Overweight and Overloaded Truck Accidents & Victims' Legal Rights
Trucks that carry too much cargo pose challenges that even experienced truck drivers may not be able to overcome. Overloading a truck creates several risks, such as:
Causing a truck to increase speed when descending a hill
Shifting to the rear and affecting steering
Raising the center of gravity of a truck, potentially leading to a rollover
Increasing pressure on tires, potentially leading to a tire blowout
Causing the truck to tilt if it hits a bump in the road
Preventing a driver from calculating stopping distance accurately, which can cause rear-end accidents
Causing cargo to fall onto the roadway, which can lead to secondary accidents as other drivers swerve to avoid the hazard
Recognizing the dangers posed by overweight trucks, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and state agencies have imposed restrictions on loads. However, some trucking companies and truck drivers violate these rules in an effort to transport their cargo as efficiently as possible. Weigh stations at various locations on highways aim to enforce compliance with the regulations, but these have achieved limited results. Since weigh stations conduct inspections randomly, many overweight trucks escape detection. When weigh stations catch an overweight truck, moreover, the driver may be allowed to go back on the road after receiving a ticket. This means that occupants of passenger cars around them remain at risk.
Legal Rights After Accidents Involving Overweight or Overloaded Trucks
If a truck driver, a trucking company, or a third-party loader places too much cargo on a truck, they can be held liable for a resulting accident. A victim would need to prove that the crash directly resulted from the excessive weight of the truck. Proving liability may be straightforward in cases in which the defendant violated industry regulations. This strongly suggests that they failed to use reasonable care, which is the core of a personal injury claim. In some cases, violating a regulation may lead to an automatic finding that a defendant was negligent. The victim would need to show that they suffered the type of harm that the regulation was meant to prevent, and they were among the group of people whom the regulation was meant to protect. They still would need to show that the excessive weight of the truck caused the accident.
Even if a trucking company was not directly at fault for an accident, it can be held liable for careless actions by an employee driver while they were on the job. This can help maximize the compensation that a victim receives.
A victim may be able to get both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages account for financial losses arising from the accident, such as medical bills, lost income, and property damage or loss. If a victim suffered catastrophic injuries that will require future medical treatment or reduce their earning capacity, they can recover compensation for these costs as well. Non-economic damages cover intangible forms of harm, such as the subjective pain and suffering that the victim endured. If their injuries prevent them from participating in activities that were important to them, they may recover damages for lost enjoyment of life.
Personal injury lawsuits must be filed within a certain time provided by state law. This is known as the statute of limitations. If a victim does not bring their claim within the statute of limitations, they may face dismissal even if they have strong evidence that the truck driver or trucking company was at fault. Meanwhile, evidence of liability may disappear if a victim does not take action promptly, making their case more challenging to prove. As soon as possible after an accident, therefore, a victim should hire a lawyer who can gather evidence, identify the appropriate defendants, and get the legal process started.
Some people worry about paying for an attorney, especially if they are already facing heavy financial burdens after an accident. However, truck accident lawyers typically handle their cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that they get paid only as a percentage of the compensation obtained for a client.