By Pendergast Law on October 30, 2020
Anyone who has ever driven on the freeway has at some point seen lost cargo strewn across multiple lanes. Sometimes it is as mild as a box of clothes or groceries, but it can also include objects as large as refrigerators, mattresses, and washing machines. While large commercial trucks have a reputation for losing cargo, passenger vehicles are also major culprits. Consumers often tie down large pieces of furniture to the tops of their vehicles or have to crack open their trunks to properly transport them. This can make the roads incredibly dangerous if these are not secure, as they can lead to catastrophic accidents.
Washington Laws on Securing Cargo
In the state of Washington, drivers are required to secure their cargo, according to RCW 2046.44.034. Failure to do so carries a fine of $228; however, that is not the only way the state enforces this law. If an item that falls off the vehicle causes bodily harm to another person, the driver may be facing misdemeanor charges, with penalties that may include a fine of up to $5,000 and up to a year in prison. The law states that every load must be secured, even if the vehicle will be traveling very slowly for only a short distance.
When traveling with objects attached on top or in the open truck of a vehicle, it may not extend more than three feet beyond the front wheels or the front bumper of the vehicle and may not extend more than 15 feet beyond the center of the last axle. To secure their cargo, drivers should secure it to the vehicle with straps, rope, netting, tarps, or chains, so that no part of the load can become detached and fall out of the vehicle onto the roadway. A load is secure when no part of it can slide, shift, or fall off of the vehicle.
What if a Piece of Cargo Hits Me?
In the worst-case scenario, a piece of furniture, box, or mattress may fall out of a vehicle and hit your car. This can lead to you losing control of your vehicle, often resulting in further collisions with streetlamps, guardrails, or trees. You may even be run off the road. At this point, you may have two options for recovering compensation for your injuries, damage to your vehicle, and any other expenses:
- If the driver stops or if you can identify them to the police later, you can file an auto accident claim against them for damages. Because the accident would not have occurred if the driver had properly secured their cargo, they are fully responsible for your injuries.
- If the driver does not stop and you were not able to identify them, you may have an incident referred to as a miss and run. Miss and runs are similar to hit and runs, except that the driver technically did not hit you with their vehicle. However, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can still file a claim with your own insurance company for damages.
In either situation, you will want to have a skilled Seattle auto accident attorney at your side to ensure you receive proper compensation. Insurance companies are often very dismissive of accident victims’ injuries and will try to minimize the amount they pay you. To schedule a free consultation, contact us at 888-539-9211. We can assess the full extent of your losses and tell you what damages you may be able to claim. Our Seattle personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay us no fees until we recover compensation for you.