In 2015, 38 fatal crashes involving semi-trucks (also known as 18-wheelers or big rigs) occurred in Washington; that same year, across the U.S., 3,852 people were killed in truck accidents. Accidents involving semi-trucks are often devastating, causing severe injury, heavy property damage, permanent disability, and multiple deaths. Because of the serious costs associated with trucking accidents, damages tend to run high, and trucking companies will defend themselves adamantly in truck accident cases.
At Lehmbecker Law, our team is dedicated to making sure that you recover full compensation in any personal injury case. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or suffered a wrongful death due to a truck accident, an experienced attorney can help build your case, fight for your rights, and see that you are justly compensated for your medical expenses, as well as any additional costs that may have been incurred as a result of your injury.
Causes and Risks of Truck Accidents
An average semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, about 20 times heavier than an average car. This means semi-trucks generally take longer to stop. Even when truck drivers are more careful than the average car driver, accidents still occur. When they do, they are usually much more serious than the average car accident due to the truck’s massive size and weight. Trucks that carry hazardous materials, like gasoline, pose an even greater risk of injury in the case of an accident.
Other factors—like road hazards and distracted driving—can also contribute to semi-truck accidents. When truck drivers are forced to work through the night, or work for long periods of time without breaks, they can become fatigued and less alert to dangers on the road.
Of course, sometimes a truck accident is not the truck driver’s fault, or it may be only partly the truck driver’s fault. Other vehicle drivers can cause an accident by turning in front of a truck too closely, or by driving in the truck-driver’s blind-spot. Serious traffic may also cause a semi-truck to stop abruptly and crash into a car, or a car may attempt to pass a semi-truck unsafely or drive between trucks. Common causes of traffic accidents include speeding, malfunctions, distracted or exhausted driving, weather conditions, unstable cargo, and poor roads.
Proving Negligence and Liability
Like other vehicle accident cases, truck accident cases usually hinge on the negligence of one or both parties, which translates to liability (who is at fault in the accident). If the injured party (known as the plaintiff) is attempting to sue the truck driver or trucking company, he or she must prove that the driver or company failed to uphold its legal duty—to drive carefully in the interest of avoiding injury to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the roadway—and in doing so, caused harm to the plaintiff. In this case, the truck driver or company is known as the defendant.
Trucking accident cases are unique, and this is mainly because large semi-trucks differ from other vehicles in significant ways. For example, semi-trucks are prone to jackknifing, which usually occurs when the truck is forced to make a sudden brake or turn. If a truck-driver brakes suddenly on a slippery road, or turns suddenly to avoid hitting another vehicle, the truck driver may not be at fault. In many cases, conditions that require sudden braking or turning are unforeseeable, meaning the truck driver cannot reasonably be held responsible for an accident that occurs as a result.
Semi-trucks also tend to have trouble turning, and some truck drivers will use two lanes in order to make a right turn. Sometimes the truck driver will be held responsible for an accident if he or she was trying to turn from an inside lane or trying to make a turn while taking up two lanes. Whether or not this constitutes negligence differs from court to court.
Another difference between a truck accident and an accident between two cars is the presence of a third party—the trucking company itself. Because truck drivers often answer to a trucking or shipping company, the company may be held responsible for the accident rather than the individual driver. In these cases, the driver often shares responsibility with the employer, contractor, trucking company, and insurance company—all of which may be separate entities.
If the truck driver or another party connected to the driver is found to be at fault, then that party may be legally required to compensate the plaintiff for damages caused by the accident. This may include compensating for medical bills related to injuries sustained in the accident, lost wages for any time taken off work for recovery, as well as pain and suffering damages. In a fatal accident, the victim’s family may be entitled to recover damages on behalf of the deceased.
- In 2015, 6,091 collisions involving heavy trucks occurred in Washington. Semi-trucks were involved in 85 collisions that caused serious injuries, and 1,352 that caused minor injuries.
- In 2016, motor-vehicle related deaths increased 6% across the nation.
- 40,200 fatal motor-vehicle accidents occurred in the U.S. in 2016, 536 of which occurred in Washington.
- Three of the most common issues in traffic accidents are speeding, distracted driving, and substance abuse.
What to Do Following a Truck Accident
When an accident of any kind occurs, it is critical to take appropriate action as soon as possible. Never accept a settlement or give a statement without first consulting an experienced attorney and discussing your case to determine your claim. No matter who is at fault in an accident, it is important to know your rights and ensure that each negligent party is held accountable for their actions.
At Lehmbecker Law, we have over 30 years of experience in assessing and winning personal injury cases on behalf of our clients. Contact us today for a free initial consultation and to learn more about seeking compensation for your injuries from a truck accident.