal vehicle. To decrease the risk of an accident resulting from an improper load, the U.S. Department of Transportation sets stringent guidelines for the total weight of a commercial truck, including its contents. However, time and again, trucks involved in accidents have been discovered to be improperly loaded. 

If you’ve been injured in a commercial truck accident, it’s possible that improper loading was responsible. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Maho | Prentice, LLC for a free case analysis. With offices serving Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties, our attorneys have successfully represented thousands of accident victims. Call today. 

Truck in traffic

How Improper Loading Can Cause an Accident

There are several ways that improper loading can either cause an accident or increase its severity. First, if the load is too heavy — the maximum gross weight of a commercial vehicle is 80,000 pounds under federal law — it will make the truck much less maneuverable and increase the required stopping distance. 

On the other hand, even a relatively light load that’s not properly secured can cause an accident. For example, cargo shifting around can slam into the side of the trailer, causing the truck to careen or the trailer to overturn. 

Improperly loaded cargo can also break loose and fall from the truck. This is particularly common with open trailers. All or part of the load can fall onto a nearby vehicle or into the road, creating a road hazard. 

Commercial Truck Loading Standards

Weight Limits 

The U.S.D.O.T. has developed standards for the maximum weight of commercial trucks. In California, commercial trucks must adhere to the following limits:

  • Single-Axle Trucks – 20,000 pounds 
  • Tandem-Axle Trucks – 34,000 pounds
  • Three or More Axles – 80,000 pounds

These limits are for the gross weight of the vehicle, including the truck, trailer, and contents. 

Securement Devices 

The DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides guidance for the placement and restraint of cargo, including the use of tie-downs, where they should be placed, and the strength of the materials. 

Placarded Vehicles 

The DOT has numerous regulations for how chemicals can be transported. Additionally, vehicles transporting hazardous materials must display coded placards that are clearly visible to first responders and drivers. 

Proving Improper Loading 

In some accidents, the fact that the truck was improperly loaded is evident. For instance, if a load of timber breaks the restraints and falls into the roadway, it’s not difficult to determine the cause. In other cases, however, it’s not immediately apparent. It’s difficult for crash investigators to determine the gross weight of a vehicle without also being able to weigh the individual pieces of cargo. 

That’s why personal injury attorneys hire professional accident reconstruction experts to determine the cause of the accident. These professionals can also examine the manifests and calculate the weight of the load. In addition, they can look at things like tie-downs and anchor points to determine whether they have conformed to DOT standards. 

Damages in Improper Loading Cases 

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you are entitled to damages. In most cases, you can claim economic and general damages. Economic damages are the monetary costs of your accident: medical bills, lost wages, property damage to your vehicle, etc. General damages are often referred to as “pain and suffering.” These are intangible costs like emotional anguish, physical pain, and loss of physical or mental capacity. A California personal injury lawyer can help you calculate these damages and make a full and fair recovery. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Improper Loading

The following FAQ list is a compilation of questions from our clients and answers from Maho | Prentice attorneys. To have your truck accident questions answered, contact us today. 

How much does a truck accident lawyer cost?

The personal injury attorneys at Maho | Prentice work on a contingency basis, which means that you do not have to pay out of pocket for our legal services. We receive a percentage of your court award or settlement, but only if you recover damages. 

Should I accept an insurance company settlement?

You should not accept any settlement without first speaking with a truck accident lawyer. Insurance companies are notorious for trying to get accident victims to accept an inadequate settlement offer. A Maho | Prentice attorney can negotiate a fair settlement or litigate your case in civil court. 

Santa Barbara Truck Accident Attorneys 

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident due to an improper load, you will have to expend all of your energy working on your physical recovery. Let a Maho | Prentice personal injury lawyer handle the legal aspects of your claim. We will stand by your side until you receive a fair settlement, or we will fight for your rights in a California court of law. With offices in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, we are ready to serve you. Call today!