The Ever-present Danger of Falling Debris from Commercial Vehicles
Commercial trucking-related road wrecks are hardly infrequent occurrences here in Maryland. With the number of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) operating on public roadways around the state and in counties such as Frederick, Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Prince George's the potential threat to the safety of drivers and other occupants in much smaller passenger cars can be quite high. In fact, an overwhelming percentage of victims who are killed in trucking-related highway accidents are those people riding in family sedans, minivans, economy cars and even large sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
As Baltimore personal injury lawyers and experienced Maryland commercial trucking accident attorneys, the legal team at Lebowitz &Mzhen, LLC, is dedicated to assisting victims of negligence-related traffic collisions. Whether the cause is driver inattention, poor vehicle maintenance or improper cargo loading, our legal training and litigation experience allows us to fight for those motorists and pedestrians who have been seriously hurt in a beltway or interstate trucking accident. We can also assist families who have lost a loved one in a tragic roadway wreck by filing a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties.
Some individuals may ask whether there is any hope to sue a trucking company or other large transportation firm which is part of a $500+ billion industry. We know that while the trucking industry has a great deal of resources, the law is designed to give the injured victims of negligent acts a voice in courtrooms all across our state. We fully understand that these large companies employ skilled attorneys of their own, which is why we are committed to vigorously fighting for our clients in cases of serious personal injury and wrongful death.
While there is no doubt that trucking accidents have become, and will likely continue to be, a sad and unfortunate aspect of modern life and what is surely a fast-paced and mobile society, there is no reason why any person who is badly hurt as a result of another driver’s thoughtless or outright negligent act must bear the burden of his or her medical expenses brought on by another driver. Thousands of innocent people throughout Maryland are injured or killed each year as a result of collisions from tractor-trailers, city buses, gasoline tanker trucks, construction machinery and other large commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The sheer bulk and mass of these vehicles is why we have state and federal laws regulating the ownership, maintenance and operation of these huge vehicles.
One of the more obvious causes of traffic wrecks on Maryland beltways and surface streets involve the loss of cargo or other falling debris from a commercial vehicle. As motorists ourselves, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen understands the variety of hazards and outright dangers that can be encountered on a daily basis on our state’s roadways. Almost every seasoned driver, at some time in his or her life, has either narrowly missed being in an accident due to falling debris, or has witnessed the aftermath of such an event.
Whether a large piece of cargo falls from a flatbed tractor-trailer onto the highway, or a piece of machinery is lost off the back of a commercial pickup truck, that unexpected obstacle suddenly appearing in the road ahead can be startling to the average motorist. Injuries can occur following a collision with an actual piece of debris, or from a collision with another motor vehicle whose driver is attempting to maneuver around the errant item. Whatever the initial cause, the result can be a trip to the local emergency room and days, weeks or months in the hospital trying to recover from one’s injuries.
In most instances, if an item falls from a trailer be it a large, heavy container from an 18-wheeler, a car or truck sliding off the back of an auto hauler, or simply a riding lawnmower rolling off a landscaping trailer more than likely it was improperly secured to begin with. Such events on can be especially serious for any motorist traveling behind a truck that loses a piece of equipment or some other large item.
The seriousness of these kinds of situations can be made even worse in cases where the traffic is very dense or when the cars and trucks are traveling at a high rate of speed, such as on interstates or beltways. When material or cargo is not secured to a truck or trailer in a safe manner, the falling debris may result in a catastrophic and potentially fatal accident.
Thanks to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act, as well as other federal and state commercial motor vehicle laws, most trucking companies and commercial drivers are careful to maintain a safe operating condition for their vehicles. Regardless, however, there continue to be instances where truck cargo is carried dangerously unsecured, which can later cause some or all of the items to spill onto the roadway and into the path of travel of other unsuspecting motorists.
When debris such as loose gravel, dirt, rocks, lumber, pieces of steel, broken concrete, bricks or landscaping stone, as well as barrels containing hazardous chemicals or petroleum products becomes spilled onto a Maryland roadway, the resulting traffic accident may pose an extremely dangerous situation for many of the cars traveling immediately behind the truck. It is typically the duty of the truck driver and/or the trucking company to ensure that there are no defects in cargo hold-downs or containers that hold the cargo.
When cargo is left unsecured on a commercial truck or semi tractor-trailer, even those materials that are not inherently dangerous can pose a threat if the load falls from the CMV at high speeds or onto a darkened roadway at night. Numerous trucking-related wrecks have been known to be caused by improper loading or incorrect securing of cargo. Depending on the situation, a canvas tarp or other, sturdier material is often necessary to prevent loose material from leaving the truck or trailer.
While it may take some extreme situation to cause debris to fall from a truck, other circumstances can hasten the process and possibly cause a serious injury accident or highway fatality. Truck driver negligence has been known in the past to lead to a severe traffic accident due to the loss of cargo from a moving commercial vehicle. Instances of driver negligence can include:
- Exceeding the posted speed limit
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Lack of sleep or extreme driver fatigue
- Texting on a cell phone
- Checking email on a smartphone
- Distracted driving
- Talking with a passenger
One of the best methods for motorists to avoid being involved in a trucking-related accident caused by falling debris or loose cargo is to maintain a 200-foot following distance between their passenger car and the CMV ahead of them. Unfortunately, the dense traffic conditions found around Baltimore, the District of Columbia, and other major population centers do not always allow for such a margin of safety; even the most conscientious drivers may not be able to avoid a lost load of loose gravel or other items debris when rush hour traffic is moving at highway speeds.
It is important to remember that commercial freight companies, such as those maintaining fleets of 18-wheeler big rigs that transport goods all around Maryland and our nation’s capital, can also be held responsible for the negligent acts of their employees. This includes the truck driver who operates a CMV, as well as any third-party that loads a truck prior to departure. Those parties those whose action or inaction contributed to the falling debris or lost cargo can be held liable for a variety of monetary damages sustained by the victim and/or his family, including:
- Medical and surgical expenses
- Lost wages due to hospitalization
- Future lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
When it comes to injuries or deaths resulting from the negligent actions of commercial truck drivers or the companies that employ them, the legal experts at Lebowitz & Mzhen make it their job to help victims and their families recover damages due to them under Maryland state law. We believe it is unacceptable for any commercial trucker or trucking company to blatantly ignore the safety rules and requirements set forth by our state and federal governments.
Whether a traffic wreck involving a CMV comes from reckless driving behavior, careless vehicle maintenance, or outright negligence on the part of the driver or the commercial transportation company who owns the vehicle or employs the driver, we are ready and willing to assist the innocent victims of that accident. Our personal injury lawyers understand commercial trucking laws as well as Maryland’s insurance statutes. If you or someone you love has been seriously hurt in a trucking-related collision, please take a moment to phone us at our toll-free number: (800) 654-1949. We will be happy to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. You may also send us an email, either to Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to arrange an initial consultation to discuss the specifics of your commercial trucking accident.