Seattle Truck Accident Lawyers
What to Do After a Collision with a Big Rig
Tractor-trailers, also known as "big rigs" or semi-trucks, are a necessary, yet deadly, presence throughout the Pacific Northwest. Due to their massive size and weight, these trucks have a much greater potential to cause serious injuries or loss of life when involved in an accident. And along with serious injuries come substantial medical bills for the victims. If a truck collision was caused in any way by negligence, the driver and his employer need to be held accountable. But proving this negligence can be difficult unless you are working with an experienced legal team.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer, or lost a loved one in such an accident, you’re facing some difficult times ahead of you. The truck accident attorneys at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., want to help you recover for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and more. Call our Seattle office at (888) 228-3860 for a free consultation.
Washington Truck Accident Recoveries
- $390,000 recovery for truck accident in Skykomish.
- $230,000 recovery for lacerations and broken ribs sustained when a truck overturned as a result of an improperly secured load in Sumas.
In a crash involving a large commercial truck and a passenger vehicle, it is far less common for a truck driver or occupant to suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries. When a fully-loaded big rig weighing 80,000 pounds collides with a 3,000-pound passenger vehicle, the occupants of the passenger vehicle are much more vulnerable to harm.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), most fatalities in truck accidents are passenger-vehicle occupants. Of the 3,660 people who died in large truck collisions in 2014, only 16% were occupants of large commercial trucks, while 68% of the fatalities were occupants of passenger vehicles, and 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.
The same statistical trend holds true for non-fatal injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that an estimated 111,000 people were injured in large truck accidents in the U.S. in 2014 - an increase of 17% from the previous year. Of the people injured, 74% were occupants of other vehicles, 23% were occupants of large trucks, and 3% were non-occupants.
The IIHS reports that truck braking capabilities are a contributing factor to truck crashes, as loaded tractor-trailers may require 20% to 40% more distance to stop than passenger vehicles, particularly when traveling on wet or slick roadways, or when the truck’s brakes have been poorly maintained. Another known crash risk is truck-driver fatigue. Although federal hours-of-service regulations restrict the amount of time truck drivers are allowed to keep going without rest, IIHS surveys indicate that many drivers violate these regulations.
If you believe that negligence caused the accident, you may have a valid claim or lawsuit.
Truck drivers who drive recklessly, negligently, or under the influence have the potential to cause devastating injury accidents. However, unless injured victims can prove that the other driver caused the crash, they may not be able to successfully recover compensation for the collision. For example, truck drivers are required to obey traffic signals, drive within the speed limit, and remain sober and attentive while driving. Commercial drivers are also bound by federal hours-of-service regulations that require them to take adequate rest before getting on the road. A failure to fulfill these obligations amounts to negligence.
Many forms of driver negligence result in traffic violations. Here are a few examples of Washington traffic violations that can prove fatal when done by truck drivers:
- Drunk Driving (46.61.502): Driving under the influence in a truck can put everyone on the roadway in danger. This type of offense is so dangerous, it often leads to the truck driver losing his/her commercial driving license (CDL) and job.
- Illegal U-Turn (46.61.295): Trucks that make illegal U-turns can cause devastating side underride accidents if a car crashes into the side of the trailer. Depending upon the height of the trailer, this kind of crash can result in roof crush or even occupant decapitation.
- Reckless Driving (46.61.500): Washington law defines a reckless driver as "any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property."
- Running a Red Light or Stop Sign (46.61.500): Failure to obey a traffic control device can result in catastrophic intersection accidents.
- Speeding (46.61.400): Not only must truck drivers make sure not to exceed the speed limit, but they also must adjust their speed to accommodate to traffic conditions. Any truck driver who drives at an unsafe rate of speed may be held accountable for any resulting accidents.
A truck driver does not have to be cited by the authorities to be held civilly liable by the injured victim of the crash. Criminal proceedings and traffic violations are handled separately from civil litigation, but only a civil lawsuit can result in financial compensation for the injured victim. An experienced Seattle auto accident attorney can conduct a thorough investigation and help you collect the evidence you need to prove fault on the trucker’s part.
There are many potential acts of negligence that may warrant legal action, but some of the most common include:
One possible source of evidence to support your claim is the commercial truck's black box. This is an Electronic Control Module (ECM) integrated with the truck engine components. The black box is designed to capture a wealth of ongoing data about the truck's operations, including: amount of time driven; average speed; highest speed; average RPMs; and other information that could be helpful to your claim.
However, a truck's black-box data is not retained forever. After a certain amount of time - typically 30 days - new data is recorded over existing black-box data. The trucking company may also destroy the data after an accident unless legal action is taken to halt it. This is why it is so important to contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after a crash, so that action may be taken to obtain and preserve black-box data and other evidence.
Legal action is vital for getting compensation from the negligent parties involved in your accident. An accident survivor can be awarded compensation for medical expenses; including hospitalization, medication, physical therapy, surgery, and more. Accident victims may also be awarded compensation for lost earnings and benefits due to time away from work. Restitution can also be obtained for pain and suffering, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other forms of mental and emotional duress.
In a wrongful death claim, surviving family members may receive compensation for funeral and burial expenses, loss of consortium, loss of future wages and benefits, pain and suffering of the deceased before death, and other damages related to the loss.
The following are some of the more common questions our clients ask:
A: First, your health is your top priority, so be sure to seek medical attention if you have been injured or if you begin to feel pain or discomfort. A medical examination will provide documentation of your injuries, which can be used as evidence in your claim.
Second, contact an experienced lawyer to help you:
- Report the accident to your insurance provider,
- Communicate and negotiate with the opposing insurance provider,
- Investigate the accident scene and circumstances that led to the crash,
- Obtain evidence of liability and damages, such as medical records, police reports, and photos, and
- Negotiate for a full and fair settlement on your behalf, or fight for your rightful award in trial.
A: At Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., we are proud to offer our clients a no-fee promise. That means that not only do we provide a free and comprehensive evaluation of your truck accident, but we will also handle your case with no up-front costs to you. Our payment is simply a percentage of the final verdict or settlement on your claim. If we do not make a recovery on your behalf, you do not owe us attorney fees. Guaranteed.
A: Yes, under Washington State law, you technically have three years from the date of the commercial truck accident or discovery of the damages from the accident to pursue an injury claim. In order to protect your rightful claim, it is strongly suggested that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the weaker your claim may be. There are many exceptions, so do not hesitate to get in touch with Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., to discuss your situation.
A: No. It is likely that the insurance adjustor will want to settle for the lowest amount possible. Depending on the severity of the crash and the damages you have suffered, you may be entitled to a significant amount more than they initially offer. The insurance companies involved (even your own) are more concerned with their bottom line than ensuring your financial costs are covered. The legal team at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., can determine the maximum amount you deserve and will negotiate on your behalf. Let our team hold the negligent trucker, trucking company, or other party responsible for what you have had to endure.
A: You may still be able to recover compensation in a personal injury or wrongful death claim, depending on the degree of your fault (for example if you were found to be in the truck driver's blind spot). Washington follows a legal doctrine known as "comparative negligence," which means your final settlement or verdict will be reduced based on your percentage of fault for the crash. For example, if the court awards you $10,000 but finds that you were 25% at fault; your final award would be reduced to $7,500.
At Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., we have the resources and experience to effectively protect the rights of our clients and prove negligence against their defendants. Going up against a large trucking company and their insurers requires extensive investigation and preparation - all of which we are capable of. Our skilled Seattle truck accident attorneys know how to prove liability and how to get clients fair compensation following an injury accident in Washington. Call our law office today at (888) 228-3860 for a free consultation and comprehensive case assessment.
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