Truck Accident Attorney in Vancouver, WA
Accidents involving trucks involve significant risks. If you’ve ever felt an enormous semi-truck edging too close to you on a freeway, you have probably sensed its sheer mass compared to your passenger vehicle.
Accidents involving commercial vehicles and heavy trucks are almost twice as likely to result in fatalities as those involving passenger vehicles, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. Injuries from these accidents can change the lives of those involved in an instant, creating physical and financial challenges that may be difficult to overcome.
If you or a family member has been injured in a truck accident, you need to understand as much as possible about your legal options and the correct steps to take in the aftermath of your injury. Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC can help stay on the right track and lead you to the settlement that you deserve.
Why Choose Us?
Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC attorneys work under the mandate “liberty and justice for all.” Our dedicated and successful team offers many advantages to clients:
- We maintain a small caseload to ensure that we can give personal and undivided attention to the clients that we represent.
- We work on a contingency fee basis. There is no fee to you unless we win.
- We are aggressive negotiators and experienced trial lawyers. We will not hesitate to take your case to trial to recover the maximum possible compensation.
Types of Truck Accidents In Vancouver
Safely navigating a vehicle the size of a semi-truck is much more challenging than driving a passenger car. A maneuver as simple as stopping in time to avoid colliding with a vehicle that is no longer moving involves an entirely different set of physical forces.
Truck accidents fall into several categories:
- Driver Negligence: In the worst cases, this can involve driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or driving with insufficient sleep. Truck drivers are not immune to distraction by cell phones or texting. Dangerous turns, driving too close behind another vehicle, speeding or other violations of traffic laws can lead to collisions.
- Poor Vehicle Maintenance: Brakes are especially important for vehicles that weigh as much as 20 times more than the average passenger car. If axle brakes lock, this can cause the truck trailer to jackknife uncontrollably and possibly cause the truck to roll over.
- Unavoidable Blockage: An ill-considered turn, a reckless attempt at passing another vehicle or other maneuver by a truck can create a barrier that is virtually impossible for other drivers to avoid, leading to a collision or forcing them off the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) is the government agency responsible for federal oversight of the trucking industry. Trucking is an integral part of the United States economy and truck drivers deliver millions of tons of cargo throughout the country every day. Their vehicles are larger and inherently more dangerous than typical passenger cars in an accident and also spend much more time on the road than average passenger cars. Truck drivers often face long hours, tight deadlines, and stressful driving conditions. As such, the FMCSA upholds many regulations pertaining to various aspects of the trucking industry.
- Hours of service. Due to the fatiguing nature of driving for extended periods of time, the FMCSA regulates shift times, required rest periods, and hours of service requirements for truck drivers. A driver who spends too much time behind the wheel without adequate rest presents a serious danger to other drivers. Fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. Trucking companies must ensure their drivers meet FMCSA hours of service requirements and do not drive while fatigued.
- Vehicle maintenance. Because tractor-trailers spend so much time on the road and regularly haul heavy loads, they are highly susceptible to wear-and-tear. The FMCSA sets strict maintenance requirements including required inspection periods, part replacement, and emergency maintenance for breakdowns. Improper maintenance can cause critical vehicle failures, potentially causing serious accidents.
- Hiring and training. The FMCSA also mandates hiring requirements to ensure trucking companies hire properly licensed and certified commercial vehicle drivers. Trucking companies must also ensure appropriate training hours before assigning full shifts to new hires. Allowing an inexperienced driver to take a difficult or complicated route can easily lead to an accident.
- Substance abuse screening. Truck drivers have a higher duty of care on the road than private drivers, and trucking companies may implement random drug testing to ensure their drivers are not driving under the influence.
Violations of FMCSA regulations can not only lead to very serious accidents but also significant legal penalties for trucking companies found out of compliance. Some compliance violations may shift liability for a truck accident to the trucking company or another party.
Cargo Loading-Related Accidents
One common cause of trucking accidents is improper cargo loading. Tractor-trailers have higher centers of gravity than smaller vehicles. This makes them vulnerable to accidents from balance issues. It is essential to load a tractor-trailer appropriately so the weight of the load evenly distributes in the trailer. If the trailer is too heavy on one side, the truck could tip over around a sharp turn. If the trailer is too heavy in the rear it could swing out and jackknife when taking a turn.
Many types of cargo can potentially cause balancing issues and increase the risk of a jackknife or tip-over accident. There are also many types of special cargo that may not fit inside a typical trailer and instead require specialized trailers or safety devices.
- Construction equipment, such as small construction vehicles in a delivery to a construction site.
- Smaller passenger vehicles. Specialized trailers carry cars for delivery to dealerships.
- Timber and lumber. Trucks carrying large logs for timber processing must ensure their trailers have the appropriate structure and safety attachments.
- Debris and refuse. There are special regulations for the transportation of demolition waste and other forms of refuse.
- Concrete pipe segments. These usually require a large, flat truck bed with safety chains and straps.
Multiple Liable Parties
There are many potential parties in the chain of any given trucking operation. For example, a trucking company hires a new truck driver and assigns a delivery. The truck driver picks up the cargo but the distributor’s employees did not properly balance the load or forgot a security device. The inexperienced driver encounters a weight shift on the road and overcorrects while steering, causing an accident.
In this example, the distributor would bear some liability for the accident due to the improper cargo loading at the pickup site. However, the investigation may determine that the driver could have prevented the accident with more experience, assigning partial fault to the driver and the driver’s employer for failure to ensure proper training. In this situation, a jury would likely divide fault for the accident between the trucking company and the distributor. There are several potential defendants in any truck accident.
- Trucking companies and their drivers. Trucking companies must adhere to responsible hiring practices and ensure appropriate training and experience for all drivers. A truck driver may incur liability for an accident that occurs outside the scope of his or her job duties, such as using the truck for personal or illegal reasons while on a required rest break. If an accident occurs while a truck driver is driving for work, the trucking company will likely absorb some measure of liability if the driver was in any way at fault for the accident.
- Distributors and vendors responsible for cargo loading. These parties must ensure responsible cargo loading and vehicle balance for every pickup. Some types of carg, like smaller vehicles, concrete pipe segments, and timber require specialized security devices, straps, and locking mechanisms to ensure a secure and balanced load.
- Product manufacturers of trucks and truck parts. Product manufacturers must ensure the safety and effectiveness of their products. If a defective vehicle part causes an accident, the part manufacturer could face a product liability claim from the injured party. Product manufacturers typically issue recalls once they identify defective products and issue repairs, replacements, or refunds. It is essential for all trucking companies to pay close attention to the latest recall information to ensure fleet vehicles are not affected.
- Maintenance personnel responsible for truck inspections and repairs. Trucks spend a great deal more time on the road than average passenger vehicles and therefore require more extensive and more frequent maintenance. A maintenance provider could face liability if incomplete truck maintenance allows an undiscovered flaw or issue to cause an accident, such as a brake failure or transmission failure.
- Third parties, such as other private drivers. When a third driver causes an accident with a truck and other vehicles, determining liability can be very challenging. The process is the same as for any other vehicle accident; the plaintiff’s attorney must prove the third party caused or contributed to the accident and the jury reviewing the case will assign fault based on the evidence in the case and testimony from expert witnesses.
Assigning Fault Among Multiple Defendants
If a truck accident investigation reveals multiple liable parties, the subsequent lawsuit will revolve around determining each party’s level of fault for the damages claimed in the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s attorney must identify the parties bearing liability for the plaintiff’s claimed damages and prove those parties owed a duty of care to the plaintiff in the situation. Then, the plaintiff’s attorney must prove how each party breached their individual duties of care in the accident in question.
Several factors determine liability. A plaintiff’s attorney may call on expert witnesses to help prove how certain elements in the case contributed to the plaintiff’s damages. Safety experts, engineers, trucking industry officials, and other professionals with relevant backgrounds may help a jury better understand each party’s level of liability for the damages in a truck accident case.
In states that follow comparative negligence statutes, each defendant receives a fault percentage based on that party’s degree of liability for the accident. If three defendants assume 30%, 30%, and 40% of fault respectively, they would bear responsibility for those percentages of the plaintiff’s damages. In a $100,000 claim, those defendants would be responsible for $30,000, $30,000, and $40,000, respectively. Comparative negligence may also fall to the plaintiff, and he or she may lose the right to recovery if his or her fault percentage exceeds the combined fault of the defendants.
Truck Accident Statistics in Washington
According to the Washington Department of Transportation, accidents involving heavy-duty trucks and commercial vehicles occur at an average rate of nearly 17 collisions per day. About two percent of these accidents result in fatalities or serious injuries.
Who is Liable?
Liability can vary according to the circumstances of your accident. If it is clearly a matter of reckless or illegal behavior by the truck driver, liability may rest squarely with them. If the driver was driving with inadequate rest to meet an unreasonable schedule demand from an employer, the employer may be held liable.
If the accident was caused because of vehicle failure that was the result of inadequate maintenance, the trucking company may be held liable. If the driver of the truck is also the owner, that could change the assignment of liability. In the event that dangerous road conditions resulting from neglecting road repairs caused the accident, there may be a case against the entity responsible for the road.
Why You Need a Lawyer
A personal injury claim in Vancouver is based on evidence that an injury is the result of reckless or negligent behavior by another. Your ability to pursue a settlement that fully compensates you for your losses depends on the presence or absence of such evidence and your ability to present it convincingly.
In addition, if you are found to be responsible for the accident to any extent, the damages you are awarded will be reduced by that percentage. If you do not have guidance from an attorney with extensive experience in truck injury cases and familiarity with the strategies behind successful cases, your chances of receiving the settlement you deserve are greatly reduced.
Contact Us Today
Contact Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC if you or a loved one was seriously injured in a trucking accident. We offer a free case consultation.