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Dump Truck Accidents

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Dump trucks of different sizes are common on American roadways, whether delivering smaller loads of landscaping materials to individual residences or large loads of aggregate, gravel, rocks, and more oversized items to construction sites. Dump trucks are typically owned by local businesses ranging from small to large. However, they can also be rented, though larger ones will still usually require a commercial vehicle license to legally operate. Regardless of the specific type and ownership, what is common about dump trucks is that they are large, heavy, slow to maneuver, and more challenging to operate than ordinary passenger cars. As a result, dump truck collisions in which other vehicles are struck tend to involve greater damage to the vehicles that are hit and more serious injuries to the people inside those cars.

Laws Specific to Dump Trucks

There are different types of dump trucks, including those with tilting beds that dump their cargo out the rear and those with “bottom dump” trailers that are often used in large construction projects. They are primarily classified by the Federal Highway Administration according to “gross vehicle weight rating” (GVWR), ranging from Class 5 “medium duty” dump trucks with GVWR from 16,001 to 19,500 pounds upward, depending upon size.

While dump trucks come in different types and sizes, the cargo they carry tends to have common characteristics. As a result, laws that specifically relate to dump trucks may vary a great deal from state to state, but they tend to come in two categories:

Laws relating to dump truck weights and sizes. Since many dump trucks carry heavy, dense materials like rocks, gravel, and other aggregate materials, many laws relate to dump truck weights and axle spacing to ensure safe operation on roads and bridges.

Laws relating to dump trucks safely carrying cargo. Dump trucks usually have open-top cargo beds. They often carry loose materials that pose a significant safety hazard to other drivers if they escape the cargo bed into the roadway. This would include aggregate-type materials like sand, pebbles, and gravel, as well as junk or rubbish materials like garbage or recycled goods — these types of dump truck collisions, are too common, so many states have laws addressing this. In California, for example, two relevant laws would be:

  • Vehicle Code 23114. The code section generally requires vehicles operating on roadways to be built and operating to keep their loads from falling or blowing out of the car. Section 23114 also provides specific requirements for trucks carrying “aggregate materials” such as sand, dirt, pebbles, gravel, and similar loads regarding how the load beds must be constructed to reduce spillage. It also requires that most of these loads be fully “tarped” or otherwise covered unless steps are taken to keep loaded materials from blowing out, such as by keeping loads at least six inches below the container area top edges.
  • Vehicle Code 23115. This section addresses the carrying of garbage, wastepaper, cardboard, and junk or rubbish, in general, that’s being transported for recycling or disposal. For most of these materials, Section 23115 requires the load be “totally covered” to keep the load from spilling out, while for loads like wastepaper, cardboard, cans, and bottles, the materials can be bound with appropriate straps or netting to keep them from escaping.
Common Factors in Dump Truck Crashes

Whether a small dump truck or a large one, these vehicles are much larger and heavier than typical passenger cars. As a result, when a dump truck hits the common passenger vehicle, it does a great deal more damage than when one passenger car hits another. Unfortunately, more vehicle damage correlates with more serious injuries or fatalities.

Additionally, the size and weight of dump trucks make them significantly more challenging to operate — they are slower to get moving, brake at high speeds, and harder to turn and maneuver. When loaded, they often have a significantly raised center of gravity, making them prone to tipping if turned too quickly. For all these reasons, most dump trucks require commercial licenses and specialized training to safely operate.

Fortunately, some dump truck crashes can be avoided by simply being aware of the dump truck’s presence and giving it some extra room to operate. If we are driving a passenger car, SUV, or pickup truck, our vehicles are much nimble than a large vehicle like a dump truck — just give it a little more space. Additionally, since dump trucks are often carrying loads that can move about, be very careful about following too closely behind one — although a piece of loose gravel escaping a dump truck bed can result in the significant cost and annoyance of having to replace a cracked windshield, a larger piece or larger amounts of debris escaping from a dump truck may result in an accident that causes serious injuries.

Dump Truck Liability Coverage, Claims, and Lawsuits

Most dump trucks are large commercial vehicles with minimum liability insurance coverages of either $500,000 or $1 million, depending on the vehicle type and business type. Many that are owned by large transport or construction companies will have significantly greater amounts of insurance coverage. So while the injuries caused in dump truck crashes, unfortunately, tend to be more serious than in passenger car accidents, there at least is very likely to be more significant amounts of liability insurance available to cover the damages for personal injury claims and lawsuits.

Personal injury claims and lawsuits resulting from dump truck accidents — as with those stemming from accidents involving large commercial trucks of any sort — are usually very different from and more complex than claims and lawsuits following passenger car collisions. Due to the more severe injuries usually involved (which translates to greater injuries and monetary damages), the larger amounts of liability insurance available, the complexities of the employer-employee relationship between defendant corporations and their drivers, and other factors common to commercial truck accidents in general dump truck accident cases are typically very complicated. They usually involve numerous theories of liability than passenger vehicle crash cases and more complex collision scenes, often requiring accident reconstructionists and other expert witnesses to prove causation. 

View this dashcam video broadcast by a local tv station in Texas showing how a runaway dump truck is barely deflected by rear-ending one vehicle and then broadsiding another. (Fortunately, the video notes say no one died in this massive impact).

Call a Sacramento, California Dump Truck Accident Lawyer

Being involved in a dump truck accident in Sacramento or elsewhere in California can result in serious injuries and significant economic loss. Furthermore, it may lead to complicated processes for insurance claims seeking compensation. Litigation of these claims is nearly always much more difficult and challenging than lawsuits for simple car crashes. When seeking advice for truck accident losses of this type, it’s essential to look for legal counsel with the experience and resources necessary to successfully handle these claims.

My name is Ed Smith, and I’m a Sacramento, California, Dump Truck Accident Lawyer. If you or a family member has been injured in a traffic accident involving a large commercial vehicle like a dump truck, please call our lawyers for free, friendly advice. You can reach us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 or by using our online contact form.

Editor’s Note: updated 11.29.23 Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay gm [cs 1214]