Driver Responsibility for Motor Vehicle Accidents Resulting from Unsecured Cargo
Many motorists opt to drive around with cargo on their vehicles as they transport items from one place to another. From mattresses to Christmas trees tied to the roof of cars, these items can pose a risk to other motorists on the road. The Day reports approximately 25,000 car accidents each year happen because of drivers who have cargo on their vehicles which is not secured.
Motorists have a responsibility to make safe choices when they are on the roads. This not only means following the speed limit and obeying traffic lights, but also ensuring that cargo they are transporting does not present a hazard to other motorists surrounding them. N.C.G.S § 20-116(g) specifies that all vehicles on North Carolina roads have to be loaded to prevent cargo from drifting, falling, blowing, leaking, or otherwise escaping from cars. Trucks which transport cargo professionally are also subject to additional rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Drivers Can Be Held Liable for Collisions if Cargo Is Not Properly Secured
Unsecured cargo or improperly secured cargo can cause accidents in a number of different ways. Trucks which are unbalanced or not loaded properly could be prone to rolling over. Overweight cars and trucks can both result in tire blowouts which cause drivers to lose control of vehicles. Debris can also fall off of cars or trucks, creating an obstacle in the road which motorists try to swerve around- potentially leading to a crash.
In some cases, people whose cargo falls off their cars get out of the vehicle to try to retrieve it and end up being struck by other vehicles. In other situations, cargo falls off a car and blocks visibility for the drivers behind it, or strikes the vehicle of the drivers behind it. Both of these things can cause the rear driver to lose control and be unable to prevent a crash from happening.
When a driver's unsecured cargo causes a crash to happen, the victims can pursue a claim for compensation for all resulting losses. They will need to show the driver with the cargo was negligent, or unreasonably careless. If they can show the motorist violated laws on transporting cargo, this can create a presumption of negligence.
If unsecured cargo is left in the road and the driver who was at fault for the items being on the street is not identified, victims may have a more difficult time getting compensation for losses because they cannot identify the other driver who was to blame. In such cases, it may be possible to pursue a claim against those responsible for road maintenance if it can be proved it was negligent not to remove the cargo. These cases are difficult to make because of sovereign immunity rules and because those responsible for road maintenance may not have been aware of the debris on the roadway.