Few people associate dump trucks and garbage trucks with serious traffic accidents. Most newsworthy heavy truck accidents involve tractor trailers jackknifing, rolling over, or causing pileups on highways. However, dump trucks and garbage trucks also contribute to a fair share of damage on Washington State roadways. Below we discuss the characteristics and dangers of dump and garbage trucks, how to avoid an accident, and what to do if the worst happens.
Characteristics of Dump Trucks and Garbage Trucks
Dump trucks and garbage trucks come in a variety of sizes and configurations. Depending on the intended every-day use of the vehicle, dump and garbage trucks may vary by design.
Dump trucks typically carry raw materials, e.g., sand, gravel, or dirt, in an open-top, enclosed bed. The bed of the truck is likely mounted on a hydraulic lift. When activated, the lift system elevates one side of the bed such that the materials may be emptied from the bed. Most dump trucks lift systems tip the bed to enable cargo to spill at the rear of the truck. However, others are configured to dump material to one side or the other, or from the bottom of the cargo bed.
Most dump trucks on the road are designed with the truck cab and cargo bed mounted on a single chassis. Other configurations include trucks equipped for removable cargo beds and cargo beds mounted on semi-trailers. The mounted cargo bed is then connected to the truck’s cab just as the configuration of a typical tractor-trailer.
Unsurprisingly, a garbage truck’s primary purpose is to haul garbage. Most garbage trucks are equipped with a powerful hydraulic system used to compact waste placed in the cargo container. The container that holds the waste is typically enclosed. Garbage trucks are also equipped with a variety of mechanical lift systems. The lifts enable operators to grasp and raise street-side garbage containers and then dump their contents into the bed.
Like dump trucks, the vast majority of garbage trucks are single-chassis vehicles. Other configurations include dump trucks with “roll off” (or removable) waste containers, which are frequently used on construction sites.
Where You Are Likely to Encounter Dump Trucks and Garbage Trucks
Dump trucks and garbage trucks are pervasive on U.S. roadways. Drivers are likely to encounter these trucks anywhere people live, work, dig, or build; which is to say, everywhere.
Dump trucks travel along Washington’s highways and backroads with equal regularity. They idle in traffic at city intersections and rumble over dirt roads at construction sites. Of the common trucks on the road garbage trucks tend to blend into the background. Because drivers are desensitized to the prevalence of dump and garbage trucks, sharing the roadways with them can be particularly dangerous.
Garbage trucks routes are slightly more limited in range, but they are just as prevalent as dump trucks on the roadways. Garbage trucks are essential to maintaining sanitary living conditions in our communities. They serve a vital role in fulfilling the never-ending waste disposal needs of homes and businesses. Garbage trucks utilize highways to travel to and from landfills. Similar to dump trucks, they blend in with other vehicles on the roadways.
What Makes Dump Trucks and Garbage Trucks Dangerous
There are several reasons that dump trucks and garbage trucks are particularly dangerous to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.
- They are large, heavy trucks that go everywhere. Dump trucks and garbage trucks have features similar to other large trucks that make them hazardous to other road users. Namely, the trucks have large blind spots encompassing on all four sides of the vehicle. Dump and garbage trucks, too, require longer distances to safely stop the vehicle. The size and weight of the trucks make them considerably difficult to maneuver. Unlike your typical semi-truck, motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians are more likely to encounter a dump or garbage truck on narrow city streets or winding country roads. Some circumstances may not provide enough space for trucks and other vehicles to safely share the road. When dump and garbage trucks are required to maneuver tight conditions, the risks of an accident are increased
- Drivers are often inexperienced. In the State of Washington, dump and garbage truck drivers are required to carry a Class B commercial driver’s license. Oftentimes, truck operators do not obtain the appropriate license, especially when dump trucks are driven in connection with construction and industrial activities. On construction sites, unqualified drivers often operate Class B vehicles when only a short trip required. However, inexperienced drivers have a greater risk of causing an accident, despite the distance traveled.
- The cargo they haul is not “road-friendly.” Almost everyone has experienced the frustration of riding behind a dump truck that is actively spilling its load. Drivers may behave recklessly in an attempt to dodge gravel pebbles to avoid a cracked windshield or scratched exterior. Virtually any cargo carried by either a dump truck or a garbage truck can create a hazard to other road users. Cargo contents may make the surface of the road unsafe, create roadway hazards or obstacles, or become a dangerous projectile.
Of course, dump and garbage truck accidents may be caused for the same reasons as any other vehicle accident. Unlike passenger vehicle collisions, large heavy trucks can cause catastrophic damage, especially when a passenger car is involved. In addition, as discussed, the spill of cargo onto the roadway can cause significant danger leading to further damage.
Common Dump Truck and Garbage Truck Accidents
What kind of accidents do dump trucks and garbage trucks get into on a regular basis? Here are some common scenarios leading to truck accidents.
- Blind spot accidents. Dump trucks, like other commercial vehicles, have deceptively large blind spots on all sides of the vehicle. When combined with the relative inexperience of many drivers and the narrow winding roads they often travel the likelihood of a blind spot accident increases. Motorists in passenger cars may not realize that they are invisible to drivers. Lack of visibility is particularly dangerous for cars in lanes to the right of a dump truck. The driver of a truck, making a right turn, may be unaware of any vehicle situated on the truck’s right side. There is also the danger of dump truck and garbage truck drivers failing to clear their blind spots before changing lanes. When a truck cuts off another vehicle, a serious accident will likely result.
- Sideswipe accidents. As noted above, dump trucks and garbage trucks take up significant space on narrow streets. Sideswipe accidents occur when the side of the truck collides with other vehicles, either in motion or parked. Sideswipe accidents have a reputation for being “minor” accidents. However, when a dump truck or garbage truck is involved, they can often cause extensive damage. The height and weight of these trucks can destroy smaller vehicles. Severe damage to a smaller vehicle is the best-case scenario in sideswipe collisions. At worst, the truck sideswipes a vehicle in-motion, shattering its windows or crushing its roof, resulting in a catastrophic collision.
- Rollovers. Dump trucks, by their very function, carry unsecured loads. You cannot tie-down, or strap-down, a load of gravel or sand. Unsecured loads involve the inherent risk of creating a vehicle imbalance. An unbalanced load can cause a loss of control which, in turn, can lead to a truck tipping over. Rollovers frequently occur at intersections or on roads with sharp curves that may be misjudged. Garbage truck loads are not as inherently unstable as dump truck loads. However, garbage trucks have a relatively high center of gravity, making them susceptible to rolling over.
As we noted above, although these types of accidents represent common scenarios for dump truck or garbage truck accidents. Remember, though, accidents involving commercial trucks can be caused by a factor of other factors. Despite the causes of dump or garbage truck accidents, they can cause serious injuries and fatalities.
After a Dump Truck or Garbage Truck Accident
Catastrophic accidents are traumatic for all involved. Victims of accidents involving a dump or garbage truck frequently find themselves overwhelmed and confused. Drivers and passengers of smaller vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, often face life-altering injuries as a consequence of a truck collision. Dump and garbage truck accidents, like other commercial vehicle accidents, can involve multiple parties.
Following an accident, victims will likely be bombarded by insurance company representatives encouraging them to settle their claim. Insurance representatives and employers are interested in attaining one goal: minimal financial liability. Other parties to the case will work hard in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the compensation the injured victim deserves. Here are some tips to help injured victims navigate the aftermath of a devastating accident.
Understand What’s Happening
A dump truck or garbage truck is virtually always a commercial vehicle. Typically, the trucks are owned by a business and driven by the business’s employees or contractors. Oftentimes, that vehicle provides services to third parties. For example, trucks may be rented to haul raw materials or waste.
When an accident happens involving that truck, the driver, the driver’s employer, and the third party may all be responsible for compensating injured victims. Each of those parties may carry insurance, which means their respective insurance companies may be liable for damages as well.
Avoid Insurance Adjusters
Soon after an accident involving a dump truck or a garbage truck, victims may hear from representatives of the insurance companies. Although insurance companies may admit they owe injured victims some compensation, they aim to minimize their financial exposure as much as possible. Representatives are aware of your circumstances and may try to take advantage of your need to pay mounting medical expenses. On the other hand, insurance companies may attempt to get victims to admit fault that may lessen or eliminate their responsibility.
Victims of accidents involving dump trucks or garbage trucks should avoid having any interactions with other parties’ insurance companies. Of course, victims may need to speak with their own auto- or health-insurance carriers. However, it is important to remember that other parties’ insurance companies do not operate in your best interests. They only look out for their own. Experienced lawyers will likely have the skills necessary to negotiate a fair settlement on their client’s behalf. Let a lawyer deal with relentless insurance representatives so that you may focus on your recovery.
Seek Medical Care
The cardinal rule of motor vehicle accidents, no matter the types of vehicles involved, it that accidents victims should always seek immediate medical care. Even if victims feel their injuries are minor, it is important to be evaluated by a medical professional. Many severe, even life-threatening, injuries from motor vehicle accidents do not display symptoms immediately. Not only are symptoms delayed, but so injuries can only be detected with advanced diagnostic testing.
Accident victims should always see a doctor and be open and honest about any pain they are experiencing. A medical evaluation can ensure a full recovery. In addition, medical records may provide critical evidence for demonstrating that the injuries were, in fact, caused by the accident.
Speak With an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
We can all hope dump and garbage truck drivers do everything in their power to avoid causing an accident. However, when an accident occurs, the truck’s driver, owner, or customer in possession may be responsible for any accident-related damages. Under Washington State law, injured accident victims have the right to recover the compensation they are entitled to.
Obtaining that compensation, however, typically involves a complex claims process. Victims should contact a skilled lawyer with years of experience representing victims of truck accidents. Experience allows attorneys to identify the parties who may be legally liable for an injured victim’s losses. The sooner the victim (or the victim’s family) contacts a lawyer after an accident happens, the sooner victims may secure the compensation they deserve.
Victims should not wait to speak with a lawyer. The businesses that operate dump trucks and garbage trucks function on tight margins within layered corporate structures. They will try to escape their responsibility for paying damages at all costs. If an accident involving a dump or garbage truck has injured you or a loved one, contact an experienced truck accident injury attorney today to answer any questions you may have.
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