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Who Is Responsible when Truck Cargo Causes an Accident?

Cranwell & Moore P.L.C. Dec. 26, 2018

No doubt you have been in a vehicle on the highways of Virginia when debris appears, seemingly from nowhere, and strikes the windshield. Sometimes, this startles everyone in the car, but in other cases, cargo flying or falling from a commercial truck can have devastating effects on the vehicles in its path. Regardless of the level of damage the cargo causes, the Code of Virginia has something to say about who is responsible.

According to Article 20, Loads and Cargoes, companies must use certain methods to secure the loads that are on or in their vehicles. For example, a truck hauling cargo that may roll or shift during transport must use one of the following: 

  • Log chains

  • Nylon webbing

  • Metal cables

  • Steel straps

  • Another adequate and appropriate restraining device

Even if the company does use the right restraints, it would still be liable if the load falls and strikes your vehicle due to negligence in installing the restraints.

Solid waste and loads such as gravel, coal or sand that may escape a truck should have an adequate cover, or must be in a truck that is designed to keep material from escaping. That dump truck in front of you with the cover flapping at the back may not be in compliance if the failure to secure the corners results in an accident. However, this law does not apply to loads on vehicles that are only used for agricultural purposes, pickup trucks, snow removal equipment (when in use to remove snow) and public service company vehicles. Trucks that are transporting poultry or livestock are also exempted from this particular provision.