There is certainly no shortage of commercial trucks on the highways around Columbia. When you pull onto Interstate 20 or Interstate 77 at certain times, it feels like you are surrounded by an endless line of tractor trailers. The Columbia region is a main thoroughfare for many companies that ship goods up and down the east coast. Unfortunately, all too often these truck cause very serious accidents. In fact, large commercial trucks are responsible for a disproportionate share of accidents that lead to severe injuries. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 67 fatal truck accidents in South Carolina in the year 2014 alone. There were thousands more truck accidents in the state that caused injuries. Further, due to the immense size of tractor trailers, occupants of other vehicles usually sustain the brunt of an accident. NHTSA data indicates that 75 percent of all truck accidents deaths happen to people that were in another smaller car. We are all forced to put a lot of faith in the owners and operators of large commercial trucks. Unfortunately, far too often, these parties let us down. While tractor trailer accidents can occur for a wide variety of reasons, one common, and alarming, cause is that improper loading of trailers. When companies fail to properly load their trucks, or when they overload their trucks, they are putting the safety of everyone else on the road in jeopardy.

Four Signs of an Improperly Loaded Trailer

Owners and operators of commercial trucks are required to follow strict safety regulations. These regulations apply to many different specific situations, including to the loading of cargo. In 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released additional updates to these rules. This is good news, as an improperly loaded truck is at a much higher risk of overturning. Additionally, researchers have found that overloaded trucks require significantly more braking distance to come to a safe stop. An overloaded truck is a danger to every other driver on the road. You need to avoid these trucks whenever possible. However, determining which trucks are improperly loaded can be very difficult for the untrained eye. While you can never always be sure, this list of four tips can help:

  1. Watch for cargo that is uncovered: Uncovered cargo, specifically cargo that is seemingly spilling out of the trailer, is often an indicator that the truck has not been properly loaded. First, there is always a risk that this cargo go actually fall off of the back of the truck. When this occurs, the flying cargo can cause serious damage to the surrounding cars. Further, in the event that the uncovered cargo appears to be overloaded, there is a good chance that the truck is simply too heavy to be on the road.
  2. Look at the tires: A tractor trailer’s tires and mud flaps can sometimes be used to spot a vehicle that is too heavy. A commercial truck’s tires should always be properly inflated. Overly worn or under inflated tires are dangerous. Bad tires put everyone at risk. If you see tires on a truck seem ‘squished’ down, there may be a problem. If you see mud flaps that are nearly touching the road, you are likely looking at an overloaded truck. This truck may have trouble breaking in time to avoid an accident.
  3. Watch for a truck having trouble on a small hill: Certainly, even properly loaded trucks are pulling a lot of weight. Still, trucks should not have trouble getting over the hills on a highway. If it looks like a truck is having an unusually hard time on a hill, that means that something is likely wrong with that vehicle. In many cases, the problem is simply that the trailer is too heavy. The operators of that truck are pushing the vehicle well past its limits. As such, they are also pushing it past the limits of safe operation.
  4. Trust your gut: Finally, it is important to note that it is always difficult to spot every improperly loaded truck. The vast majority of trucks we run into in the modern world have fully covered trailers. Inside of that covered trailer, the cargo should be the appropriate weight and it should be properly balanced. We have no choice but to place some faith in the truck operators to follow their legal duties. However,, if something seems ‘off’ about a particular truck, please do your best to avoid that vehicle.

Who is Liable for an Improperly Loaded Truck?

Injury claims for accidents caused by improperly loaded trucks are often especially complex. As a general rule, the party who was responsible for failing to properly load the truck can be held liable for the accident. In your case, that may be:

  • The company that owns the truck;
  • The company that employs the truck driver;
  • The company that was leasing the truck; or
  • Any other party that contributed to the improper loading.

An Experienced Columbia Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help

Ultimately, you will need a lawyer by your side immediately after an accident. Your lawyer will comprehensively investigate your case in order to determine your best path toward full and fair compensation. Specifically, your truck accident lawyer will:

  • Ensure that you received adequate medical treatment and that your injuries are properly documented;
  • Consult with accident recreation professionals to determine how the truck’s improper load contributed to your accident;
  • Use subpoenas and other legal tools to seek important information from responsible companies, including: vehicle maintenance records, trailer inspection records, electronic recording data and information about when and how the truck was loaded;
  • Review the case to make sure that the companies complied with all safety regulations; and
  • Work with the insurance company to ensure that you receive a full and fair settlement offer.

Contact Our Office Today

At Joye Law Firm, our aggressive truck accident lawyers have helped many injured victims recover compensation for their damages. Our team is dedicated to helping you get every penny that you deserve. If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries in a Columbia area truck accident, please contact our team as soon as possible. We will offer will review your accident free of charge, with no strings attached. Let our team help you.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

Recent Blog Post
What to do in South Carolina events for the week of April 16-22 for Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Summerville and Upstate.
What to Do in South Carolina: Joye Law Firm Staff Picks 4/16/24-4/22/24

    Spring is in full swing in South Carolina, and with it comes many exciting events and festivals to enjoy. The team at Joye Law Firm has handpicked a selection of activities happening this week that are sure to…

Image of a police car with its sirens and lights on
Can I Sue if I’m Hit by an Ambulance or Police Car?

Auto accidents involving emergency vehicles such as ambulances or police cars can be complex and fraught with legal implications. If you are hit by one of these vehicles, you may wonder about your rights and whether you can pursue legal…

Joye Law Firm Staff Picks: What to do in South Carolina April 9 - 15, 2024 Events for Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Summerville, and Clinton
What to Do in South Carolina: Joye Law Firm Staff Picks 4/9/24-4/15/24

As spring blooms across the Palmetto State, South Carolina is buzzing with a vibrant array of events and festivals. From music and sports celebrations to community fundraisers, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Here’s a glimpse of the upcoming events…

Image of lawyers reviewing paperwork
Can I Get the At-Fault Party to Pay My Attorney Fees?

While you may pay a retainer or hourly fee for legal representation in many civil or criminal cases, personal injury claims often have a different arrangement called a contingency fee agreement. This helps you get legal services upfront without paying…

Awards & Recognition
Media
ABC
NBC
Fox
CBS News