A tractor-trailer accident in St. Augustine recently spilled a large load of potatoes across the road. Two semi-trucks collided near mile marker 307 in St. Johns County, and two passenger vehicles were also involved near State Road 206. Fortunately, no injuries were reported, although traffic had to be diverted to remove the potato hazard.
While these drivers avoided injuries, not everyone involved in a road obstruction accident is so lucky. Who’s liable when a vehicle spills objects or materials on the road?
Unsecured loads and cargo spills
Florida Statute 316.520 governs vehicle loads. Generally, the law states that vehicles on the highway must secure their loads properly (except when dropping sand to improve traction or using water/substances to clean or maintain the road). Owners and drivers are both responsible when hauling “dirt, sand, lime rock, gravel, silica, or other similar aggregate or trash, garbage, any inanimate object or objects, or any similar material that could fall or blow from such vehicle” to cover and secure the load with a close-fitting tarp, cover or other approved load-securing device.
The coverage requirements do not apply to vehicles carrying agricultural products locally, from harvest sites or to and from a farm, on roads where the speed limit is 65 mph or less.
This is a noncriminal traffic infraction, unless someone intentionally violates the law and as a result causes serious bodily harm or death. If they intentionally violate the statute, they have committed a criminal traffic offense and second-degree misdemeanor.
In short, drivers and owners must take care to secure their loads. If they negligently fail in their duties and cause an accident, they may be found liable for damages in civil court. Although the potato spill is cause for plenty of puns, other drivers were fortunate to escape injury.
If you’ve been injured in an accident due to improperly secured loads, contact an experienced Sarasota, FL auto accident lawyer at Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, Murphy & Walsh today.