Waste management companies serve a crucial role in our society, as they clear neighborhoods of unwanted debris and keep communities clean and sanitary. For this reason, garbage trucks are welcome and comforting presences to residents of Lafayette, IN and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, due to their immense size, narrow routes and stop-and-go movements, they also create considerable risks to drivers and other everyday citizens. Though uncommon, garbage truck accidents can and do occur. When they do, they often result in serious injuries and extensive damages. In some cases, the injuries can be fatal. If you or a loved one was involved in a garbage truck accident in Lafayette, you may understand the consequences of such an event all too well. You may also wonder what, if anything, you can do to right the wrongs you face and move forward with your life in both physical and financial comfort. While the law does not guarantee compensation for truck accident injuries, it does entitle victims and their loved ones to seek compensation via personal injury claims. If you believe that your case is deserving of compensation, reach out to an experienced Lafayette, Indiana garbage truck accident lawyer. The right lawyer can help you build a solid case, defend your rights against the waste management company and its insurers, and push for the maximum amount of compensation.
Common Types of Trash Truck Accidents
There are several ways that trash truck accidents can occur. Though not an exhaustive list, some of the most common types of accidents involving waste collection vehicles are as follows:
- Collisions between a garbage truck and passenger vehicle
- Blind-spot accidents
- Backing out accidents
- Collisions between a garbage truck and a pedestrian or bicyclist
- Accidents caused by waste falling out the back of the truck
- Motorists trying to pass a merging garbage truck
Regardless of how they occur, accidents that involve these large vehicles often have catastrophic consequences.
Why Garbage Truck Accidents Occur
A large part of winning a truck accident claim entails identifying the at-fault party and proving negligence. If you are unable to prove that the trash truck driver or company acted negligently and that the negligence caused the accident that resulted in your injuries, you may not have a claim. So that you can better advocate for your own rights, it helps to understand why trash truck accidents occur in the first place.
One of the most common causes of waste collection vehicle accidents — and one of the most avoidable — is frequent stopping. The very nature of their jobs requires waste collection vehicles to stop at every house or business along their route. Unfortunately, if the route is a one-lane road, trailing vehicles must stop at each house or business as well. If a driver tailgates a trash truck or fails to stop when the truck stops, he or she could cause a rear-end collision. Instead of a minor fender bender, however, a rear-end collision with a trash truck could cause significant damage to the trailing vehicle and result in severe injuries to its passengers.
Tight or Busy Routes
Garbage trucks must go where the trash is at, which often means traveling through residential neighborhoods, down alleys, through parking lots and around commercial areas. A few unique factors, including the height at which drivers sit and the noise of the trucks, make it difficult for drivers to see property, people or children who are within close range. Sadly, for this reason, child- and pedestrian-related fatalities due to garbage trucks are not uncommon.
Garbage truck drivers, like drivers of passenger vehicles, are prone to negligent and distracted driving. Unfortunately, when a trash truck driver runs a stop sign, speeds, fails to signal before a turn, or commits another driving violation, he or she puts the lives of other drivers, pedestrians and coworkers at risk of severe injury or even death.
Except for holidays, trash and recycling companies expect their drivers to maintain their normal schedules regardless of the weather. As a result, garbage collectors must pick up trash in the rain, wind, sleet, hail and snow. These conditions can greatly reduce drivers’ vision and create hazardous road conditions, two factors that contribute to increased crash risks.
Faulty or Poorly Maintained Equipment
Trash and recycling trucks travel thousands of miles each week, even if they do only drive along the same short routes. For this reason, companies must invest in frequent maintenance and repairs. Failure to engage in routine maintenance could cause a crucial component to fail at an inopportune time and possibly cause a collision
Victims of Trash Truck Accidents
Trash truck accident victims include several categories of people. The most common victims are as follows:
- Pedestrians and Bicyclists: Because they are low to the ground and often approach trash trucks in their blind spots, bicyclists and pedestrians are common victims of trash truck incidents. As a result, garbage collectors may fail to see them and either merge or continue along their route without stopping.
- Other Drivers: Collisions with other vehicles are also a common mishap. When accidents with passenger vehicles occur, the passenger vehicle typically sustains most of the damage, as does the driver of said vehicle.
- Waste Management Employees: Waste management employees are the most frequent victims of trash truck mishaps. For every 100,000 waste management employees, approximately 25 work-related deaths occur. These employees work around hazardous materials, heavy equipment and machinery, making waste management one of the most dangerous occupations in which a person can engage.
If you or a loved one is a waste management employee who sustained an injury on the job, you may have to pursue compensation through workers’ compensation insurance first. However, if your injuries are severe, or if your employer’s negligence leads to your injury, you may have a third-party claim.
Who To Sue After a Garbage Truck Accident
Garbage truck drivers typically work for a company or local government. Rarely are they self-employed. Unfortunately, this fact may complicate your personal injury claim for compensation, as instead of going up against an individual like yourself, you must go up against a resource-heavy corporation or local government. Neither opponent is likely to acquiesce to your request for compensation without a fight, which is why it may be worth your while to seek representation from a skilled and knowledgeable garbage truck accident attorney. In addition to suing the government or the at-fault driver’s company, you may also be able to make a claim against the truck manufacturer. Such a claim may be necessary if a truck malfunction caused your accident.
Statute of Limitations on Truck Accident Claims in Indiana
If you do plan to sue the at-fault party for a garbage truck accident, you must do so within a given timeframe. Otherwise, you may forfeit your rights to compensation. In Indiana, the statute of limitations on truck accident claims is two years, or within 180 or 270 days if you name a government entity in your claim.
When To Contact a Trash Truck Accident Lawyer
Trash truck accident injuries and damages can be severe and extensive. However, that does not necessarily mean that the insurance companies or courts will automatically award plaintiffs compensation for their harms. If you or a loved one was involved in a trash truck accident, and if you want to increase your odds of recovering the maximum amount of compensation, retain the help of an experienced trash truck accident lawyer. Contact Hensley Legal Group to schedule your free initial consultation today.