When a passenger vehicle, motorcycle, or pedestrian is involved in an accident with an enormous 18-wheel semi truck, the results can be catastrophic. These huge trucks usually weigh in the neighborhood of 80,000 pounds when loaded, so they can cause serious damage.
Recognizing their potential to do harm, federal regulations require the big-rigs to carry large liability insurance policies, allowing victims of large truck accidents to make claims to recover compensation for their losses.
Kinds of large truck accidents
Large tractor-trailer trucks are prone to certain types of serious accidents, including jackknifes, rollovers, tire blowouts, and underride accidents.
A jackknife is an accident in which the tractor’s drive axle brakes locks and the trailer continues moving forward until it stops at a 90 degree angle with the tractor, often causing the rig to roll over.
A rollover usually happens on a hill when a truck is traveling at a high speed around a curve and its wheels run off the road or hit an object or a curb.
Tire accidents occur when tires blow out or lose their treads, causing the driver to lose control.
Underride accidents happen when a large truck stops suddenly and a smaller vehicle behind it drives under the trailer.
Hazmat releases may include oil, gases, or other toxic materials being spilled and causing a health hazard or fire.
Not all truck accidents are caused by large tractor-trailers. In Washington, many accidents are caused by vans, delivery trucks, dump trucks, garbage trucks, moving trucks, and courier service trucks. Some are owned by individuals, for example a plumber, electrician, or landscaper. Others are part of the fleets of large companies, such as UPS, DHL, or FedEx.
Truck accidents are different from car accidents
Most trucks are commercial vehicles, which means when a person is injured by a truck, a business entity is often involved. Some trucks are local, while others are subject to federal regulations for vehicles engaged in interstate commerce. Some belong to counties, municipalities, or other government entities.
Because of their size, trucks can potentially cause more serious injuries than are likely in ordinary car accidents.
Driving a truck requires different skills than driving a car because of the truck’s bulk and size. Trucks have larger blind spots than cars, and drivers need to be both skilled and diligent in using mirrors to monitor their surroundings.
Delivery truck drivers often have tight schedules that their companies require them to keep, and they’re frequently under pressure to complete them. This can lead to careless driving.
Many truck drivers must observe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations limiting the hours a truck driver can legally drive without rest, as well as laws that apply to truck maintenance and inspection, prescription drug use while driving, records and driving logs, and liability insurance required.
Many variables are possible in truck accidents, making it essential that those injured by a truck or the survivors of anyone killed by a truck have an experienced Washington truck accident lawyer representing them.
Causes of truck accidents
Drivers of trucks, especially when subject to time pressure, often become careless and make mistakes:
- Not setting the parking brake
- Backing up without checking for pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars
- Turning too sharply
- Being lax in vehicle maintenance
- Using drugs and alcohol
- Distracted driving
What to do following a truck accident
- Call the police.
- Get the names of the truck owner and driver.
- Exchange insurance information.
- Photograph the truck, your car, and the scene of the accident.
- Write down names and phone numbers of any witnesses.
- Avoid discussing who caused the accident; do not apologize, or state that you are unhurt; injuries often don’t become apparent immediately.
- Get medical care. If you are seriously injured, have someone call an ambulance. Otherwise, go to an emergency room, urgent care clinic, or doctor.
- Call an experienced truck accident attorney.
Do I need a lawyer for my truck accident case?
You can try to settle your case on your own, but you should realize that you will likely receive a larger recovery if you hire a Washington truck accident attorney. Truck accident cases require experience and knowledge of state and federal regulations, which few accident victims have. Expertise is needed to investigate an accident and work the case up for trial. Many cases settle out of court, but not all. A seasoned litigator is in a better position to negotiate a higher out-of-court settlement or to win the case at trial, if necessary.
The Seattle, Washington attorneys at Wattel and York represent individuals injured by truck accidents, helping them to receive large recoveries for their losses. Call us today for a free evaluation of your case, and remember, you pay nothing unless we win you money.
Why large truck accidents occur
Truck accidents are typically caused by driver error or unsafe equipment. Drivers may not have the required training and qualifications, or they may be pressured to maintain unrealistic schedules and adhere to rigid deadlines. Drivers may become fatigued from driving for long hours without rest, frequently resorting to stimulant drugs to stay awake. Or, some drivers may drink on the job.
Trucks are sometimes overloaded, beyond their maximum legal capacity. Conversely, tanks sometimes carry too little liquid to maintain stability; when they carry a liquid load less than three-fourths of capacity, the fluid sloshes around, making it difficult for the driver to control the truck.
Some trucking companies are lax about performing required safety inspections, and trucks may be allowed on the road with defective brakes or other mechanical problems.
Making a claim for compensation following a truck accident
Anyone who has been injured or the survivors of someone who has been killed in a crash with an 18-wheeler should consult an attorney familiar with federal and state trucking regulations. This type of accident requires immediate action to investigate the circumstances of the crash while the evidence is fresh. An experienced truck accident lawyer will often engage traffic safety experts to reconstruct the accident to determine how the trucking company or the driver was negligent in causing the accident. The investigation will include an examination of the trucking company’s compliance with safety regulations and inspections, the driver’s driving history, and whether the driver was impaired by drugs, alcohol, fatigue, or distraction.
If you’ve been injured or lost a family member in a truck accident in Washington, you need expert representation. The truck accident attorneys at Wattel and York in Seattle, Washington have the experience, knowledge, and dedication to fight on your behalf for the recovery you deserve. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation and case analysis. We accept cases on a contingency fee arrangement, which means you pay nothing up front, and nothing ever unless we win money for you.