Pickup trucks are more popular than ever. It’s not uncommon to see passengers riding in the cargo area of a truck — but is the practice legal in Virginia? Even if it’s legal (which it is in some cases), should you do it? If you’re injured in an accident while riding in a truck bed, who is legally liable for your injuries? These are some of the questions often asked of our personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at Renfro & Renfro.
Section 46.2.1156.1 of the Virginia code permits individuals aged 16 years and over to ride in the cargo area of a pickup. The law prohibits children under the age of 16 from riding in a truck bed, with just two exceptions: 1) When participating in an organized parade authorized by the state or a locality, or 2) as part of farming operations when traveling “on or across a highway from one field or parcel of land to another.”
The law is extremely clear. While riding in a pickup truck bed can be lots of fun — and sometimes even necessary — is it something you should do? Should you allow your children to do it?
Passengers in a truck bed do not have the same safety protections as passengers riding in the cab of the truck. In most cases, there are no safety belts or air bags in a truck cargo area. If an accident occurs while passengers are in a pickup truck bed, chances are that the passengers will be thrown out of the truck. Resulting injuries usually are severe. Serious brain injuries are common. Death often results.
Good judgment and common sense should tell you that riding in a truck bed is dangerous and that you should avoid it when possible. Remember that truck beds are designed to carry cargo, not to transport people. If you or a family member have the opportunity to ride in the cargo area of a truck, you should consider the possible consequences before you make the decision.
The same Virginia personal injury laws that apply to auto accidents determine legal liability for injuries to passengers in a truck bed. A driver who negligently causes an accident is legally liable for compensating injured victims who are passengers in their own vehicle or another vehicle involved in the accident. At-fault drivers have available defenses to liability, including contributory negligence of the passenger. The legal analysis for an accident involving injuries to passengers in a truck bed is complex.
In Virginia, any contributory negligence of the injured victim prevents recovery of compensation entirely, even from a negligent driver. The state’s strict contributory negligence law is extremely harsh, but it is the rule in personal injury cases.
Another doctrine that may prevent recovery is assumption of risk. If a negligent driver can prove that the injured passenger understood the nature and severity of the risk involved and chose to participate anyway, the doctrine may prevent recovery. While proving assumption of risk is difficult, it is a possible defense when a truck bed passenger receives injuries in an accident.
Whether contributory negligence or assumption of risk bars recovery in a truck bed accident case depends on all the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident. If the accident involves an at-fault driver operating a commercial vehicle, that is an additional complicating factor in a truck bed injury case. Only an experienced Virginia injury attorney can make the necessary analysis.
If you receive injuries in an accident that occurs while you are riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck, you should talk with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer at the earliest opportunity. Above all, do not talk with any insurance adjusters before you contact a lawyer. Doing so can jeopardize your claim, especially because of the complicated legal rules that apply to truck bed accidents.
Virginia workers’ compensation law provides reimbursement for a worker injured while riding in a truck bed as part of their job. If the accident is caused by a negligent third party, the worker also may have a separate personal injury claim against the third party. For that reason, a worker injured while riding in the cargo area of a truck needs a lawyer who handles both personal injury and workers’ compensation claims, like our attorneys at Renfro & Renfro.
Our experienced personal injury attorneys at Renfro & Renfro help clients who receive injuries while riding in the bed of a pickup truck, as well as in any other type of accident. For workers who receive injuries on the job, we also handle workers’ compensation claims. Contact us for a free consultation and case evaluation.