When you think of a large truck accident, you might envision a big rig careening out of control on a Florida highway. Dump trucks and garbage trucks cause serious accidents and catastrophic injuries as well. You might not think about that scenario, however, because those big clunky trucks bring a different image to mind. Dump trucks and garbage trucks often work locally and drive slowly. They service homes and construction sites, showing up on schedule when someone needs them. These trucks are big, of course. They’re heavier even than the US Department of Transportation 10,000-pound gross vehicle weight large truck standard.
When a dump truck or garbage truck collides with another vehicle, the truck’s mass and weight increase the potential for serious damage and injuries. If the crash involves a private passenger vehicle, catastrophic or fatal injuries often occur. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration statistics show that when a fatality occurs in vehicle/large truck accident, 82 percent of the fatalities occurred in the smaller vehicle.
When a large truck is involved, serious damage and injuries can happen even at low speeds. Just like other truckers, the initiating factor is often the truck drivers’ negligent actions.
Garbage and Dump Trucks in Your Neighborhood
Garbage trucks are slow, clunky, and noisy, and they’re a familiar presence in your neighborhood. You know the trucks and the drivers because they roll down your street at least once a week. The Federal Highway Administration categorizes garbage trucks as Class 7 vehicles, weighing 26,001 to 33,000 pounds. The weight varies for rollover garbage trucks that handle dumpsters and waste trucks that haul recyclables.
Garbage trucks often seem big but harmless when you see them rolling through your neighborhood. They move slowly enough for workers to hang on with no fear of falling. They empty your garbage cans and haul away your trash. If you’ve ever seen a garbage truck on the highway, you realize that they move quickly when they need to.
If you became fascinated with dump trucks as a child, you probably saw them as bigger versions of the trucks in your toy box. Dump trucks are reliable service vehicles. Just like garbage trucks, they’re a familiar sight wherever you go. You’ve seen them traveling back and forth, picking up and dropping off construction site debris. However, until you notice a news headline about a dump truck accident, you might not realize how destructive they can be.
Dump trucks are heavy enough to earn an FHWA Class 8 vehicle rating. They weigh in at 33,001 pounds plus when they’re fully loaded. When a dump truck is involved in a collision, that weight and bulk provide advantages and disadvantages. They’re a protective barrier for the driver, while causing serious injuries to private passenger vehicle occupants.
What Causes Dump Truck and Garbage Trucks Accidents?
Dump truck and Garbage truck accidents occur under the same circumstances and for the same reasons as other large truck accidents. It’s often a matter of driver negligence, but it can be more complicated than that. Commercial accidents occur as a result of many factors.
To get a better idea of the safety issues involved, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducted a causation study. Their findings documented common events that often occur before and during an accident. The study mostly analyzed tractor-trailer accidents, but dump truck and garbage truck accidents occur under the same or similar circumstances and for the same reasons.
The FMCSA studied 963 accidents involving 1,123 large trucks. This was a random sampling from 120,000 fatal large truck accidents reported over a three year period. The FMCSA analyzed site information, witness statements, driver log entries, and other data. From analyzing the data, they were able to break down each accident into a combination of “critical events” and “critical causes.”
Most Common Critical Events
- Leaving the lane of travel
- Loss of control for various reasons (shift in cargo, vehicle malfunction, road conditions, etc.)
- Striking another vehicle in the rear
Most Common Critical Causes (Driver Errors)
- Non-performance: Drivers fell asleep or became incapacitated due to illness or other reasons.
- Recognition: Drivers didn’t recognize a situation early due to inattention, distraction, or other causes.
- Decision: Drivers failed to act properly due to improper perceptions and improper judgment of surrounding conditions and vehicles.
- Performance: Drivers panicked. They oversteered their vehicles or simply failed to maintain control when a critical event occurred.
Dump Trucks Have Load Securement Issues
Large trucks used for hauling garbage and debris have the same driving safety issues as long haul rig drivers. That includes problems with load securement. A garbage truck’s rear compartment is usually sealed, so they have minimal load loss problems. Dump truck issues are far more serious. Because of their open construction and the types of materials they haul (dirt, sand, gravel, debris), a dump truck often loses some or all of its load.
A too-rough road surface or a too-sharp turn can cause problems for nearby vehicles. When construction debris or sand become airborne, they damage car surfaces and windows and sometimes cause accidents with injuries. That’s what happened when a dump truck lost a load of gravel on I-95. As the gravel scattered across the highway, it struck several cars and tied up commuter traffic. A law enforcement officer reported that injuries also occurred but didn’t clarify the nature and extent. A nine-man crew spent hours removing debris from the road.
Accidents occur when a dump truck driver fails to secure the load in compliance with FMCSA Securement standards. While many of the guidelines don’t apply to dump trucks, they require drivers to cover their loads to protect others. For a dump truck, that usually involves securing the load with a tarpaulin cover.
Florida statutes also set load securement requirements. Other than dumping sand for traction purposes, a driver must prevent a load from “dropping, shifting, leaking, blowing, or otherwise escaping.”
Vehicle Defects and Malfunctions
A commercial vehicle defect or malfunction, improper service, or inadequate or negligent maintenance sometimes cause accidents. One of these products or service liability issues may have caused a fatal industrial accident that occurred in Orange County; the victim was working on on a dump truck when the dump bed came down and crushed him.
in Fort Meyers, a garbage truck rolled backward, fatally injuring a worker when it pinned him against another vehicle. The worker was loading garbage into the back of the truck when the accident occurred. Based on the initial description, human error may have been a factor in causing this accident. A manufacturing defect or a service or maintenance issue might also have contributed to the incident.
When a fatal accident involves a potential defect or negligent service, sorting through the legal and damage issues requires a comprehensive investigation. When an injured person or their family claims that a truck malfunction caused an injury, the necessary product liability investigation is often complicated. Proving or disproving a defect requires expert examination and analysis. It’s also difficult to accomplish an accident and injury evaluation when the vehicle that caused the damage is in the owner’s protective custody or has returned to service.
Truck Drivers Meet Stringent Requirements
Dump truck and garbage truck accidents don’t happen as frequently as auto accidents. That’s primarily because commercial drivers must meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration training standards. They must also qualify for a Commercial Driver’s License in the state where they reside. Florida CDL candidates have access to comprehensive study information in the Florida CDL Handbook.
Based on large truck weight categories, dump truck and garbage truck operators must earn a Class A or B license. They must comply with all vehicle-related codes and additional statutes that focus specifically on commercial drivers. A CDL candidate will be disqualified for one year if they provide false information during the licensing process.
Dump Truck and Garbage Truck Accidents in Florida
Dump truck and garbage truck drivers are usually far more qualified to drive than a typical motorist. Despite these high standards, they still cause accidents. Incidents involving dump trucks and garbage trucks occur more frequently than you might imagine. Here are a few of the most recently reported accidents in Florida. From the details given, each accident resulted from one or more of the FMCSA-designated events and causes:
- September 3, 2019: A garbage truck driver overcorrected his steering, lost control and rolled into a pond. The driver and his passenger sustained serious injuries.
- August 9, 2019: A dump truck driver struck a vehicle, fatally injuring the driver. The accident occurred at Bachman and Thorpe roads. The media reported that the Florida Highway Patrol was trying to determine if the truck driver ran the stop sign.
- August 9, 2019: An adult and a two-month-old child died after a dump truck caused a multi-vehicle crash on I-75 in Hillsborough County. The dump truck driver failed to stop in traffic. His truck overturned, landed on top of one vehicle and damaged five additional vehicles.
- May 27, 2019: A garbage truck accident seriously injured two people. The driver hit an SUV then crashed into a recording studio in South Miami. The injured people were passengers in the garbage truck. To avoid injury, one passenger jumped from the truck before it struck the building.
- March 25, 2019: A dump truck critically injured a pedestrian at Orange Avenue and Virginia Drive near Ivanhoe Lake. The dump truck driver left the scene unidentified.
That’s a lot of accidents in a short time in a fairly small area.
What Happens When You’re Injured in an Accident with a Dump or Garbage Truck?
Your Personal Injury Protection Coverage is Primary
If you’re injured in an accident with a commercial truck in Florida, your insurance carrier pays 80 percent of your medical expenses and 60 percent of your lost income. If your injuries occurred while on the job, you may also have access to workers’ compensation benefits. You won’t have a valid liability claim against the truck driver until your injuries qualify for a tort exemption.
- Significant or permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent injury
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
Who Determines Liability for Your Damages?
The other driver’s insurance company will investigate your accident and decide if their insured is liable. When you’re injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle, the other driver is only one of the parties potentially responsible for your injuries. It’s up to you to identify the additional parties and encourage them and their insurance carriers to get involved.
- Owner: Unless the driver also owns the company he’s working for, the truck owner is another potentially responsible party.
- Driver’s employer: The employer determines what an employee does and how and when he does it. This element of control may make the employer liable for your damages. If an employer hired an unqualified driver who caused an accident, his inappropriate actions increase his potential liability.
- Manufacturer, service, or maintenance company: If a defect or poor maintenance caused or contributed to an accident, those responsible should share liability for the accident.
Commercial Trucks Have Higher Liability Insurance Requirements
All vehicles registered in Florida must comply with the state’s financial responsibility laws and carry proof of insurance. If you’re injured in an accident, their insurance company will investigate your claim and decide the liability issues on their clients’ behalf. When a commercial entity qualifies for self-insured status, they handle their own claims or hire an independent company to provide investigative services.
Insurance limit requirements are higher for a commercial vehicle than they are for a private passenger vehicle.
- Commercial vehicles with a GVW of 26,000 to 35,000 pounds must carry liability insurance in a combined single limit of $50,000.
- Commercial vehicles with a 35,000 to 44,000 GVW must have $100,000 in liability insurance
- Vehicles with a GVW of more than 44,000 pounds must have $300,000 in insurance.
Should You Consult a Truck Accident Attorney?
Dump truck and garbage truck accidents are often difficult to resolve without legal assistance. They frequently involve multiple negligent parties, complex legal issues, coverage concerns, and value disputes. Because of the scope of the issues and damages, you will likely deal with the insurance company’s most experienced investigator. When you work with an attorney, you have someone to intervene on your behalf. You also have more legal options for recovery.
If you or a loved one were injured in a dump truck or garbage truck accident, you can share your story with a compassionate advocate and learn what a truck accident attorney can do to protect your legal rights.