In the early June 2013, a Salt Lake City motorcycle squad police officer suffered broken bones and road rash after he was involved in an accident because of debris in the road. Other officers who were travelling with him and witnessed the accident described the officer as lucky to have escaped with as little damage as he sustained, given the speeds they were driving and the size of the object he struck. The officer's accident demonstrates the threat that vehicles traveling with improperly secured loads pose to other Utah drivers.
Utah auto accidents resulting from debris
According to the Utah Highway Patrol, about 25,000 auto accidents occur annually due to litter or debris on the road. About 700 motor vehicle accidents stemming from debris in the roads happen each year in Utah alone. Utah Highway Patrol statistics also show that five of those auto accidents have resulted in fatalities in the past five years.
Utah Department of Transportation officials report that improperly secured items falling from vehicles is a more common occurrence than people may think. UDOT workers remove a wide variety of items from the state's roads on a daily basis, including washing machines, entertainment centers, toys, recliners and barbeque grills.
Commercial vehicles frequent source of debris
While UDOT officials note that items fall from all kinds of vehicles, the most common offenders are large commercial vehicles that routinely haul large loads. Improperly secured loads on commercial vehicles can lead to serious accidents. Items can fly off of vehicles when the load is not secured properly, either directly hitting smaller passenger vehicles behind the truck or creating obstacles around which other drivers need to maneuver.
The cargo can shift within the vehicle when the driver fails to properly secure the load. When loads shift unexpectedly, it affects the balance and maneuverability of the vehicle. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, and the force of a shifting load can cause a semi to jackknife or roll over when turning or going around curves.
Recovering for losses
Federal regulations require commercial vehicle drivers to inspect their cargo prior to driving to ensure that their loads are distributed properly and secured safely. Despite the laws, many drivers still drive with cargo that is not secured properly - and other drivers on the road pay the price.
Those who have been involved in auto accidents resulting from debris falling from a truck have options. They may choose to pursue a lawsuit to recover for their medical bills, lost wages, loss of quality of life and loss of enjoyment of life. If you have been injured in an accident caused by an improperly secured load, speak with a lawyer with experience handling these complex cases prior to accepting any settlement offers the trucking company or insurance company may make. These companies often make settlement offers that are far less than what accident victims actually need to make up for their losses, so it is important to have the assistance of a skilled attorney looking out for your best interests.