Loose Loads, Falling Cargo and Road Debris Put Texas Drivers at Risk
August 13th, 2017
Most drivers have found themselves following a commercial truck stacked with bouncing iron rods or a family pick-up stacked precariously with furniture and prepared for the worst, imagining the damage that could occur if a cascade of metal or Grandma’s couch struck their vehicle on a busy highway. Those concerns are real, but the dangers extend much further.
When loads aren’t properly secured or vehicles aren’t properly maintained, even relatively small objects can cause serious injury or death.
Recent Texas Fatalities
In the past year alone, several Texas drivers have been killed by flying debris on the road, including:
• A 36-year-old Houston man who was killed when a wheel fell from a light truck traveling in the opposite direction and sliced through the SUV he was driving
• A LaPorte driver who was killed when a piece of metal road debris struck him in the neck while he was driving on State Highway 146
• A 33-year-old Bryan, Texas mother who was killed when a piece of iron fell from a truck and smashed through the windshield of the vehicle she was riding in
Road Debris Can Kill
While the highest-profile accidents involve flying materials, loose items that have landed in the road can be just as dangerous. A recent study conducted by AAA uncovered more than 200,000 crashes involving road debris across a four-year period. About 39,000 drivers and passengers were injured in those accidents, and more than 500 were killed.
The researchers also concluded that more than 60% of these debris-related crashes resulted from improper vehicle maintenance, improperly secured loads, or unsecured loads. In other words, proper vehicle maintenance and securing of loads could eliminate most road debris-related injuries and deaths.
37% of road debris accidents occur when a driver swerves to avoid debris in the road. Safety measures to help avoid this type of accident and other debris-related accidents include:
• Surveying the road about 15 seconds ahead of you so that you’ll have plenty of time to safely adjust if there is debris in the road
• Following loaded commercial and personal vehicles at a safe distance
• Changing lanes and distancing yourself from any vehicle with a load that appears precarious
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) also requests that you call the Department’s hotline at 800-525-5555 to report debris in the road, so that corrective action can be taken before an accident occurs. This number is also printed on the back of your Texas driver’s license.
All drivers have a duty to secure their load so that it does not fall and become a hazard. When the vehicle dropping a load or releasing flying debris is a commercial truck, other parties may share responsibility such as the company that loaded the truck and/or the driver’s employer.
However, establishing liability in a road debris case may be difficult. Often, the injured party doesn’t see the vehicle responsible, as the debris has fallen into the roadway earlier and the truck is no longer in the area. In other cases, the drive may see the truck as the accident occurs, but be unable to conclusively identify the vehicle or driver in the aftermath of a jarring, fast-moving event.
Hire and Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
An experienced lawyer who handles commercial motor vehicle accidents can put investigators on the job to try to identify the truck that dropped the debris. The longer you wait to get a lawyer involved, the harder it is going to be to identify the proper parties. Working with an experienced commercial truck accident lawyer from the beginning can improve your chances of identifying the responsible parties and gathering the evidence you need to pursue the compensation you deserve. If you have suffered an injury as a result of another driver failing to secure their load, take action by an attorney who handles commercial motor vehicle cases today.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, AttorneyAt Work.com and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on Texas and National Dog Bite Law.