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Garbage Truck Accident Lawyers

Legally reviewed by: Jenna-Marie Cosme October 1, 2022
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Accidents involving garbage trucks are more common than many people may think. Motorists share the road with these large trucks every day, and when an incident does occur, it can unfortunately lead to property damage or serious personal injury.

But working with an experienced garbage truck accident lawyer can help you build a strong legal case, file a claim with your insurance company, or seek the appropriate compensation.

Garbage truck on a road

Why Are Garbage Truck Accidents Dangerous?

A roadway collision with a dump truck can have a number of detrimental impacts.

An average garbage truck weighs more than 25 tons, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and some models can reach up to 55,000 pounds when fully loaded with refuse. That unfortunately creates a lot of weight to throw around in the case of a motor vehicle accident.

The total impact of a garbage truck collision with a passenger vehicle can lead to serious injuries, particularly for the driver of the smaller vehicle. But a garbage truck crash can also create a number of less-direct problems, including large waste spills, which may block the road with unsafe or potentially hazardous trash.

In some garbage truck accident cases, refuse may also fly off the truck, where it could go on to injure bystanders or cause property damage. And the road blockages caused by the accidents can further extend the impact of these incidents.

How Do Garbage Truck Accidents Occur?

There are several major causes of garbage truck accidents.

The trucks are somewhere out on the road, nearly every day, making the sheer odds of them getting involved in an incident higher.

Primarily, they operate in the morning, when it’s not only dark and harder to see, but when many drivers may still be waking up or driving while very tired. Conversely, a passenger vehicle may be in a garbage truck’s blind spot.

These large trucks also make frequent stops, and can sometimes stop in the middle of the road, which can cause a collision, especially when combined with the early operating hours and the darkness of the morning.

Still, garbage truck crashes share a number of common causes with other types of car accidents, including speeding or driver error or negligence, on the part of either the garbage truck driver or the other motorist involved.

Is The Truck Driver Always At Fault For A Garbage Truck Crash?

It’s not always the truck driver who is at fault in the case of a garbage truck crash.

Certainly, their actions could lead to a collision, especially in the cases where the garbage truck driver is failing to take proper care in a situation, acting irresponsibly, or participating in avoidable behavior leading up to an accident. But the other motorist involved can also display driver negligence.

An experienced garbage truck accident lawyer will also look for liable parties in these cases. That definition extends beyond the drivers involved to include any persons or institutions who may have contributed to the conditions that caused the accident.

In these types of truck accident cases, liable parties could include the garbage truck company for failing to properly maintain the vehicle or even the local government for contributing to unsafe roadway conditions, such as severe potholes or poorly lit roads.

What Can You Do If You Were Injured In A Garbage Truck Collision?

Unfortunately, these types of crashes can lead to severe injury. But if you or a loved one have been hurt in a garbage truck accident, you may have legal recourse.

Consult A Garbage Truck Accident Attorney

A good truck accident attorney can help you file a personal injury claim. After a free consultation, the lawyer will get to know the ins and outs of your situation, and, if you choose to continue working with them, they can help you start building a legal case for compensation.

File A Personal Injury Claim

The injury claim process may seem complicated, but an experienced law firm will know how to handle it. Typically, you and your attorney will work through gathering evidence, the actual filing of the claim, and potentially filing a lawsuit, should the case fail to settle out of court.

Negotiate A Fair Settlement

Many law offices representing truck accident victims will try to negotiate a settlement out of court. That means your truck accident lawyer will negotiate with the other parties’ attorneys to determine the assignment of fault and how much compensation is owed.

If these negotiations do not reach a settlement agreement, you may have the opportunity to file a lawsuit.

What Factors Are Considered In Truck Accident Cases?

There are many factors that may work together to determine the verdict of a garbage truck accident case.

Extent Of Personal Injury

While experiencing any type of injury in a garbage truck crash can feel traumatic, lawyers typically look at the extent of the injury when filing a case.

A more serious injury could lead to higher medical costs, time missed from work, or other personal grievances that contribute to the level of compensation sought. And accidents that tragically lead to any fatalities will likely be handled differently by a personal injury attorney.

Level Of Negligence

When assigning fault in truck accident cases, there are several levels of severity to consider.

A garbage truck driver or other motorist may be considered “negligent,” “careless,” or “reckless,” depending on how intentional their actions were leading up to the crash.

  • Negligence: Typically considered the least intentional, and typically calling for the least compensation, this may include cases where a driver was fatigued or distracted before a crash.
  • Careless: Drivers in these cases typically knew they were doing something that could increase the probability of crashing, such as speeding.
  • Reckless: The most serious cases, and typically calling for the highest compensation, reckless drivers knowingly did something preventable in the lead up to a crash, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The Liable Party

It’s not just the actions of the drivers that are considered in garbage truck accident cases.

Liable parties in these cases can include trucking companies, which may have failed to properly maintain their truck, leading to a problem that caused the accident. Local governments, who are charged with maintaining safe roadway conditions, could also be found liable.

Any other liable parties, and the level of their contribution to the conditions that caused the crash, could also impact the level of compensation sought.

How Does Compensation Work For Personal Injury Claims?

Indeed, all of these factors help an experienced lawyer determine the appropriate compensation to seek for their client. But experienced truck accident crash lawyers will also consider the total damages involved in a crash.

Damages include any costs incurred by an accident victim, according to the Legal Information Institute, whether they are financial or more emotional in nature. Your legal team can help determine the damages you may be entitled to.

Economic Damages

As the name suggests, economic damages primarily concern any money paid out by the injured party or their insurance company in the wake of an accident. These can involve a number of considerations, including:

  • Medical expenses: Damages may include medical bills from doctor visits, prescription and over-the-counter medications, ambulance rides, surgery and hospitalization costs, medical devices, therapy or rehabilitation bills, or costs for at-home care.
  • Property damage: These are not just costs related to any damage to your vehicle, but the cost of your vehicle if your insurance company declared a total loss, and any alternative transportation you needed to take in the meantime.
  • Lost wages: These damages include work-related costs incurred by the accident, including wages, compensation, bonuses, or promotions you may have missed. In cases of severe injury, lost wages can cover future diminished earning capacity.

Non-Economic Damages

Damages of this magnitude are typically more tricky to assign a number to. They mostly involve compensation for any emotional damage sustained from the accident.

Non-economic damages can include:

  • Pain and suffering: This term can account for any mental anguish, physical pain, disability or disfigurement, loss of the companionship of a partner or spouse, or loss of the enjoyment of life suffered as result of a crash.
  • Wrongful death: In cases where severe injuries lead to fatalities, an accident victim may sue for damages that include costs related to the funeral and burial of a loved one, the loss of financial or emotional support, and loss of income or capacity to save money.

What Injuries Result From Truck Accidents Involving Garbage Trucks?

Unfortunately, garbage truck collisions can lead to a number of personal injuries, including:

  • Bone fractures
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Disfigurement
  • Dismemberment
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
  • Traumatic brain injuries and other head injuries

If you or a loved one have been injured in a collision with a dump truck, an experienced law firm may be able to help you determine the compensation you can seek for these injuries.

Garbage Truck Accident Rates In The United States

These types of accidents are not consistently reported, which can make finding the exact number of garbage truck accidents difficult. But by all measures, the incidents happen much more frequently than most people may realize.

According to the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), at least 52 sanitation workers across the United States and Canada were killed while on collecting duty in 2020 alone. The most common cause of these fatalities were collisions with passenger vehicles.

Numbers compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2017 report 107 deaths related to sanitation truck crashes that year, along with more than 1,400 injuries related to garbage truck crashes.

With their daily presence on the road, high weight volume, and frequent stops, these large trucks can unfortunately lead to a large number of damaging situations.

How Can A Personal Injury Lawyer Help With Your Case?

Attorneys and law firms specializing in these types of truck accidents understand the nuances involved in these situations, and what it takes to build a strong case.

An experienced legal team will know where and how to look for damages, how to name the appropriate liable parties, and which type of evidence you’ll need to present your case. A skilled lawyer will also help you negotiate a fair settlement, or take your case to court, if the other parties fail to negotiate.

Going through a major accident is traumatic enough. A good personal injury lawyer will not only help build your case, but make the process as smooth as possible for you.


If you or a loved one were involved in a garbage truck accident, you may have many questions. Below are a few of the most common inquiries and answers.

Are Garbage Trucks Safe?

Essentially, yes. Garbage trucks are built with a number of safety concerns in mind, for the good of both waste management workers and other motorists on the road. Sometimes, however, those mechanisms may break down or not be well maintained, leading to an accident.

Can You Get Crushed In A Garbage Truck?

The compressor mechanisms on most garbage trucks may be powerful enough to crush someone. However, cases of this happening are thankfully extremely low.

Can A Passenger Vehicle Driver Be At Fault For A Garbage Truck Accident?

If a passenger vehicle driver is fatigued, distracted, under the influence, speeding, or performing other tasks considered negligent, they may be found at fault for a garbage truck accident.

Do I Need A Lawyer To File A Personal Injury Claim After A Garbage Truck Collision?

You don’t technically need a lawyer to represent you in these cases, but hiring an experienced attorney may help you build a better case, determine the appropriate compensation, and generally get through the process more smoothly.

Connect With Top Garbage Truck Accident Lawyers Near You

Garbage truck accidents can be the unfortunate cause of a lot of damage. But a skilled truck accident lawyer can help you build a strong case and seek out any appropriate compensation.

If you or a loved one have been involved in a garbage truck accident, you may have the right to file a truck accident claim. LegalFinders can get you a free case evaluation to help ensure you find the best attorney for the job to get the case results you deserve.

Article Sources

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation — Approximate Vehicle Weights

Legal Information Institute — Liability

Legal Information Institute — Damages

Solid Waste Association of North America — 2020 Safety Report

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Analysis Division — Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2017