What are the Legal Challenges of Garbage Truck Accidents?

August 2, 2021

Garbage Truck Accidents
Garbage Truck Accidents

Waste removal trucks represent a real hazard to drivers and pedestrians in the communities they serve. According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data, there were approximately 1,400 injury-causing accidents and 107 fatal wrecks involving garbage trucks in 2017.

Weighing upwards of 50,000 tons, their size alone makes them likely to cause considerable damage to people and property in a crash. For the victims of garbage truck accidents, knowing who to hold responsible and how to pursue compensation can be challenging.

When justice is at stake, a determined lawyer is not going to back down from filing a case against a private waste management company or a government entity. Accident victims can do their part to build a strong claim by doing the following:

  • Seeking medical attention in a timely manner.
  • Carefully preserving any evidence related to their case.
  • Avoiding any delay in contacting a lawyer specializing in truck accident cases.

Residents across the United States trust that the garbage trucks they see every week are safely maintained and operated. While garbage truck accidents are not as common as other types of traffic wrecks, they are likely to cause serious injuries when they do occur.

A legal claim is a way to hold waste management company owners and employees accountable to the highest standards to prevent injuries. Since claims involving city or state workers are more complex, anyone injured in this type of accident should contact a lawyer for guidance.

What are Common Types of Waste Removal Trucks?

In order to better understand garbage truck accidents, it is important to learn about the different types of waste removal vehicles. Common waste removal trucks include:

  • Grapple trucks: A grapple truck is installed with a mechanical crane that is used to grab and lift objects onto the vehicle. Besides waste removal, grapple trucks are also used in construction and repairs.
  • Front loaders: Front loading trucks have automated forks stationed at the front of the vehicle. These prongs lift waste and turn it upside down to deposit it into the hopper where it is collected and compacted.
  • Rear loaders: Perhaps the most familiar type of garbage truck, rear loaders have a wide opening at the back of the truck where waste is deposited by hand through a mechanical lifting system.
  • Side loaders: Most side loaders have an automated side arm that lifts cans overhead, dumps waste into the hopper, and returns cans back to the street.

Garbage Trucks can Follow Different Traffic Laws

Dumpsters and waste receptacles are not always easy to access. Garbage trucks have to navigate through small streets and traffic jams to retrieve trash and continue along their route. To accomplish this task, many municipalities permit waste removal vehicles to do some actions that would otherwise be illegal. For example, in some communities, garbage trucks are allowed to drive on the wrong side of the road, linger in the median, or stop in the bike lane. While this helps drivers reach waste in areas that would otherwise be hard to reach, these actions can confuse other motorists, increasing the risk of a collision.

What are Common Causes of Waste Disposal Truck Accidents?

Besides the fact that garbage trucks are slow and imposing, there are a few other reasons why they are likely to cause traffic accidents. Reasons for garbage truck accidents include:

  • Overloaded hoppers
  • Defective parts and equipment
  • Improper braking
  • Limited visibility and blind spots
  • Failing reverse alarms
  • Poor training for crew
  • Distracted drivers
  • Frequent stops and starts
  • Failure to obey some traffic signs and signals

What Injuries can Occur in Garbage Truck Accidents?

A collision with a garbage truck moving at a decent speed is likely to result in injuries to anyone traveling in a passenger car. Injuries might include:

  • Cuts and bruises
  • Broken bones
  • Strains and sprains
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Neck and spine damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Whiplash

Since many motor vehicle accident injuries are not always immediately obvious, it is important to take precautions before moving anyone involved. The most important step after any auto accident is to seek medical attention.

Who Owns and Operates Garbage Trucks?

Individual states are tasked with providing garbage collection services for their residents. Some states provide offer this service through a division of the city or county government. Others contract these services out to private companies. That is a critical distinction because in communities that utilize public trash services, those government entities may be exempt from liability through the Federal Tort Claims Act.

The Federal Tort Claims Act describes the procedures for managing claims against a United States entity based on a negligent act from a government employee. The Virginia Tort Claims Act also offers a threshold of immunity from civil damages for state workers in some cases. Due to these protections, it is difficult to determine the liable party. If the driver or crew member is a government employee, a qualified lawyer can review the state and federal immunity rules to see if a claim can proceed under the law.

Human Error in Waste Removal Truck Accidents

Garbage trucks depend on a lot of smaller parts and systems to work together as designed. When a part breaks down, the truck can stall or malfunction in a way that poses a risk to others, including drivers and waste management employees. However, in many cases, an accident is caused by human error. Whether distracted, impaired, or simply careless, motorists who do not take all precautions to safely operate garbage trucks should be held responsible for accidents and injuries.

Working these trucks is also physically demanding, and shifts can run 10 to 14 hours each day. Fatigue affects driving in many of the same ways as alcohol. It slows reaction time, reduces coordination, and increases risk taking.

In a claim against an individual driver, the injured party must prove that the truck driver acted negligently in some way. Since waste removal drivers are permitted to skirt some basic traffic laws, and negligence is not always easy to prove. A lot will depend upon evidence gathered at the scene, witness testimony, and proof of injuries and property damage. A skilled lawyer is an invaluable resource to build a strong case.

What Steps Should I Take After a Garbage Truck Accident?

It is important to call for help before moving anyone who might be injured after a collision with a garbage truck. Once police and other emergency personnel arrive, the injured party should calmly explain how the accident occurred. In the police report, it is vital to mention if the driver was speeding or carelessly operated the truck.

Documenting the scene is an important step for an injured individual who may want to file a future claim. Taking photographs of the accident scene as well as damage to vehicles and other property can be used as evidence. Sometimes, motor vehicle accidents happen fast, and it is hard to tell exactly what transpired. That is where eyewitness accounts become invaluable. Write down the contact information of anyone who may have seen the crash occur.

It is also essential to document any medical care for accident injuries. That includes emergency room visits, surgeries, physical therapy, and medications. Many of these costs can be recouped if a claim is successful.

Virginia Beach Truck Accident Lawyers Help Those Injured by Waste Removal Vehicles

At East Coast Trial Lawyers, our skilled Virginia Beach truck accident lawyers have experience managing claims against public and private trucking companies. We believe in justice for injured parties, and we understand that garbage truck accidents can be devastating. For a free consultation, call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-352-2220