Truck accidents are a unique kind of truck accident because there are flatbed specific issues that arise in litigation. Truck accident lawyers often need to understand these differences to maximize the value of these claims. This page is about these cases and their settlement value.
Flatbed trucks are like other large, tractor-trailer type trucks but instead of hauling a closed cargo container they transport larger types of cargo on an open flat trailer. Flatbed trailers can either be fixed to the frame of the truck or fully detachable. Fixed or attached flatbed trucks are typically smaller and frequently used for local transportation of lumber and other commonly used building materials. These truck are involved in about 10% of truck accident cases.
Detachable flatbeds are larger and come in 2 types: (1) standard; and (2) lowboy. The standard detachable flatbed trailer has raised cargo platform that sits above the wheels. These types of flatbed trailers are used for hauling a large variety of bulky cargos and oversized loads including building materials and large machinery. Lowboy flatbeds have a platform that sits down in between the wheels, closer to the road. Lowboys are used to large, wheeled equipment and loads with a high center of gravity such as cranes.
Unique Roadway Hazards of Flatbed Trucks
Flatbed trucks of all types present unique risks compared to their counterparts with enclosed containers. The reason for this is both simple and somewhat obvious – flatbed trucks can cause accidents with just their cargo. If you are sharing the road with a truck hauling cargo in a standard enclosed container, your only concern is a collision with that truck. You generally do not have to worry about the cargo flying out of the container trailer and smashing your car. You also don’t have to worry about the cargo causing the truck to become unstable or the truck driver to lose control. With flatbed trucks, however, all of these concerns are come into play.
A flatbed truck has the potential to cause a serious accident even without a collision with another vehicle. If the cargo on a flatbed is not properly secured or somehow comes free out on the road, it can come off the flatbed onto the road or directly onto another vehicle. The potential results of this happened can obviously be very dangerous, particularly on busy highways.
Below is a summary of verdicts and reported settlements in personal injury cases involving flatbed trucks. These cases give of good overview of the various types of accidents that can be related to flatbed trucks.
- Murray v. A&B Hardwood Flooring (Illinois 2019) $7,000,000: A young woman was driving a ride share was struck by a flatbed truck and killed. The defendant offer $500,000 to settle, claiming the woman was at fault for the crash. The jury found the family’s damages were $7 million but reduced that about by 25% because they believed the victim had some responsibility for the crash.
- Munoz v Extreme Towing Inc (New Jersey 2014) $520,000: Plaintiff in this case was driving on the NJ Turnpike when a large truck wheel flew off the back of a flatbed tow truck and smashed into her car. Plaintiff and her passenger sued the flatbed truck driving and his employer for failing to properly secure the truck and its tire on the flatbed. Both plaintiff and the passenger allegedly suffered multiple disc herniations in the cervical spine and plaintiff suffered internal bleeding requiring surgery after the accident. The driver’s claims were settled for $425,000 and the passenger’s claims were settled for $95,000.
- Graves v Big Dog Logistics (Texas 2013) $6 million: Plaintiff was unloading large, heavy pipes from a flatbed truck when one of them came loose and crushed his leg. He sued the trucking company that had made alterations to the flatbed truck (including removal of the side rails). Plaintiff alleged that the removal of the side rails made the flatbed unsafe and caused the accident. Plaintiff had to have his left leg surgically amputated as a result of the accident.
- Crawford v ENGK Towing (New Jersey 2009) $1.2 million: Plaintiff in this case had a disabled car on the side of the road and called for roadside assistance through his insurance company. When the tow truck arrived the driver hooked up the car and started pulling it onto the flat bed when it came loose. The car slid back down the flatbed and crushed the plaintiff’s leg. Plaintiff sued the flatbed tow driver for negligence in hooking the car up for the tow. The jury in Essex County awarded $1.2 million.
- Plaintiff v Defendant (Massachusetts 2003) $775,000 settlement: In this case the flatbed truck was hauling a very large turbine generator that was strapped down to the platform with a “ball & hitch” tie down and a safety chain. The truck was driving on a highway when the generator became detached from the platform and flew into the adjacent lane causing a 3 car pile-up accident. State police determined that the ball & hitch tie downs were undersized and issued a citation to the truck driver for failing to properly secure his load. Plaintiff’s knee was badly injured in the accident and required multiple arthroscopic surgeries and ultimately reconstructive surgery. The case was settled for $775,000.
- Buchel v Enterprise Leasing Co (Florida 2002) $1 million: In this sad case a 6-year old boy was killed in a 4 car accident on a bridge near Tampa. The accident was caused by a flatbed truck that became disabled on the bridge and was obstructing traffic. The mother of the 6-year old boy was forced to change lanes to avoid the disabled flatbed truck which resulted in a collision with another driver. The jury in Sumter County awarded the boy’s mother $1 million.
- Johnson v Thomson Gordon Ind. (Florida 1992) $2.4 million: In this case the plaintiff actually rear-ended a flatbed truck that was stopped at red light. However, the truck did not have a rear bumper or “underride guard” which resulting in plaintiff’s car going under the flat bed and nearly decapitating him. His estate sued both the manufacturer of the truck and the trucking company. The case was settled for $2.4 million.
Why are there not more flatbed truck crash settlements and verdicts? The settlement value of these cases if often very high. Trucking insurers know this and are typically eager to settle these cases after a lawsuit is filed and the plaintiff shows they are serious about taking the case to a jury.
Contact Miller & Zois About Flatbed Truck Accidents
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a flatbed truck, or another type of truck, contact the personal injury attorneys at Miller & Zois. Call us at 1.800.553.8082 or submit a request for a free consultation.