Since the early days, getting fresh food to market has always presented a challenge. Food was often salted or smoked for its journey to market. In time, we found ways to maintain food at a steady temperature. Eventually, this became an integral part of transportation. Reefer trailers, also known as refrigerated trailers, are often semi-trucks modified to allow for cargo temperature monitoring. Since the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, the FDA has focused focus on food safety risks for improperly refrigerated foods. Freshness till purchase is critical.
Hence, consistent temperature plays a vital role in the transportation industry, specifically in delivering perishable goods needed across vast distances. Despite their importance, these large vehicles present significant road hazards due to their size, weight, and operational complexities. Not surprisingly, reefer freight trailer accidents are common occurrences that often lead to severe or even fatal injuries. Litigating a case like this presents unique challenges to even the most competent lawyer or trucking company.
Understanding these accidents, identifying the parties liable, navigating insurance companies, and seeking rightful compensation demands expert legal guidance. This is where Ehline Law, a premier personal injury law firm, comes in to offer its services to semi truck victims and the trucking industry.
As a victim of a reefer trailer accident, insurance actuary, adjuster, truck driver, or road accident, this guide will enlighten you on how Ehline Law can help you navigate this complex landscape.
We understand the victim consumers. The end game is to obtain the monetary recovery you deserve. We understand that risk mitigation is typically the end game for employers keeping freight at the desired temperature in the transportation industry.
Who Is Discussing Reefer Trucks?
This copy was produced carefully by world-famous commercial truck accident lawyer Michael Ehline. He created it using his extensive experience, knowledge, and skill and almost two decades of handling catastrophic transportation accident claims as a first-rate truck accident attorney. Michael is an expert in temperature monitoring transport law.
The byline discusses Ehline’s legal background and experience lobbying Congress in transportation law safety matters. The best way to explore Michael’s in-depth knowledge is to read about refrigeration unit transport law.
How did Michael Create this Article?
Michael personally looked at official government sources and privately tested data. We examined how any tests were conducted and evidence of any work involved. Michael has reviewed photographs, court documents, expert witness declarations, the science of cryogenic cooling, and verdicts and settlements.
Based on Ehline Law Firm’s online presence and peer and client testimonials, readers and visitors know that Ehline will thoroughly answer all their questions about commercial vehicles designed to keep items at a constant temperature over their lifespan.
Why Michael Is Passionate About Refrigerated Trailer Accidents
Michael is passionate about commercial trucking and livery vehicle transport issues. Michael’s family was involved in a terrible rollover accident involving a passenger bus in Alaska. A reefer truck almost killed Michael while bicycling in Redondo Beach, CA. Michael has dedicated his life to improving transportation safety.
Michael is an industry insider in both transportation safety and other laws. As a Marine, Michael fought for your rights, and now he does so as a lawyer by providing this difficult-to-obtain information free of charge. We hope this will help you save money on your journey to getting justice after a fridge truck accident.
What is a Reefer Truck?
When you hear the term ‘Reefer Truck,’ you might be confused. Well, it’s relatively straightforward. It’s a refrigerated trailer, a type of trailer that’s equipped with a cooling system (refrigerated container). Its primary purpose is transporting perishable goods such as food and medical supplies (cryogenic cooling) with a proper temperature control system to deliver an astounding air temperature inside.
The word ‘reefer’ is industry jargon for refrigerated trucks or trailers. Commonly used in long-haul transport, these extraordinary vehicles have onboard refrigeration units that allow for the regulated, cold storage of perishable items like food and medical supplies. Their importance in our daily lives often goes unnoticed until something goes wrong – like an accident.
How The Cooling System Works?
These vehicles use several critical components, including a closed system pulling in and pumping out heat to stabilize the internal temperature of the container unit. Power sources remain vital and typically rely on diesel-powered generators attached to the trailer to ensure the perishable items stay at the right temperature, even while traveling through the Nevada desert in the summertime.
- Compressor: A tiny engine draws in and compresses the gaseous refrigerant to liquefy it and release heat via the air chute for circulation.
- Condenser: The liquid from the compressor enters the condenser for heat exchange. This fills the tubing till it reaches the attached fins. Imagine a car radiator. Fins help calm by passing outside air through the condenser.
- Evaporator: Once cooled, the liquid passes through the metering valve of the trailer’s evaporator. This helps regulate cooling with assistance from finned coils around the liquid refrigerant.
Fuel tanks for the coolers can be as big as 50 gallons, which can last several days, 24/7. And even for short distances, pharmaceuticals often need to remain cool, similar to seafood and dairy products, which are all highly perishable. The size and weight of reefer trailers also contribute to the severity of accidents. Sometimes, the weight distribution of refer trucks can make these vehicles unstable.
And since they carry temperature-sensitive items, there is always the risk of malfunctioning, or open doors can cause a spoiled load. Speed and time are always of the essence when meeting delivery deadlines. So, potential issues like cutting corners could be proof of negligence in causing a crash.
They are often involved in devastating accidents due to their massive weight, which increases the potential for significant damage and dangerous outcomes. In the end, Michael will also provide some essential tips if you face a personal injury claim. Knowing makes you a winner. It pays to be a winner! We will also offer you the ability to obtain a free consultation to help you deal with the challenging aspects of such an event.
Common types of Reefer Trucks
- Straight Trucks: Smaller refrigerated trucks used for local or regional deliveries, suitable for various applications.
- Semitrailer Trucks: Semitrailers are typically attached to a tractor unit commonly used for long-haul transporting perishable goods.
- Box Trucks: Some box trucks have refrigeration units for shorter-distance refrigerated deliveries.
- Food Trucks: Roach Coaches are a type of reefer truck designed for the mobile food service industry and equipped with refrigeration and cooking equipment. This allows vendors to serve fresh and cooked food on the go.
- Reefer Vans: Smaller, enclosed refrigerated vehicles used for local deliveries, including transporting pharmaceuticals, flowers, or perishable goods.
- Temperature-Controlled Trailers: These can maintain precise temperature settings, making them suitable for transporting goods with stringent temperature requirements, such as pharmaceuticals or frozen foods.
- Multi-Temperature Trailers: Some reefer trailers are designed to have multiple compartments, each with different temperature settings. These allow the transportation of various goods with diverse temperature needs in a complete trip.
Did we miss anything? Could you put it in the comments section?
What Goods Are Transported in a Cooler Truck?
Reefers transport a wide range of goods, including:
- Fresh produce like vegetables, berries, bananas (other fruits), fish, poultry and meat
- Flowers, plants, and seeds
- Beauty supplies and cosmetics
- Live birds and animals like horses and other livestock
- Misc. supplies and products
- Pharmaceuticals, including vaccinations, medications, and medical products at a precise temperature
- Wine, milk (dairy), and other perishable items and beverages
- Ancient artwork or sensitive electronics
- Candles, growth hormone, paint, or even chewing gum
- Hazardous materials and other products, etc.
Reefer trailers also have heating capabilities. This keeps items at room temperature during colder months or within the specified range. The clients expect their items delivered, and many demand proof of real-time monitoring.
The Devastating Consequences of Reefer Trailer Accidents
Now that we’ve defined what a temperature-controlled truck is, let’s look at why and how these accidents occur, which can be devastating. Although essential to our everyday lives, keeping products at a steady temperature also presents a significant risk on the road.
With their massive weight and size, reefer trucks can cause catastrophic accidents on our highways, and they also come with a higher fuel consumption than dry goods transport labeling.
Imagine driving home after a long, warm day at work. Out of nowhere, a reefer truck delivering temperature sensitive goods loses control and collides with your car on their delivery route. In an instant, your life is turned upside down—drowning in medical bills, unable to work, and burdened by physical pain and emotional distress. The shipper is also out of profits, and the trucker may be trying to set up a work comp claim at a minimum.
Common Causes of Semi-Truck Reefer Accidents
Several factors can contribute to a reefer trailer accident. Understanding these can help identify who is at fault and legally responsible for the injuries or damages.
The causes of reefer trailer accidents can be complex and multifaceted. Some common reasons include:
- Novice Reefer Operators: The tricky terrain of managing a reefer trailer may prove daunting for novice drivers, potentially steering them towards the unfortunate path of accidents. Accidents can happen when proper training falls short, particularly involving reefer trucks’ operation and cargo handling.
- Manufacturing Defects: Manufacturing defects are flaws or irregularities in how products are constructed. When this occurs during manufacturing, the product deviates from the intended design or specifications. These defects can compromise the product’s quality, safety, and functionality, potentially leading to safety concerns or malfunctions. The builder has to properly instruct and warn of any problems to protect the end user.
- Reckless Driving: Reckless driving is characterized by a willful disregard for the safety of other road users. It can involve excessive speeding, aggressive maneuvers, and a blatant disregard for traffic laws. It poses a significant risk of accidents and harm to both the reckless driver and other road users, especially bicycle riders and motorcyclists.
- Driver Fatigue: When drivers are fatigued, they’re more prone to making key mistakes in operating the vehicle. This diminished vigilance and response time can significantly compromise their ability to pilot a reefer truck, heightening the risk of safely making destinations.
- Speeding: When a reefer driver hits the accelerator too hard, they dwindle their vital reaction time and lose grip over vehicle control, especially one weighed down with a reefer unit.
- Equipment Failure: When there’s a glitch in the cooling system or the reefer unit, it doesn’t just risk ruining the transported goods but also increases the chances of a potential accident. This can lead to a double whammy of cargo spoilage and unanticipated reefer troubleshooting on the road. Your truck accident attorney will focus on schedules to see if corners were cut to rush any perishable freight.
- Inadequate Maintenance: Any lapse in care heightens the risk of accidents dramatically, and not just for the refrigeration system. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for critical elements like the reefer unit system, tires, and brakes to fall prey to poor maintenance practices.
- Poor Weather: Watch out for the unpredictable weather! Even a drizzle of rain, a flurry of snow, or a sheet of ice can render the roads slick and precarious. This precariousness often leads to unfortunate encounters with reefer trucks, passenger vehicles, pedestrians, and others sharing sidewalks nearby.
- Improper Cargo Loading: Incorrect or “overstuffing” of the refrigeration unit can critically disrupt the truck’s equilibrium and maneuverability. This detail often escapes notice but is significant.
- Distracted Driving: Picture this – a glancing scroll through the phone or a fleeting moment of inattention inside the reefer truck’s cabin. Seems harmless, right? Yet, these seemingly minor distractions can quickly escalate into serious accidents when they occur behind the wheel of a reefer truck.
- Improper Turning: Imagine the chaos created when a driver makes improper turns or clumsily changes lanes, particularly in bustling urban areas. Such reckless actions often trigger.
- Reefer Unit Fires: Imagine this: a reefer trailer refrigeration unit sparks a fire due to an unforeseen electrical issue or a dangerous refrigerant leak. This sudden and
- Brake Failures: Imagine the heart-stopping moment when a reefer truck, laden with precious cargo, races down the highway
- Cargo Shift: Imagine traveling down the road when the cargo within the reefer trailer you’re towing starts to move. It’s not properly balanced or adequately secured. Its unexpected shifts can immediately impact the truck’s stability.
- Blind Spots: Due to their sheer size, reefer trailers typically have larger blind spots. The awkward refrigerated unit compounds this in many cases.
- Road Hazards: Imagine the challenges the reefer truck drivers face! Even common road irregularities like potholes or uneven surfaces can become real obstacles for them.
Identifying liability in these accidents can often be a complex process.
The Key Factors in Identifying Liability
Several key factors must be considered to identify who is liable for an accident involving a reefer trailer.
- The driver’s qualifications, driving records, and their actions during the incident.
- Whether the trucking company followed industry safety rules and regulations.
- The state of the reefer trailer at the time of the accident, including any mechanical issues or failures.
Proving Negligence in a Reefer Trailer Accident: Key Steps to Take
Proving negligence in a reefer (refrigerated) trailer accident is critical in pursuing legal action.
Here are some key steps to take when attempting to establish negligence:
Seek Medical Attention
Ensure that anyone injured in the accident receives immediate medical attention. Document injuries, treatments, and medical records, as they can serve as evidence of harm.
Report the Accident
Contact law enforcement and report the accident. Obtain a copy of the police report, which can provide valuable information about the incident. This can help you find out if the truck was maintained properly or met specific requirements under the California Vehicle Code.
Preserve any evidence related to the accident, such as photographs of the accident scene, damage to the vehicles, and any road conditions that may have contributed to the accident.
Collect Witness Statements
Obtain statements from any witnesses to the accident. Their testimony can be vital in establishing the sequence of events and potential negligence.
Secure Maintenance Records
If the reefer trailer was involved in an accident due to equipment failure or malfunction, secure maintenance records and documentation to prove inadequate maintenance as a potential source of negligence.
Review Driving Records
Examine the driving records of the truck driver involved in the accident to identify any prior infractions, such as speeding, fatigue, or DUI, which may be relevant to proving negligence.
Obtain Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Data
If applicable, obtain data from the reefer truck’s ELD to review the driver’s hours of service, ensuring compliance with federal regulations. Violations can indicate negligence.
Consider consulting accident reconstruction experts, medical professionals, or other experts who can analyze the evidence and provide expert opinions regarding the accident’s cause and negligence.
If the accident involved communication between the reefer truck driver and the trucking company, preserve records of these communications, as they can be crucial in determining liability.
Review Safety and Training Protocols
Investigate the trucking company’s safety and training protocols to determine if they were followed and if any lapses contributed to the accident.
Consult with an Attorney
Contact an experienced personal injury attorney specializing in truck accidents and negligence cases. They can guide you through the legal process and help build a strong case.
Collect Damages Documentation
If pursuing a personal injury claim, document all damages related to medical bills, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses resulting from the accident.
The Statute of Limitations for Reefer Trailer Accident Lawsuits: Don’t Wait to Act
When pursuing legal action after a reefer (refrigerated) trailer accident, it’s essential to be aware of the statute of limitations, which sets a legal deadline for filing a lawsuit. Waiting too long can jeopardize your case.
Here are key points to consider:
- Statute of Limitations Varies: The statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits resulting from reefer trailer accidents can vary by jurisdiction and the case’s specific circumstances.
- Prompt Action is Crucial: It’s critical to act promptly. Delaying can lead to losing necessary evidence, fading memories, and potential legal obstacles.
- Legal Deadlines: Missing the statute of limitations deadline can result in the loss of your right to seek compensation. Don’t wait to act, as time is of the essence in reefer trailer accident lawsuits.
The demand for refrigerated freight transportation has been steadily increasing and is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. According to GlobeNewswire, the global refrigerated goods market is expected to grow from $47.54 billion in 2020 to $50.02 billion in 2021 at a 5.2% annual growth rate. It is projected to reach $59.27 billion in 2025 at a 4.3% annual growth rate. This growth is primarily attributed to disruptions in regular business operations due to the impacts of COVID-19. As a result, the need for more reefer trucking companies has significantly increased to address trucking lane shortages and supply chain pressures to get things to market at the correct temperature.
Problems Faced By Refrigerated Freight Companies
In the realm of shipping and transportation, particularly amidst high-pressure and uncertain conditions, various hurdles can present themselves within reefer freight transportation services. Reefer transportation companies may grapple with the following issues:
- Equipment Damage: Maintaining the reliability of their trucking fleets is crucial for minimizing breakdowns and vehicle issues while en route. Even a single breakdown can lead to significant disruptions along the supply chain. Reefer trucking companies must be especially vigilant, as additional challenges can arise with the cooling system and associated components that may be prone to damage.
- Loss of Temperature Control: Ensuring stable temperatures during transit, regardless of external weather conditions, is imperative. The integrity of frozen goods must be preserved, which becomes impossible when temperature controls malfunction and fail to respond to programming. This is a prevalent issue in reefer trucks, particularly older ones.
- Limited Availability of Skilled and Licensed Drivers: The ongoing driver shortage in the transportation industry is particularly acute for refrigerated trucking companies. The operation, monitoring, control, and transportation of temperature-sensitive cargo require specialized skills. The driver shortage issue is exacerbated when such drivers are in short supply.
- Inadequate Temperature Traceability in Transit: Another significant challenge refrigerated truck transportation companies face is the lack of reliable automated tracking, monitoring, and reporting. The inability to monitor the conditions inside cargo containers while in transit poses a significant problem for refrigerated freight. Addressing this issue heavily relies on automated digital tracking services.
- Slipping and Falling: The risks of slipping and falling inside a reefer trailer can indeed include various factors, such as grooves in the floor designed for ventilation or drainage purposes. They can create uneven surfaces that may become extra slippery when wet or icy. Other risk factors inside reefer trailers can include condensation, spills, and temperature-related conditions. All this can affect the floor’s traction, leading to slip-and-fall accidents.
Tip: Stay alert when entering and operating within the interior and walls of a refrigerated truck.
Problems When Outsourcing to Independent Contractors
Shippers seeking the safe transportation of temperature-sensitive cargo while avoiding legal entanglements often turn to specialized reefer freight carriers.
These refrigerated trucking companies offer compelling reasons to consider outsourcing, but challenges may arise:
- Legal Safeguard: Collaborating with refrigerated transport specialists can shield shippers from legal liability in case of accidents, ensuring peace of mind.
- Cost and Resource Efficiency: Outsourcing streamlines the process, saving time, money, and resources. Shippers can swiftly identify the right carrier for each load, enhancing efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
- Enhanced Flexibility and Scalability: Shippers can readily adapt to market shifts and changing customer demands by entrusting carrier collaboration to experts, fostering flexibility and scalability.
- Niche-Specific Expertise: Specialized carrier partnerships allow shippers to access niche services that cater to specific customer needs and secure capacity from refrigerated trucking companies.
- Industry Connections: Long-term collaboration with carriers opens doors to new partnerships and customer bases, strengthening the shipping network.
- Optimized Capacity: Partnering with reefer trucking companies simplifies maintaining high capacity and density, ensuring efficient use of transportation resources.
- Access to Quality Equipment: Shippers can leverage their partnerships to access high-quality trucks and equipment, reducing the burden on their own resources.
- Reduced Maintenance Costs: Reefer carrier partnerships alleviate maintenance and operational costs, with experts handling fleet maintenance and monitoring.
Under immense pressure to meet delivery commitments and satisfy customers, shippers find that partnering with refrigerated freight carriers simplifies the process and enhances overall efficiency. However, rushed decisions can lead to risks, including speeding, recklessness, or corner-cutting. For assistance with legal matters related to accidents involving truckers who may be misclassified as independent contractors, Ehline Law supports victims and truckers who may be employees rather than independent contractors.
The Importance of Gathering Evidence in Reefer Trailer Accident Cases
Gathering evidence in reefer trailer accident cases is paramount to establishing liability and supporting a successful legal claim.
Here’s why evidence matters:
Gathering evidence, such as accident reports, eyewitness statements, and photos of the accident scene, is crucial in determining who is at fault for the accident, which can help lawyers hold the responsible party accountable.
In reefer trailer accident cases, proving negligence is often central to the claim. Evidence of negligence, including DMV driving records, maintenance logs, and compliance with temperature control regulations, helps lawyers build a solid negligence claim.
Evidence of fault remains essential to quantify damages. This can include medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Supporting Witness Testimonies
Witness statements and their contact information need to be collected promptly to ensure their availability when required during the legal process. Witness accounts can help corroborate any events leading to the accident and what transpired to cause your injuries or loss of a loved one.
Preserving Accident Scene Data: Collecting road data is vital to proving a case. Road conditions, weather, and traffic patterns during the accident help offer the jury context. This can help your legal team reconstruct the accident on your behalf, which means more compensation to you.
Protecting Against Evidence Loss
In accidents involving reefer trailers, perishable goods may be affected. Logs showing temperature fluctuations in failing equipment could help provide a motive for the crash. The entire supply chain could be affected if fresh items don’t make it before they spoil. Swift evidence gathering is essential to prevent the loss or spoilage of potential evidence. This evidence will include cargo-related documentation like a trip sheet.
Meeting Legal Deadlines
Legal processes have specific deadlines for filing claims. Timely evidence collection is vital. Court deadlines must be met and remain essential to preserving the right to seek compensation if the case heads to a full-blown trial. How much they pay you is directly resulted to who you hire as your personal injury attorneys.
Negotiating with Reefer Trucking Insurance Companies
Insurance companies often require evidence to assess claims. A solid body of evidence helps facilitate insurance negotiations, increasing the chances of a fair settlement.
Supporting Expert Opinions
Experts may be called upon to provide opinions in complex cases, so comprehensive evidence for them to review and opine is crucial to their assessments and testimony. Temperature-controlled freight cases will always require experts when pursuing liability against transportation carriers.
Navigating Insurance Companies and Legalities for You
Dealing with insurance companies after suffering a reefer truck crash can be complex and challenging.
Ehline Law is here to assist you in obtaining monetary damages by engaging in the following:
- Insurance Claim Assessment: We help evaluate your insurance claim to ensure it accurately reflects your losses, such as medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages.
- Effective Communication: Our team communicates with insurance companies on your behalf, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you don’t inadvertently say or do anything that might jeopardize your claim.
- Gathering Supporting Evidence: Our accident attorneys diligently gather the necessary evidence to support your claim. We will chase down police reports, OSHA statements, and medical records. Our paralegals and investigators will locate witness statements, surveillance tapes, and other relevant documentation about the loaded refrigerator to win your case.
- Negotiation Expertise: Ehline Law is skilled in negotiating with insurance adjusters to secure the maximum compensation for your injuries and losses.
- Legal Strategy Development: We will craft a legal strategy tailored to your unique situation. We will focus on your best interests and work to achieve a fair settlement.
- Litigation Support: If negotiations with the insurance company are impasse, we will take your case to court and advocate for your rights before a judge and jury.
- Protection from Unfair Practices: We help shield you from any unfair or harmful faith insurance practices, ensuring you are treated with the fairness and respect you deserve.
- Guidance and Advocacy: From start to finish, our compassionate team will provide guidance, support, and aggressive advocacy.
- Focused Legal Expertise: With a team specializing in personal injury and accident claims, you benefit from focused legal expertise and in-depth knowledge of the nuances of these cases.
Ehline Law understands the challenges victims face dealing with deplorable insurance companies and most shippers. Michael Ehline strives to make the process as straightforward as possible. We will stop at nothing to ensure you and your loved ones receive the compensation possible after a bad accident.
Reefer trucking companies play a vital role in providing consumers with access to perishable goods like fresh produce, meat, and medicines that would be challenging to transport over long distances. These companies operate a significant portion of supply chain routes across the country, commonly known as reefer trucks in the industry.
Reefer transportation companies specialize in the transportation of freight that requires precise temperature control. They utilize refrigerated trailers equipped with cooling systems to ensure that cargo remains at the appropriate temperature throughout the entire transportation process, ranging from chilled to frozen. This level of protection is especially crucial for sensitive cargo and when external temperatures could jeopardize the cargo’s integrity.
In the realm of refrigerated freight companies, the handling, storage, loading, and unloading of goods must be meticulously executed to maintain temperature levels. Skilled and experienced drivers who understand the nuances of reefer transportation play a pivotal role in ensuring smooth shipping operations and successful deliveries nationwide. The demand for reefer carriers in the USA remains high, underscoring their indispensable role in the modern supply chain.
Schedule a Cooler Truck Accident Lawyer Consultation Near You Today
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in an accident involving a reefer trailer, we encourage you to reach out to Ehline Law. Dealing with such claims can be intricate, underscoring the importance of engaging an experienced attorney to support you. Attorney Michael Ehline has a background as a plaintiff’s lawyer and transportation company owner, granting him insights into the strategies and management employed by trucking and insurance companies to diminish the value of your claim.
Ehline, located in Los Angeles, CA, and Houston, TX, has a good reputation for returning calls and putting victims first. Please arrange a consultation with our office to explore how we can assist you following a truck accident with a free consultation. Don’t let them profit from your torment. Contact us today by calling (833) LETS-SUE or using our free case evaluation form if you suffered mental, physical, or financial damage. We are ready to listen and examine your case against the businesses and individuals that caused your claims.