Garbage trucks are a normal part of the scenery of modern life, and often a part of the early morning sounds we would rather miss! Considering how slow they usually move while loading and unloading, you might not think a garbage truck accident would be common or serious. But garbage trucks travel the same roads and highways as every other type of vehicle. Even when they aren’t traveling fast, accidents involving garbage trucks are often serious. They are large, heavy, and carry weighty and hazardous loads that add to the impact of a crash.
Most people don’t think about the big, noisy trucks that roll through their community. In some ways, it’s easy to think of them in the same way you do emergency or law enforcement vehicles. You imagine that the drivers are experienced and safe. Lots of other drivers feel the same way, that is, until they are injured in a garbage truck accident. Garbage trucks are involved in more accidents than you think. When these types of accidents occur, the results are often devastating. Sometimes, it’s the garbage truck driver that suffers the biggest loss. Other times, it’s the driver of another vehicle or a pedestrian.
How Garbage Trucks Accidents Happen
When your neighborhood garbage truck wakes you up in the wee hours of the morning, it’s often with the familiar “beep beep beep” that signals it’s backing up. Many of the alleyways and drives that garbage trucks must drive down require them to back up once they load the trash. The problem is that many garbage trucks are older models that aren’t equipped with backup cameras. There is little visibility, making them a hazard to anyone or any vehicle behind them.
It’s frightening enough to think that your vehicle might be the target of a huge truck backing up. When drivers aren’t paying attention and compensating for the garbage truck driver’s blind spot, a crash can happen without warning. Those garbage truck blind spots are greater than with other vehicles due to the front and/or side loading arms that obstruct the driver’s view. These appendages make it difficult to impossible to see in front of the cab, to the right, by the tailgate, and behind the driver’s window. In other words, the garbage truck driver has a lot of difficulty seeing in any direction.
Even more frightening is the fact that garbage trucks make pickups in residential areas. They back out of drives and schools where children are playing. Small children are even less likely to pay attention to an approaching truck. Those children who have been struck by garbage trucks have paid the biggest price of all.
The loads carried by garbage trucks increase the danger in several ways. For one, they may contain flammable or hazardous materials that add to the injuries and damage when a crash happens. The trucks are also top heavy, preventing them from staying balanced when going around curves. When both conditions occur in the same truck, tipping over has the potential for a disaster.
Garbage truck drivers usually work on schedule, even in hazardous weather. The same slick, snow-covered roads that make driving risky for you are even more dangerous for these big trucks. Because of the size, it takes them longer to slow down and brake. The driver has little control over the truck on slippery roads.
Who Is Liable for Garbage Truck Accidents?
Garbage trucks probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions a commercial truck. But they are commercial trucks and every neighborhood has them. The need to navigate them through traffic signals, tight drives, and curvy roads in populated areas sometimes makes them more dangerous than 18-wheelers.
When a crash happens, several people might be at fault. The truck driver, a private waste management company, the local government, the truck or parts manufacturer, or the person or crew responsible for maintaining the truck are all common liable parties. Of course, another driver might be at fault too.
Sometimes the liable party is obvious. Other times, it’s a lot more difficult to figure out. The best way to determine who is liable for the damages and injuries including in a garbage truck accident is to talk with a personal injury lawyer. He can look at the circumstances of your case and determine what caused it to happen including:
Driver Error – Despite the differences between garbage trucks and other commercial trucks, both types must follow the same set of standards set out by the FMCSA. Driver error occurs when the driver fails to abide by these rules. One of the leading causes of accidents of all kinds today is distracted driving. This type of negligence almost always includes the truck driver. Sometimes it can also extend to the owner of the garbage truck or the driver’s employer. This might be the city where the truck works. Other types of driver error include impaired driving, breaking traffic laws, and speeding.
Hazardous Road Conditions – Under normal circumstances, you might think of a crash that happens due to road conditions as an accident. But if a crash occurs because of potholes in the road, a poor road design, inadequate warning signs, or other conditions that lead to a garbage truck accident, the local government may be at least partially responsible. These are all conditions controlled by the city or county government. If they fail to manage or maintain these factors properly, they could be liable.
Poorly Maintained Garbage Truck – The owner of the garbage truck must keep the vehicles maintained according to regulations. Allowing a truck to operate with worn tires or other issues makes the owner liable for any injuries the poor conditions cause. If a part on the truck is defective, the manufacturer might be liable. Defective brakes, tires, wheels, and steering columns often lead to accidents. The responsible party might be the driver of the truck if he is also the owner. If he works for the city, they may be solely or partially responsible.
What to Do After a Garbage Truck Accident
The first concern after any accident is to check for injuries. The seriousness of a crash involving a garbage truck makes it even more important to make sure everyone who needs immediate medical care gets it. Even if someone’s injuries don’t appear serious, call 911. Never take a chance and ignore an injury assuming everything is all right. Injuries may get worse once the adrenaline wears off.
While you’re checking everyone for injuries, refrain from dismissing any injuries or the lack of them to anyone else. Adrenaline could be preventing you from feeling pain, too. Everything you say and do after the accident has the potential to impact your claim. Refrain from making any statements about your injuries, how you feel, or who was at fault. Keep your cool and your thoughts to yourself.
Call law enforcement. An accident report is one of the most important documents for your case. For one, your insurance company may insist on a report if you experienced extensive damage. The police report is the most accurate record of what happened and who caused the crash in the first place. If you end up filing a personal injury claim, the police report will support your claims. The primary job of your personal injury attorney is to prove who is liable for your damages. The police report gives him the proof he needs to represent you effectively.
Document everything with pictures. Almost everyone has a cell phone with them these days. Use yours to document the crash, any injuries, or clues about the cause. For example, if there’s an empty beer can rolling around, get a photo of that. If the driver is impaired, the photo will help back up any claims. Also get pictures of license plate numbers for the garbage truck or any other vehicle involved. One photo is more persuasive than any testimony you give.
Gather all of the information you can, starting with the garbage truck driver’s name, contact information, and insurance company. If other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians are involved, get their information too.
Ask people in the area if they witnessed the accident and what details they observed. Write down their names and contact information too. Having several witnesses in agreement will strengthen your claim. It will also back up the police report.
Get medical treatment, even if you don’t think you’re seriously injured. Some types of injuries don’t show up right away. These so-called “non-visible injuries” could end up causing you extensive pain and treatment costs. See a doctor right away and explain that you were in a garbage truck accident. Ask them to keep complete records and maintain copies of every diagnosis and treatment. You’ll need these to prove the severity of your injuries before you can get compensation.
Do You Need to See a Personal Injury Attorney?
It’s difficult to know when you have a legal case and when you don’t. The laws differ from state to state, and the unique situation surrounding garbage trucks make it more challenging. Schedule an appointment with a local attorney who specializes in personal injury cases. It doesn’t cost anything to discuss your case.
Take all the evidence you’ve collected to the appointment. Your attorney will explain your rights and interpret the evidence in your case. Most personal injury attorneys don’t charge anything unless they win your case. That gives you the security of knowing that they won’t accept your case unless they are confident they can win. It also ensures you don’t end up with an additional financial burden when you already have enough to deal with.
One reason for seeing an attorney right away is that you have certain time limits called “statutes of limitations,” which define how long you have to take action. Failing to act within this time frame can result in your losing your rights.
Another reason is that an attorney can guide you on what to do and not do to protect your case. Sometimes insurance companies call the plaintiff in a personal injury case and make an offer. If you take it, you’ll probably end up getting a much smaller settlement than you need.
Sometimes, accident victims go on social media sites and talk about their accident, injuries, and their claim. Attorneys for the defendant know how to get this information and use it against you.
Your injuries and damages from a garbage truck accident might be severe and long-lasting. You deserve compensation from the negligent party. It’s important to get the money you need to pay for treatment. The law allows you to get the compensation you need to help you restore your quality of life as much as possible.
When a Garbage Truck Accident Results in Wrongful Death
A wrongful death occurs when a person’s personal injuries result in their death. The person who caused the injuries is liable for any medical costs for treatment of the victim’s injuries leading up to their death. Other types of damages include loss of income, loss of consortium, and punitive damages in some cases. This is another part of the law that varies by state. State laws also dictate who has the right to file a wrongful death claim.
Whether a garbage truck accident results in your injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one, you should choose your attorney carefully. You need someone who specializes in personal injuries, particularly those resulting from car accidents. They should have a record of success and extensive experience handling similar cases in your area.
Your choice in an accident attorney matters a great deal. An experienced, proven attorney knows your rights and genuinely cares about standing up for you. You only get one chance to get a fair settlement of your claim. Get an attorney who will get it right the first time around.
If you’ve been injured in a garbage truck accident, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We’re here to help.