Overweight/ Unsafe Roads Truck Accidents
Truck crashes in the U.S. every year cause nearly 4,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries. Part of the reason these crashes are so devastating is because of the sheer size of these vehicles.
Although the federal government allows a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of 80,000 pounds, many truck collisions resulting in catastrophic injuries or fatalities occur due to a driver’s loss of control of an overweight, overloaded or improperly-loaded vehicle. These irresponsible commercial carriers not only imperil their own drivers, they put us all at risk by degrading road quality, as many roadways were not designed to support such heavy loads.
The Fort Lauderdale truck injury lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm know that when regulations regarding overloading and weight limits are violated and result in a serious crash, those injured may seek damages via a civil lawsuit.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets the limits on trucking weights and allows for the following:
- Single Axle: 20,000 pounds
- Tandem Axle: 34,000 pounds
- Gross Vehicle Weight: 80,000 pounds
In some cases, the “Bridge Formula Weights,” introduced in 1975 to minimize damage to highway bridges, may require more axles or a longer wheelbase to help compensate for increased vehicle weight. In some cases, the formula could require lower gross vehicle weight.
It’s worth pointing out that even trucks meeting legal weight standards pose a risk. Research from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found a strong statistical link between higher weights and an increased risk of truck-related traffic deaths. In fact, when a truck’s weight increases from 65,000 pounds to 80,000 pounds, the risk of an accident resulting in death increases 50 percent.
Weigh stations are located along many points on our national highways, and truckers are expected to make good use of them along their routes in order to ensure they haven’t gone over the ceiling gross vehicle weight rating for their rig.
But sometimes, even when the station indicates the vehicle is overweight, truckers don’t lighten their loads. Trucking companies put an enormous amount of pressure on truckers to deliver as many goods to customers as quickly as possible. A lightened load may be a setback, and companies aren’t eager to incur any loss of revenue.
When they do this, they are essentially placing profits over people. Those who suffer injuries as a result have a right to pursue compensation.How Overweight Trucks Cause Accidents
One of the first ways overweight trucks are dangerous is that the truck’s performance is going to be affected. That means even an experienced driver can be caught off guard or have difficulty maneuvering.
For example, a semi-truck that is overloaded is going to travel down hills much faster than what the driver might normally expect. That’s going to mean the driver needs additional time to brake safely – time he or she may not have.
Alternatively, a vehicle that exceeds its weight limits is going to be more susceptible to tire blowout, steering control loss or rollover.
Another way these vehicles can be dangerous is that when a load is not distributed properly, cargo is more likely to shift in transit. When a truck is thrown off-balance, it’s more likely to tip, jackknife or swerve into other lanes or oncoming traffic – all of which are likely to result in a multi-vehicle crash.
Similarly, if a load on a large truck isn’t secured properly, there is a serious potential for items to fall off the back. This can cause a crash or, at the very least, damage to someone else’s vehicle.
Trucks must be loaded evenly so that no single axle bears a disproportionate amount of weight that could throw the truck off-balance.Holding Truck Drivers, Companies and Insurers Accountable
Victims of accidents resulting from overweight, overloaded or improperly-loaded trucks may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, pain and suffering, emotional distress, property damage and other costs.
Exact amounts of compensation are going to vary depending on the details of the case, including any violations of law on the truck driver’s part and any contributory negligence on the part of the passenger car driver.
Generally, in order to prevail in a truck accident case, plaintiffs will need to show:
- Plaintiff was owed a duty of care by defendant
- Defendant breached that duty
- Defendant’s breach caused or substantially contributed to an accident
- Victim suffered damages as a result
Establishing each element can be a complex matter considering truck accident plaintiffs are usually dealing with more than one defendant because of the way the trucking industry is structured. Drivers are typically independent contractors, which means the company has to be sued separately, and that could be a different entity than the carrier, which could be separate from the owner of the tractor and the owner of the trailer. On top of that, you’ll likely be dealing with multiple insurance companies and multiple commercial liability policies.
Still, it’s important to pursue this kind of action because unless drivers and trucking companies that flout the rules are held accountable, we will all remain at risk.