The average garbage truck weighs around 64,000 pounds, which means any collision carries a severe risk of serious injury or property damage. Unfortunately, each year many garbage trucks have accidents, and every year some lives are lost.

Determining who is liable for these tragic accidents can be extremely difficult since so many people are involved in their operation, maintenance, and management. It may come down to who was negligent in their role to ensure it is safe to operate the garbage truck and the procedures to keep people safe.

Who is at Risk?

Drivers of other vehicles are the largest category of people at risk of being involved in an accident with a garbage truck. However, cyclists and pedestrians are more easily injured or killed by accidents with vehicles.

The drivers and sanitation workers that crew garbage trucks are also at high risk for injury. Their interaction with a massive machine with moving parts makes the job a dangerous one. Many types of accidents are possible, not just vehicular collisions.

Reasons for Garbage Truck Accidents

The nature of operating a garbage truck involves making frequent stops along the route. This rapid stopping and starting interrupt total focus on driving, which has a hand in the frequency of accidents. Many garbage trucks have a style that requires their crew to dismount and run to grab and load the garbage or recycling. The loading process is the most challenging time for employees when combined with the truck stopping and starting.

Garbage trucks follow a set route to collect trash from a variety of locations. Dumpsters behind businesses are not as risky to gather, but residential routes pose a danger to locals.

Garbage trucks need to operate in a variety of conditions. Inclement weather that makes driving dangerous is often not a good excuse to leave trash by the roadside. Weather conditions and road hazards are other large sources of risk for operating garbage trucks.


The liability for a fatal accident involving a garbage truck will fall on whomever it can be proved as negligent. The management behind decisions that placed people in harm’s way is often the target of lawsuits after an accident. This liable party could be the private waste management company or local government responsible for overseeing the full operation. Or, the liability may fall on the garbage truck driver or mechanic that was responsible for the garbage truck’s operation or maintenance.

If a problem with the vehicle is the cause of the accident, the manufacturer may even be liable for providing a defective piece of machinery.

In some cases, no one with the sanitation team or management is found liable, usually when there are clear signs the other party was acting unreasonably. If it can be shown that the driver or crew were negligent, they may become personally responsible, but this can depend on the terms of their employment.

If there is any confusion over who is liable, contact a truck accident lawyer with experience in similar cases. It is not uncommon for insurance companies to try every trick at their disposal for denying payment. This sad reality is especially the case for collisions resulting in a grievous injury or death since the settlement can be quite significant.

What Should You Do If You Are Hit?

In the event that you are involved in any sort of accident with a garbage truck, your first step should always be to call the police to the scene. At the same time, seek medical care for anyone involved.

The documentation provided by the police and medical professional is crucial in many cases of liability, regardless of the level of injury or damage.  Insurance companies will ask for this information, and they might also want pictures of the aftermath. Try to quickly get photos of any vehicle or person that was a part of the collision.

Michelle Eddy

Michelle Eddy is a staunch consumer advocate, fresh libertarian convert, and proud mother of three. Besides her legal career, she enjoys blogging about topics related to her expertise and life experiences,...

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