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Trucking Accidents

18-wheelers and semi-trucks are common sights on highways in Washington State.  While most of the time they are safe, there are unfortunately accidents that take place, and people can be badly injured when they are hit by these much larger vehicles.  These accidents often result in very serious injuries to people and damage to a car.

If you have been in an accident with a semi truck, you only have, at least in Washington State, up to three years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit.  In order to have a lawsuit, you have to be able to prove that you were injured and that your injuries are from the negligence, or fault, of the driver of the truck or the truck company itself. 

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Study

Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which was commissioned by the US federal government, conducted a study by looking into the most common reasons for trucking accidents on America’s highways.  The results were a bit surprising.

Below is a breakdown of what the study found to be the most common reasons for accidents:

  • The truck had brake problems (29% of the time this caused the accident)
  • The driver was driving too fast for conditions (23% of the time this caused the accident)
  • The driver was not familiar with the road (22% of the time this caused the accident)
  • The road had problems (20% of the time this caused the accident)
  • The driver was on some kind of over the counter drug (17% of the time this caused the accident)
  • The driver did not have adequate surveillance (14% of the time this caused the accident)
  • The driver was very tired (13% of the time this caused the accident)
  • The driver felt under work pressure (10% of the time this caused the accident)

As you can see from this article, the majority of the time the accident was caused by the driver. However, it should be noted that the truck itself, and the truck’s faulty brakes, are most often the cause of the accident.  It is no wonder, then, that there is a large movement in Silicon Valley to produce a self-driving 18-wheeler for highways.

Because of a large demand for truck drivers and a low supply of them, the law has changed to allow drivers as young as 18 drive these large trucks on the highway.  Given that this law is new, there have not been significant studies showing the difference in accidents among drivers of different ages.  It will remain to be seen in the coming years if the relative youth of drivers on the highways of America will result in more accidents, deaths, and injuries than with drivers who are older.

If you would like to read the full article regarding the most common reasons for trucking accidents, you can find it here:

Most Common 18-Wheelers on the Road

There are many different kinds of trucks and trucking companies on the road in America. However, the most common are:

  • Peterbilt
  • International
  • Kenmore
  • Volvo
  • Freightliner

These trucks can weigh an enormous amount, anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 pounds, with some weighing more than 33,000 pounds, depending on whether the truck is freighted or not.  These trucks can travel enormous distances.  Some of the more common 18-wheeler trucks you will see on the road are:

  • Moving trucks, such as Mayflower and Beacons
  • Trucks that move automobiles
  • Walmart trucks
  • Amazon trucks

There are a number of different classes of trucks.  These class numbers depend on how much the truck weighs.  For example, class 4 trucks are like big Ford trucks normal people buy.  They weigh around 14,000 pounds.  Class 6 trucks weigh around 20,000 pounds.  These are normally seen in school buses.  Heavy duty trucks are considered Class 7 trucks and they weigh up to 33,000 pounds.  These are garbage trucks and furniture trucks.  Class 8 trucks include dump trucks and big rigs.  Kenworth and Peterbilt are the most common form of these trucks.

Do You Sue the Driver or the Trucking Company?

After being in a trucking accident, you might wonder if you should sue the driver or the company the driver works for.  The answer is you can do both, but you’re much more likely to actually recover money from the driver’s employer, the trucking company.  In addition, the law allows you to sue the employer under a legal theory known as respondent superior.

You might wonder what this means.  The answer is that the employer, or truck owner, is responsible for the acts and decisions of its employee, the driver.  The only time there is an exception is when the driver intentionally does something to cause the accident.  For example, if the driver intentionally causes an accident after a bout of road rage, perhaps by shooting someone or using their truck as a weapon to run someone off the road.

If this could be proven, then it may not mean you can sue the trucking company.  It is important that you’re able to sue the trucking company because the trucking company is the one who has insurance, not the driver.  The trucking company’s insurance company will be the one to pay for your damages, including medical bills and lost wages.  You want to be sure to keep the trucking company involved in the case so you can reach the company’s insurance.

Regardless of which you sue, the driver or the company, you have to show there was negligence by one of them.  You have to show that the company was negligent, perhaps in who they hired, or that the company was negligent in failing to check and fix faulty brakes.  If you sue the driver, you must also show that the driver was negligent, perhaps by showing the driver was under the influence of drugs or distracted by texting and driving.

Proving Your Damages in a Trucking Case

While it may seem obvious, the reality is that just being in a trucking accident is not enough to get money from the trucking company’s insurance company.  Rather, you have to prove your case by showing how you were damaged and what those damages are.  The most common forms of damages are:

  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Future medical bills
  • Future lost wages

Those categories of damages are allowed in Washington State.  The idea is that these damages should make you “whole” or put you back in the same position you were before the accident.  You might be wondering what pain and suffering is.  This is an amount of money meant to compensate you for all of the pain you have endured.  It is almost meant to compensate you for things like not being able to hike, garden, play soccer, or simply do household chores like you were able to do before the accident.

Are There Punitive Damages in Trucking Cases?

Punitive damages are a certain kind of legal damage that you’re allowed to receive in personal injury cases.  Punitive is a word that means “to punish.”  The idea being that if someone or a company acts really horribly and causes damage, they should be punished.  If a case goes to trial, the jury could be instructed by the judge to consider these damages and award money to punish a company or person.

However, in Washington State there are no punitive damages allowed.  This is because there is a law on the books in Washington State that does not allow for punitive damages. Therefore, the only way around this is by proving your damages are considerable by proving that you should be allowed to receive money for what is known as your pain and suffering.

What If You’re Hit by an Out of State Semi Truck?

One of the common questions people have when making a claim against a semi truck is where they should bring the lawsuit.  After all, many times you are hit by a truck that is traveling from another state.  If this is the case, it can be confusing about where you bring the lawsuit.  The answer is that you have to bring the lawsuit in either the state where the accident happened or in the state where the defendant resides.

So if you live in Tacoma, Washington and you’re hit on a highway in Pierce County, you can bring your suit in Tacoma even if the truck that hit you is with a company that is based in Los Angeles, California.

How an Expert Can Help Your Trucking Accident Case

If you have been hit by a semi truck, then you are going to have to prove how the accident happened.  The driver or the driver’s insurance company rarely step forward and volunteer how the accident occurred and how they were the ones at fault.  Further, the way the law system is set up is that if you bring a claim, the burden of proof is on you to prove how the accident.

For this, you need the right expert.  The right expert can help you prove your claim.  Finding the right expert may not be easy.  You need an expert who understands how to figure out why the accident took place.  The expert will likely have a background in safety and engineering, perhaps road design and know the laws regarding how much weight a truck should carry.  The expert might be called an accident reconstructionist.  This type of expert will be able to look at things like the tire marks on a highway or the brakes of a truck and know how the accident took place.

How The Jackman Law Firm Can Help 

If you’ve been hit by a large commercial truck, we understand the toll this will take on you.  This is likely one of the hardest things you’ve dealt with in your life.  We can help because we’ve helped so many people in your shoes before.  We have the resources to make sure you get money for your lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills, and other out of pocket expenses. Call us for a free consultation.