Large, unusually shaped cargoes travel along US highways and roads on flatbed trucks. These vehicles present a useful alternative to enclosed trucks due to the flexibility offered by their open sides. However, anyone operating a flatbed must take care to secure the cargo on the truck so that it does not slide in transit. Shifting weight caused by unstable cargo can result in rollover accidents or jackknife accidents as the truck driver loses control of the flatbed. Even if the driver maintains control, unsecured cargo on a flatbed can fall off the truck. The falling cargo may strike a passenger car or may cause secondary accidents as drivers around the flatbed swerve to avoid the obstacle.
A driver must understand how to operate these distinctive vehicles, and they must comply with federal and state regulations governing their activities. Many flatbed truck drivers lack adequate experience. Some trucking companies may hire unqualified drivers or fail to ensure that their drivers are properly trained in handling flatbeds before they go out on the road. In other cases, a driver may get behind the wheel while they are sleep-deprived or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Flatbed truck accidents also may occur when a flatbed is not regularly maintained and inspected for problems between trips.
Compensation for Injuries Caused by Flatbed Truck Accidents
Unfortunately, anyone in a passenger car struck by a flatbed or its cargo may suffer devastating injuries. Some of these crashes take the form of override accidents in which the truck runs over the car, potentially shearing off the top and crushing the vehicle. Underride accidents in which a car slides under the flatbed also can occur. If a truck driver or a trucking company caused a flatbed accident through their careless conduct, a victim or the family of a deceased victim likely can recover compensation.
An investigation of a crash may reveal violations of specific rules controlling the operation of flatbeds. This would provide strong evidence that a defendant was at fault and should be liable for damages. Showing that a violation caused an accident even may result in an automatic finding of fault if:
The victim was the type of person whom the law or regulation was meant to protect
The harm caused by the violation was the type of harm that the law or regulation was meant to prevent
Victims of truck accidents usually think first about suing the driver, but trucking companies often can be held liable for errors or violations by their employees, even if the company did nothing wrong. This principle of vicarious liability applies as long as the driver was acting in the course and scope of the employment relationship when they caused the crash. An experienced truck accident lawyer can review the events leading to the accident and make sure to sue all the appropriate parties. This can help maximize a compensation award, especially if there are multiple victims with serious injuries. A trucking company likely will be better positioned than an individual driver to pay a large settlement or judgment.
Some people worry about the cost of hiring an attorney to pursue a legal claim, but truck accident attorneys usually work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they collect their fee as a percentage of the damages awarded to a victim, rather than charging upfront fees. The percentage may vary depending on the stage that a lawsuit reaches and the tasks completed by the attorney.