What to Do After a Washington State Truck Cargo Spill Accident

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Kirkland and Bothell Truck Accident Attorney Explains the Perils of Cargo Spills

Cargo spill accidents are unlike any other type of tractor-trailer accident in Washington State. Not only do they cause different types of dangers on the road, but they’re also often the result of a unique set of circumstances. Imagine rounding a corner on a highway or interstate and suddenly seeing that the entire roadway is blocked with boxes, products, or other cargo—and there’s no time to avoid the hazard. Or the semi-truck in front of you suddenly swerves, loses control and jackknifes, and its trailer contents fly into your path or crash through your windshield.  

As you can tell from these scenarios, truck cargo spill accidents can be terrifying, traumatic, and unavoidable. They can also lead to extensive property damage and serious injury or even death. Consequently, these claims require a truck accident attorney who understands their complexities. If you or a loved one needs help, call Max Meyers Law for a free consultation to learn more about your case and if you deserve compensation. 

How Truck Cargo Spill Accidents Happen  

Large commercial vehicles carry vast amounts of freight across the U.S. How much? A 2023 report from the American Trucking Associations indicates approximately 11 billion tons each year.  Simply by the law of averages, cargo spills are bound to happen. Here are some of the most common reasons why. 

Poorly Secured Load 

There are federal cargo securement regulations that all trucking companies must follow. These mandates minimize the chance that loads will shift during transport, possibly causing loss of control, an accident, or a spill. These regulations also stipulate loading guidelines that keep freight secure in the event of a collision. If an accident is caused by an improperly secured load, the fleet firm or cargo loading company may be responsible for damages. 

Improper Loading 

In addition to securing a load incorrectly, crews can also load freight onto a truck incorrectly. For example, if cargo is loaded into a trailer with heavier items packed at the top, this raises the center of gravity and makes the vehicle susceptible to tip-over and roll-over accidents. This is a particular hazard if a truck driver swerves suddenly, makes a sharp turn, or speeds. Improperly loaded cargo can also cause an accident in weather conditions like high winds. 

Overloaded Truck 

Washington State also has specific truck weight regulations to ensure roadway safety. These regulations outline which vehicles are allowed to carry certain types of freight and how much. Overloaded trucks are more likely to roll over, jacknife, or lose control on steep grades. 

Truck Operator Error 

Some cargo spills result from driver mistakes and are largely unrelated to the freight. These errors may be due to:

  • Speeding
  • Reckless behavior
  • Fatigued driving
  • Exceeding trucking hours of service regulations
  • Drugged or drunk driving
  • Improper training or licensing 
  • Distracted driving

Mechanical Failure 

Too heavy, improperly loaded, or unsecured cargo could lead to a mechanical issue, such as a tire blowout or brake failure. Commercial trucks can also sustain a crash due to a defective part or product or a lack of proper truck maintenance. 

Who’s at Fault for Truck Cargo Spill Accidents? Semi-truck with cargo strapped on indicating potential cargo spill

We stress to all of our clients that you can’t always determine the primary cause of a commercial truck accident even if you watched it from all angles. Why? Because it can be impossible to tell just from the accident if the trucking firm or another third-party company is following all rules and regulations. There are numerous possibilities of negligence in truck cargo spill accidents—here are just a few. 

Fleet Company 

If the trucking company failed to follow weight or securement regulations or properly vet or train its driver, it could ultimately be at fault for any subsequent accident. It might also be held responsible for your accident damages if it didn’t properly maintain the vehicle.  

Truck Operator

The trucker could be at fault for breaking traffic laws, company rules, and federal and state commercial driving regulations. 

Loading Crew Company 

In some cases, a separate company loaded and secured cargo. If its crew didn’t follow the requirements to execute the job properly and a truck accident occurred, it could be found liable for personal injury and property damages.

Another Driver

It’s important to note that truck cargo spill accidents are sometimes the fault of another driver. For example, a motorist could slam into the side of a tractor-trailer, causing it to tip onto its side and spill contents. 

Third Party

A cargo spill could also be caused by a faulty part or a mechanical issue due to a lack of proper maintenance oversight. A skilled truck accident attorney also investigates this potential angle to determine if a commercial vehicle was properly maintained and functional at the time of the crash. 

Dangers of HAZMAT Cargo Spills

As you might guess, transporting hazardous materials that are flammable or toxic involves even more detailed regulations and safety measures—in fact, truck operators responsible for this fleet must have a special endorsement on their commercial license. 

However, these unfortunate accidents still happen. If you’re involved in a HAZMAT cargo spill: 

  • Leave the immediate area of the crash as quickly as possible if you can. 
  • The truck driver may have protective gear for you, including a suit or mask. 
  • Call emergency personnel as soon as you’re safe. 
  • Seek medical aid immediately and be certain to tell medical professionals about exposure to the hazardous material. 
  • Take pictures and video of the scene if it’s safe and you’re able to do so. 
  • Don’t leave the scene until the police give you the okay. 
  • Contact a lawyer knowledgeable about hazardous spill cargo accidents. 

Collecting Damages After a Washington Truck Cargo Spill Accident 

If you were involved in a commercial truck accident that involved a cargo spill, you may be owed compensation for your losses, including economic and non-economic damages such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Extended treatment
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

Talking to an experienced Kirkland truck accident attorney about your case is the best way to understand the evidence and find the at-fault parties.

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Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.