Hit by a Garbage Truck: What You Need to Know to Receive the Maximum Compensation Possible

Garbage Truck Accidents What to Know | Houston Truck Accident Lawyer

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In just about every neighborhood in the country, you’re bound to find garbage trucks rumbling down the road, attempting to navigate tight alleys, or rounding sharp corners.

But while garbage collection is essential to the efficient functioning of our communities, a garbage truck’s size and weight, larger-than-usual blind spots, and the abnormal nature and size of their loads increase the chances that even a minor crash will result in serious injuries.

Having successfully represented thousands of clients against the largest trucking companies and corporations in the world, it’s been our experience that the majority of trucking-related crashes – including those involving garbage trucks and other commercial vehicles – are entirely preventable and result from negligence on the part of the trucking company or its driver.

What Makes Garbage Trucks More Dangerous than Other Vehicles?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, garbage trucks and other waste-removal vehicles were involved in 107 fatalities and more than 1400 serious injuries in 2020 alone. While roughly 25% of the victims were sanitation workers, motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists accounted for the remaining injuries and deaths.

Why are garbage trucks so much more dangerous than many other vehicles encountered on the road? Well, for one thing, their larger size and lower center of gravity make them prone to rollover crashes. A garbage truck driver sits up high in their vehicle, which results in larger blind spots, while the truck’s loading arms further obstruct the driver’s view.

Sanitation trucks generally head out in the very early morning hours, when it’s still dark. They stop and start frequently, and some drivers will stop their trucks in the middle of the road to save time rather than pull safely to the side. Certain states even permit garbage trucks to travel down the right-hand side of the road, along bike paths, and the wrong way down a one-way street while trash is being collected.

Waste-hauling vehicles typically aren’t equipped with backup cameras, even though they may have to back out after servicing narrower alleys and streets. Some of the trash they haul can also be flammable or hazardous, potentially causing burns and other injuries in the event of a crash.

Common Causes of Garbage Truck Crashes

Garbage truck crashes typically result from the same factors that cause other trucking-related accidents:

Rollover Crashes

Like a lot of large trucks, garbage trucks are top-heavy and have a high center of gravity, making these vehicles inherently unstable and prone to rollover crashes should a driver stop quickly, swerve suddenly, or speed around a corner or sharp curve.

Inexperienced Drivers and Lack of Adequate Training

In recent years, a severe labor shortage has adversely impacted the sanitation industry’s ability to recruit and retain employees, including qualified garbage truck drivers. As a result, many waste-hauling companies have resorted to hiring younger, inexperienced truck drivers who lack the training needed to safely operate these large vehicles.

Driver Fatigue

The industry’s labor shortage also means that many sanitation employees are working long hours of overtime in addition to their regular shifts. In some communities, it’s not at all unusual for a garbage truck driver to work consecutive 12-14 hour shifts without a day off, even though it’s a well-recognized fact that overworked and fatigued truck drivers are far more likely to cause a crash than those who are well-rested.

Distracted Driving

Because garbage trucks generally operate along city roads and suburban streets, drivers must always be alert for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists – especially when they’re backing up. A distracted truck driver could easily miss seeing people and objects within their vehicle’s blind spots.

Congested Roads and Streets

Unlike many other commercial vehicles, garbage trucks are more likely to travel on congested streets and in work zones. Their proximity to other vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles only increases the potential for a crash.

Frequent Stopping

Garbage trucks typically stop at every home and business along a given street. Sometimes, crashes occur because a driver stops his truck in the middle of the road, obstructing other motorists. Rear-end collisions may occur when a truck driver brakes suddenly or when other motorists are tailgating or not expecting the truck to stop.

Frequent stopping also takes a toll on a garbage truck’s brakes, resulting in wear and tear that makes it difficult to stop the vehicle in an emergency.

Poor Vehicle Maintenance

Sanitation companies must regularly inspect, maintain, and repair their trucks. When they fail to do so, the brakes, tires, steering, or other vehicle components could fail and cause a tragic accident.

Poor Weather Conditions

Garbage trucks are expected to pick up trash no matter the weather and frequently operate in rain, snow, sleet, wind, and hail. Unfortunately, inclement weather can reduce a drivers’ visibility, blow trees and debris into the path of their truck, and create slick conditions that increase the likelihood of a crash.

Falling Debris

Improperly secured loads can allow trash to fall from a garbage truck. Debris that lands in the path of another vehicle is likely to trigger a crash. Pedestrians and bicyclists struck by flying trash could also suffer serious injuries.

Careless, Reckless, and Aggressive Driving Behaviors

Speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, failing to obey traffic rules, and intoxication are just a few of the poor driving behaviors that cause garbage truck wrecks.

Driving Safely Around Garbage Trucks

While you can’t control the actions of a sanitation company or its garbage truck driver, there are some precautions you can take to avoid an accident when a refuse collection vehicle is nearby.

  • Maintain a safe distance — at least 30 feet — between your vehicle and the garbage truck. This not only keeps you out of the truck’s blind spots and ensures the driver sees you, but it also protects you in the event debris falls from the truck.
  • Don’t speed and stay calm. Getting stuck behind a garbage truck is frustrating, but road rage won’t make it move any faster. Irrational behavior only increases the potential for a crash.
  • Keep your focus on the road at all times. Don’t text, talk on the phone, eat and drink, or engage in other distracting behaviors when you’re behind the wheel.
  • Don’t try passing a garbage truck unless the driver sees you and motions for you to pass.
  • When driving behind a garbage truck, be aware that it may make unexpected stops.
  • Pedestrians, including children, should stay at least 25 feet away from a garbage truck at all times.
  • Make sure kids don’t run into the street when a sanitation crew is working. Children should know that garbage trucks can’t stop as quickly as a regular car and that the driver may not see them.
  • Wear high-visibility clothes (for example, a jacket with reflective tape) if you’re out walking, jogging, or biking on dark mornings. Children should wear the same type of clothing while walking to school or waiting for a school bus in the dark.

Who Can I Sue After a Garbage Truck Accident?

If you or someone you love were injured or tragically killed in a garbage truck accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages from the responsible parties, including:

  • The Sanitation Company: The company that owns the garbage truck and operates the route could be directly liable for any injuries and losses caused by one of its drivers or another employee. The company may also be responsible if a defective or poorly maintained truck was allowed to stay in service or their driver wasn’t subject to adequate pre-employment screening.
  • The Garbage Truck Driver: The truck driver may be liable if speeding or other poor driving behaviors contributed to the crash.
  • A Mechanic: The mechanic who inspected or serviced the garbage truck could be at fault if repairs and maintenance weren’t performed correctly.
  • The Garbage Truck Manufacturer: A manufacturer could be liable if the accident resulted from a defective truck or components.

What to Do After a Garbage Truck Wreck

Like any large truck crash, the potential for multiple responsible parties makes garbage truck accident cases far more complex than a typical car wreck case. And because these accidents are more likely to result in severe injury and death, verdicts and settlements also tend to be significantly higher and might even break records.

As a result, trucking companies and their insurance carriers will do almost anything to avoid paying you and your family full compensation for all of your injuries and losses, even if that means trivializing your injuries, blaming you, and discarding or losing evidence proving the company and its diver were responsible.

Because they’re already acting to limit your compensation and deny your valid claims, you must act quickly to protect your rights. What you do after any truck accident – including a garbage truck crash – will likely determine whether you obtain the maximum compensation possible or walk away with nothing.

Call 911

Call 911 to ensure police arrive on the scene to fully document the accident. You and your lawyer will likely need their written report to refute any attempts by the sanitation company and its attorneys to blame you for the crash.

Get Immediate Medical Attention

Not all injuries are apparent in the first moments and hours after a crash. Heading to the emergency room – even if you don’t think you were hurt – will ensure all of your injuries are fully documented if the company’s attorneys question their severity.

Document the Accident Scene

If you’re able, take photos and video of the accident scene, paying particular attention to skid marks, damage done to all involved vehicles, and lighting and other road conditions in the area.

You should also record or write down the garbage truck driver’s name, the name of the sanitation and/or trucking company, all vehicle license plates, insurance information, and contact information for any witnesses.

Notify Your Insurance Company

Even if it’s obvious that the garbage truck driver was at fault for the accident, you must notify your auto insurance company to avoid a detail of coverage that would prevent you from receiving PIP, Med-Pay, and other benefits that could otherwise be used to help cover your medical bills and other expenses.

Don’t Speak with the Company’s Insurance Adjuster

The sanitation company’s insurance adjuster cares about one thing and one thing only: downplaying your injuries and blaming you for the crash. Under no circumstances should you speak to them or agree to give them a recorded statement.

Follow All Medical Advice and Keep All Appointments

Make sure you attend all of your medical appointments and follow all of your doctor’s advice while you’re recovering. Giving the insurance company any opportunity to dispute or downplay your injuries could prevent you from obtaining all the compensation you are owed.

Keep Records of your Medical Treatments and Recovery

Receipts for co-pays and any other out-of-pocket medical expenses provide a valuable record of your treatment in case the defendants’ attorneys try to cast doubt on your injuries. Keeping a journal that details your good-faith efforts to heal, the extent of your pain and suffering, and the many ways your injuries have diminished the quality of your life will also add to your credibility.

Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer

An Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer – one with a record of success against the largest corporations in the world – will know how to counter tactics the sanitation firm and its insurance company will use to avoid paying you and your family all that you are owed.

They’ll also know what evidence is needed to prove your case, what steps to take to ensure it’s preserved, how to go about obtaining it, and how to use that evidence to show the company and its driver were to blame for your injuries.

Texas Garbage Truck Accident Lawyers: Call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here for a Free Consultation

Our Undefeated Houston Truck Accident Lawyers have won Billions for accident and wrongful death victims across Texas, Louisiana, and throughout the United States, including the Largest Accident Settlements and Verdicts in Texas.

If you or a loved one were injured in a garbage truck crash, our Trucking Accident Attorneys can help. Call 1-888-603-3636, use the form on the right, or click here to send us a confidential email.

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To learn more about our success in truck accident cases, visit our “Results” page or Click Here to see what our clients have said about their experience with our firm.

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