Truck accidents have received greater attention by Ohio personal injury lawyers because they are increasing in numbers and often lead to devastating injuries. In an effort to better serve our clients who sustain catastrophic injury or wrongful death from a truck accident, I recently joined the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America (APITLA), a group of trial attorneys dedicated to representing clients injured by interstate semi tractors and other large trucks. APITLA’s most recent magazine, The Lawyer’s Logbook, addresses injuries from loose cargo.
This topic reminded me of a lawsuit that I handled involving a truck driver who sustained a crush injury to his hand when a forklift operator negligently knocked a large steel coil off of the driver’s flatbed trailer onto the driver. Though lucky that he was not killed, the crush injury permanently deformed the driver’s hand. The injuries prevented the driver from returning to work in the trucking field and left him with a permanent pain syndrome.
The Lawyer’s Logbook article was written by two engineers. It addresses proper securement of cargo for long-haul transportation. According to the authors, citing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, “7 percent of serious trucking accidents nationwide were recorded to have cargo shift or cargo securement as a factor associated with the accident.” The most common scenario is when the securing components – tie-downs, tightening devices, blocking, shoring bars, chocks, cradles or anchors – break or are not used properly. Additional factors that affect the securing components include speeding, hard braking, worn components and using components that are not rated for the particular use. And, as my client experienced, loading and unloading pose particular hazards.
The Code of Federal Regulations contains numerous standards relating to interstate trucking, including proper cargo securement. Likewise, the Ohio Administrative Code regulates trucking on Ohio’s roads, including transportation of oversized loads and other cargo-related standards. These regulations seek to prevent falling cargo during transport and other cargo-related accidents.
Cargo-related accidents are unique in several respects. First, cargo adds weight. Weight changes the dynamics of truck operation both in terms of stopping distances and cornering. Second, when cargo gets loose, it can travel well beyond the usual lane of travel thereby injuring oncoming, surrounding and pedestrian traffic. Third, these accidents require an understanding of the federal and state regulatory framework as well as trucking industry standards. As a trucking lawyer handling these types of cases, I may consult experts in accident reconstruction, transportation standards and material strength to prove how the truck accident occurred and who is responsible.
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