F.S. 316.520 governing loads on vehicles forbids any vehicle from being driven or moved on any highway unless that vehicle has been constructed or loaded in a way that prevents any portion of that load from dropping, shifting, leaking, blowing or otherwise escaping. The law is clear that the duty to prevent material from escaping a vehicle belongs to every vehicle owner and driver. Based on principles of respondeat superior, the employer of that driver may also be held responsible.
Recently in Miami-Dade, officials reported a six-car/tractor-trailer crash allegedly caused when the truck driver swerved to avoid striking a wheelbarrow that was in the northbound lanes of the Florida Turnpike. The tractor-trailer struck another vehicle and then overturned, and soon after several other cars struck those blocking the roadway.
Several people were injured, and one was transported to a nearby hospital in critical condition.
Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol have launched an investigation into the crash, and have identified that the wheelbarrow had been improperly loaded onto a pickup truck, and came flying off mid-trip.
Lawn equipment is just one kind of unsecured load that can cause serious harm on our roadways. Others include furniture, branches, wood piles, mattresses and more. Although many of the vehicles responsible for hauling the majority of materials via highway are commercial vehicles, the law regarding vehicle loads also pertains to private drivers as well.
In Florida, the offense is treated as a non-criminal infraction, punishable as a non-moving violation. That means there may be little incentive for people in a rush to get a lot of material from Point A to Point B to follow the law and make sure their loads are secure.
Other states take a different approach. In Washington, for example, a state law went into effect in 2006 that punishes drivers criminally for failure to tie down the load on their vehicle when it results in a fatal crash. The first case to be prosecuted under the law involved a man and his grandfather who were charged in a fatal accident that killed a 43-year-old father, who died in a multiple-car pileup allegedly caused by defendant’s failure to secure metal shelving to the back of a pickup. The shelving unit flew out of the back of the truck, forcing one vehicle after another to swerve hard at high speeds to get out of the way.
Our Naples traffic accident lawyers know there have been a number of these kinds of cases locally as well. One occurred in Fort Myers near the Forum in October last year. When a pickup truck driver realized a large piece of wood had flown off the back of her vehicle, she reportedly stopped the vehicle in the middle of the roadway to retrieve it. Seconds later, a man on a motorcycle slammed into the back of her stopped truck. The motorcyclist died as a result of his injuries, while the driver was cited for improper stopping and unsecured load.
Any time a crash occurs as a result of an unsecured load, there may be multiple avenues for victims to pursue damages. Early legal consultation is key.
If you have been injured in a Naples accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Six cars, tractor-trailer, involved in chain-reaction crash on Florida’s Turnpike, April 1, 2015, By Peter Burke, Local10.com
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