Garbage trucks are such a common sight that many people never stop to think about how dangerous they really are. Garbage truck / waste management accidents happen thousands of times each year, resulting in serious injury or even death.
Common Causes of Accidents
Despite the fact that they are large vehicles, garbage trucks often operate in very small areas such as alleys and narrow residential streets that provide little room for them to maneuver in. As such, the odds that they will collide with another vehicle are much greater.
Their design often results in blind spots, in which case changing lanes can become especially hazardous. Dangerous lane changes make garbage trucks especially susceptible to hitting bicyclists and pedestrians. In fact, some studies show that trash trucks are more dangerous to walkers and bike riders than any other type of vehicle.
Garbage trucks may also become unbalanced easily because their weight is unevenly distributed. As such, they are more likely to tip should the driver hit a curb or embankment. A serious accident occurred recently in Miami, FL whenever a trash truck driver hit a guardrail while driving on an exit ramp, resulting in the truck being thrown to the ground nearly 100 feet below it.
Drivers may also underestimate distance when backing up. This can result in the destruction of property or extreme bodily injury if a rider on the back of the truck becomes crushed against a building. Death can even occur if a trash truck rolls over top of an automobile that is behind it.
Negligence Plays a Role
Driver fatigue and operating while distracted are major factors that contribute to garbage truck accidents. It is not unusual for operators to text, watch videos, or read in between their frequent stops. Many drivers feel comfortable doing so because they are only traveling a few feet at a time and at very low speeds. However, a split-second lapse in judgement is all that is needed for one to become involved in a life-threatening accident. Due to the mundane nature of their work, drivers may sometimes fall asleep at the wheel or report for work when they are less than fully rested.
In some cases, the contractors who provide garbage trucks fail to provide the proper maintenance. To save money, they may forego routine servicing or put off making certain repairs. They might even become negligent in their hiring practices by failing to screen drivers or ensuring they have the right training and certification.
Contractors are required to provide regular safety training for all their drivers. However, these contractors may not always offer safety training because they are “too busy” or feel they do not have the resources. Many companies fail to provide daily safety briefings before sending their drivers out onto busy streets because they feel that doing so takes up too much time or is not really all that important.
Drivers Often Feel Pressured
Trash pick-up schedules can sometimes leave drivers feeling rushed and frantic. This is often the case near holidays whenever two days’ worth of collections must be picked up in a single day. Being short a driver can increase another one’s workload, making it more likely that he or she will make careless mistakes due to excess pressure.
Most contractors make every effort to collect trash only during daylight hours. However, unusual circumstances can sometimes force drivers to operate late at night or early in the morning. Operating after dark provides limited visibility, making what is already a very dangerous task even riskier. Of course, working longer hours increases the odds of driver error as well.
Failure to Follow the Law
Not all accidents involving a trash truck are due to their design or the nature of their operation. Some garbage truck accidents result from some of the same causes as other types of accidents, including:
- Excessive speed
- Improper lane changes
- Failing to come to a complete stop at an intersection
- Running a red light
- Going the wrong way down a one-way street
- Failure to yield the right-of-way
- Distracted driving
Garbage truck accidents can result in everything from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries. Many victims will require extended hospitalization or multiple surgeries in order to recover. Some may require months or even years of therapy to return to normal, while others never will. The loss of a loved one due to a trash truck accident is something that leaves many people with an empty hole in their lives that cannot easily be filled.
Victims can suffer emotionally as well. A reduction in one’s quality of life can leave that person feeling as though he or she has no purpose. This is especially true whenever a garbage truck injury makes it impossible for an individual to continue in the same occupation.
After an Accident
The first thing you should do after becoming involved in a garbage truck accident is to seek medical attention. Next, collect as much evidence as possible, to include obtaining the name and contact information of witnesses and taking photographs of the scene. After that, contact us for a free assessment of your case to determine if a legal remedy is available.
Do not attempt to go things alone. Garbage trucks are often operated by government agencies, in which case recovery becomes even more tricky. Contractors also tend to have a team of legal experts on retainer whose goal is to settle for as little money as possible. The best way for you to level the playing field is by seeking help from the law firm of Swor & Garro.