Garbage Truck Accidents: Who’s Responsible For Your Damages?

Pretty much every neighborhood has them at least once a week. Residents also depend on the service they provide.

We’re talking about garbage trucks and they’re a necessity. After all, you don’t want trash piling up in your home and yard. As vital as garbage trucks are, these huge vehicles can also pose risks. If you’re involved in an accident with a garbage truck, injuries and property damage are often significant.

So, who’s to blame for the accident? Determining liability in a garbage truck accident can be a complex process. Often, this is because more than one party is to blame for the incident.

The Potential Dangers of Garbage Trucks

You’ve probably heard the rumbling of a garbage truck as it makes its way down your street. While the majority of sanitation companies put drivers through extensive training, accidents still happen.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tracks accidents involving garbage trucks. Since tracking began in the 1980s, OSHA has noted a majority of garbage truck accidents result in a fatality. This includes both sanitation workers and bystanders like passenger vehicle drivers.

So, what makes garbage trucks dangerous? There are a few factors contributing to the vehicle's potential hazards.

Weight and Size

Have you ever paid attention to the size of an average garbage truck? You know, the one that rumbles weekly down your street? These vehicles are massive and typically constructed from steel. This means garbage trucks are also solid and heavy.

Did you know a fully loaded garbage truck can weigh around 25 tons? This is a lot of weight to hit with a standard vehicle. Even a heavy-duty pickup truck is going to suffer severe damage if it’s struck by or hits a garbage truck.

Low Visibility

Just like any large vehicle, think of semis, garbage trucks have several blind spots. What’s a blind spot? This is an area around the vehicle that the driver can’t see. Most blind spots occur on the rear and sides of the vehicle.

Since the driver’s field of vision is restricted, they can’t always see drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. The best way to avoid being in a blind spot accident is to always give garbage trucks plenty of room. In other words, stay away from the rear and sides, especially when the truck is reversing or turning.

Slow Moving and Stopping Frequently

Garbage trucks aren’t designed for speed. These are big, lumbering vehicles that rarely reach neighborhood speed limits. There’s a good chance you’ll never see a garbage truck speeding through your neighborhood.

Getting stuck behind a garbage truck can be frustrating, especially since the vehicle’s also making frequent stops. Tailgating a garbage truck often leads to rear-end collisions. Don’t forget about the blind spot and the possibility the garbage truck can suddenly go into reverse.

Falling Debris

Just because trash is going in doesn’t necessarily mean something can’t fall out. Sometimes, garbage gets loose and can fall out. Now, there’s a road hazard that can cause a traffic accident. The falling debris can also strike vehicles, especially if you’re following too closely behind.

Giving garbage trucks plenty of room is a good way of avoiding accidents caused by falling debris. Don’t get out of your vehicle to pick up the trash. You may be at risk of being struck by a passing vehicle. Instead, call the non-emergency number in your area to report the road hazard.

Who’s Responsible for Garbage Truck Accidents

If you’re involved in an accident with a garbage truck, get ready for a relatively complicated legal process, which applies even if you’re not responsible even partially for the accident.

The primary reason for the complexity of a garbage truck accident case is determining liability. Often, more than one party is liable for your damages.

So, who can be held liable in an accident with a sanitation truck? The list can be extensive covering everyone from the driver to the sanitation company to a local government agency.

Truck Driver

The truck driver is typically the first party considered liable in a garbage truck accident. Their actions/behavior behind the wheel may be considered negligent.

Some examples of negligence on the driver’s part include speeding, distracted driving, reckless driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Truck Owner or Company

While most garbage trucks are company-owned, some are the property of a single individual. If the owner isn’t the driver, they may be liable for the accident. Some examples of when liability laws may apply include if they failed to properly maintain the vehicle.

If the driver hasn’t received adequate training, the owner or company may also be liable. This is known as vicarious liability and states vehicle owners are responsible for ensuring the safety of their garbage trucks.

Maintenance Companies and Manufactures

If the accident is caused by a defect on the garbage truck like failed brakes, the vehicle manufacturer or the maintenance company may be the liable party.

However, this will require an extensive investigation best handled by an experienced personal injury attorney. You’ll need access to vehicle maintenance records and possibly even design and construction documents.

Government or Other Agencies

Sometimes government agencies like your municipal government contract with a sanitation company. If an accident occurs and the government agency hasn’t done due diligence on the sanitation collection service, they may be liable in your personal injury case.

This can also apply to HOAs (Home Owner Associations) if they’re the entity holding the contract with the waste removal company.

Other Potentially Liable Parties

Some other parties that may be liable in a garbage truck accident can include road construction companies, vehicle part manufacturers, and even other drivers on the road.

Don’t Go Through A Garbage Truck Accident Case Alone

While it’s always advisable to work with an experienced injury attorney if you're involved in an accident, this can be especially true when a garbage truck plays a role. Even determining liability can be a complex and frustrating process.

Sometimes, there’s a lot of red tape to get through. If you’re injured in a garbage truck accident, talk to an attorney about your legal options. 

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Posted - 04/01/2024