When empty, dump trucks can weigh up to 20 tons. When loaded, that figure doubles, causing some of the heaviest dump trucks to weigh up to 40 tons, or 80,000 pounds. Understandably, then, when dump truck accidents occur, they can be catastrophic for both the operator and any other victims involved in the incident. If you or a loved one was recently involved in a dump truck accident in Lafayette, IN, you may understand the consequences all too well. You may also wonder if you can recover compensation for your injuries and the associated damages. The good news is that you can. However, pursuing compensation via a personal injury claim can be time-consuming and difficult, and just one wrong move can cause you to forfeit the remuneration you rightfully deserve. A dump truck accident lawyer can advise you of what you need to do to protect your rights and recover the maximum amount of compensation.
The Incident Rates of Dump Truck Accidents
Though not as common as car or truck accidents, dump truck accidents occur more frequently than most people might think. The number of serious dump truck accidents — meaning those that result in the vehicle being towed away — hit about 8,206 in 2016. That same year, the number of dump truck accidents — many of which were non-construction related — that resulted in injuries rose by 2. percent to 5,483. Dump truck accidents cause approximately 400 deaths each year.
Causes of Dump Truck Accidents
Dump truck accidents can occur for any number of reasons, ranging from driver inattention to inclement weather. However, some factors are more common in dump truck accidents than others. Those include but are not limited to the following:
- Loose Loads: Loose loads are a hazard to both dump truck operators and any persons or vehicles behind them. Loose loads can cause dump trucks to become unbalanced, which may result in tipping or rolling over. If a loose load does not cause a truck to tip, it may fall out of the skip and into the road, creating a hazard for trailing vehicles.
- Overloading: Overloading creates many of the same risks as loose loads, which include tipping, rolling over and losing a load. It is crucial that dump truck operators are aware of their trucks’ capacities and do not exceed what a skip can and should carry.
- Large Blind Spots: The skips on dump trucks create huge blind spots for operators. Unfortunately, many preventable accidents occur because of this one factor. When trailing vehicles do not leave enough space between themselves and a dump truck, they essentially render themselves invisible. If a dump truck switches lanes suddenly or backs up, a vehicle behind it may be in the path of danger. This is the case, too, for bicyclists and pedestrians. While dump truck operators must exercise extreme care when reversing or changing lanes, approaching drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians can do their part to prevent accidents by exercising caution themselves.
- Inclement Weather: Bad weather conditions may make an already difficult machine to operate even more so. Rain, sleet and snow can reduce visibility. Wet roads increase the risk for sliding and rolling over, and high winds can shift loads and cause trucks to tip.
- Inexperienced Operators: Ample training is crucial for the operation of any type of heavy machinery, period. When a company allows a person to operate a dump truck without adequate training, said company creates an unnecessary risk for the operator and those around the truck. This is because, without proper training, the operator cannot be familiar with the requisite safety regulations, best practices and operational procedures.
Other common driver errors and forms of negligence — which include distracted driving, speeding, aggressive driving, and drunk driving — also contribute to preventable dump truck accidents.
Who To Name in Your Dump Truck Accident Claim
Immediately after your dump truck accident, you may consider filing a claim against the dump truck operator — assuming, of course, you are not the operator yourself. While it is reasonable to want to hold the operator accountable for your damages, it is important to consider other possible liable parties. Two other parties that may assume partial or full responsibility include the operator’s employer or the truck manufacturer.
When To Sue the Driver’s Company
If the at-fault dump truck operator was self-employed, you would have no choice but to sue them. However, if the operator is an employee of a company, the company would likely assume full responsibility for any damages the operator caused. This is due to the doctrine of Respondeat Superior. Respondeat Superior is a legal doctrine that holds employers or principals legally responsible for the negligent or wrongful acts of their employees or agents that occur during the scope of employment. Regardless of why a dump truck accident occurs, there is a possibility that the courts will assign some level of fault to the employer. Respondeat Superior aside, there are several other ways an employer may assume accountability for the actions of its dump truck drivers. Some examples of how this is possible are as follows:
- Cutting corners on truck maintenance and safety inspections
- Failing to adequately train operators
- Pressuring drivers to meet unrealistic expectations and/or deadlines
- Encouraging operators to overload their skips
- Hiring negligently
- Maintaining a fleet of older and unsafe trucks
- Requiring drivers to engage in activities that increase their risks of accidents, such as talking or texting while driving
These are just a few reasons for when you can hold an operator’s employer responsible for damages that exceed what its insurance will cover.
When To Sue the Truck Manufacturer
If your dump truck accident occurred because of a failed or unsafe truck feature, you and the dump truck operator may have a claim against the truck manufacturer. However, the defect must be an issue that is inherent in the truck and not one that was the result of lack of or improper maintenance. Examples of inherent defects include premature transmission failure, brake failure, rollover propensity, defective tires and unintended airbag deployment.
Types of Damages You May Recover in Your Dump Truck Accident Case
A dump truck accident can upend multiple aspects of your life, beginning with your physical health and extending to your emotional health and financial well-being. The law accounts for the broad range of damages you may live with post-accident and provides the opportunity for you to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Examples of the types of damages you may recover are as follows:
- Medical expenses, past and future
- Loss of income
- Property damage
- Emotional duress
- Pain and suffering
In cases of extreme negligence, you may be able to recover punitive damages. Unlike with compensatory damages, the purpose of which is to compensate you for your losses, the court awards punitive damages to penalize the at-fault party and deter future similar behavior. If the courts decide to award punitive damages, they will cap the damages at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $50,000, whichever is greater. However, only a portion of punitive damages are awarded to the injured party.
Contact a Dump Truck Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one sustained injuries and related damages in a dump truck accident, you may have a truck accident claim. An attorney who has experience with catastrophic accident cases such as dump truck accident cases can assess the facts of your case and give you a realistic idea of the value of your claim. If you do have a case, he or she can then help you do what you need to do to bolster your case and recover the maximum amount of compensation. Take the first step on the path to recovery. Contact Hensley Legal Group to schedule your free initial consultation today.
Engineering News-Record: https://www.enr.com/articles/46126-serious-dump-and-read-mix-delivery-truck-accidents-edge-higher
Legal Information Institute: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/respondeat_superior