Who is responsible when a truck's load falls?

The semi-trucks and big rigs that you see driving through Walker carry a good number of the products that allow you to enjoy daily living. In your home or on the store shelf, these singular items may pose no threat whatsoever. However, stacked alongside thousands of duplicate and companion items, these can become dangerous (even deadly) projectiles in the event of an accident. Sometimes, they may even be the cause of a truck accident themselves. The question then becomes who is responsible for the security of such a load: the trucker transporting it or the motor carrier contracted to deliver it? 

Some may say neither. In many cases, a semi-truck's load is packed, secured and sealed by a separate shipping company. Knowing this, you might assume that the shipper is held liable if the load comes undone during delivery. However, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, only in rare cases would a shipping company share liability for a load failure. Primary responsibility for its safety is shared between the motor carrier and the driver. 

If it was indeed a load failure that led to your accident, you can choose to pursue a liability claim against the motor carrier. However, said company may be able to absolve itself from liability if it shows it conducted approved safety inspections prior to delivery. Per the FMCSA, these include: 

  • Supervising shipping company employees during the load to ensure compliance
  • Obtaining notarized verification that cargo was properly loaded
  • Breaking shipping seals prior to delivery to inspect the load's safety 

If the motor carrier shows that it performed such inspections, liability might then fall solely to the truck driver. His or her recklessness immediately prior to your accident might simply confirm that the load failure was his or her fault. 

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