Spokane Semi-Truck Accident Attorney
When a truck, semi, or 18-wheeler collides with a car or another object, the results can be disastrous. If the accident takes place between a semi-truck and a smaller car or motorcycle, it’s a traumatic scene. Commercial trucks are unwieldy and very heavy vehicles with the potential to cause massive damage. For this reason, truck drivers are required to earn special licenses called CDL’s showing they have the necessary knowledge and skill to operate such dangerous machinery.
Commercial truck drivers are under pressured to cover very large distances in the shortest time possible. They are highly regulated, but the stress created by this pressure can affect their ability to drive responsibly, putting both truck drivers and everyone else on the road in danger.
Determining Liability in Trucking Accidents
Most trucks are equipped with engine computers, commonly called “black boxes.” These devices record the speed and application of the brake immediately before the impact of an accident. These boxes can be very helpful in injury cases because the data can be preserved, downloaded and analyzed to determine the truck’s speed and when the brake was applied.
Is The Truck Driver or The Company he’s Driving For at Fault?
Usually, the legal concept of vicarious liability applies, meaning if the driver is legally employed and within the scope of his duties as an employee, then the employer is on the hook as well for any potential damages to the injured party. This gives the injured party a higher chance of recovery because the pockets of the employer are in most cases deeper or they have more assets or better insurance coverage. So it’s a good thing in a trucking accident case to also have the employer responsible for potentially paying damages.
Semi-Truck Accidents Are Different from an Auto Accident
Automobile travel is regulated but semi-truck and commercial vehicles are regulated much more strictly, they usually have multiple layers of laws that they have to compile with at the local, state, and federal levels. This makes large commercial trucking accident unique and more complicated.
1. Truck Drivers Operate Under Tougher Regulations
One way semi-truck accidents are different is that semi-trucks are regulated more stringently which means there are more possibilities of finding something they did wrong to contribute to the accident. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation Act are regulations issued by the Federal Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA ). The primary mission of the FMCSA is to prevent and reduce large truck crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Any violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation Act adds credibility and weight to the case, providing the basis for establishing fault and proving liability on the part of the truck driver and the trucking company.
2. Hours of Service Regulations
18 wheeler and semi-truck drivers are only allowed to drive a certain number of hours per day per FMCSA rules. Commercial truck drivers can only drive 11 hours each day after having 10 consecutive hours off duty. Sometimes these hours of service rules are not followed which can lead to a driver’s impaired judgment, poor concentration or delayed reaction time. This can increase the chances of mistakes made at the wheel and cause accidents. Fortunately, semi truck drivers are required to keep track of their time on the road and hours off duty, which can be useful in accident cases to prove who was at fault.
3. Negligence Per Se
Many of the Federal regulations found in the FMCSA have the force of law, which can make proving a truck case easier. This means that an injury lawyer can argue using the doctrine of “negligence per se” that the trucking company by violating the statutes or regulations are negligent as a matter of law.
To establish this, you must show that the defendant violated a law that creates duty or prohibits an act for the benefit of the general public. That the person injured was part of the group of persons that the law was supposed to protect and the violation of the law caused the accident. Since there are so many more laws governing trucking than automobiles, there are more chances of finding a regulation that was violated.
4. Potential Recovery
There are many other theories of potential recovery in semi trucking cases that don’t apply in general automobile cases. Below I have listed a few.
- Did the trucking company hire the driver negligently?
- Did the trucking company negligently entrust the driver with a semi-truck?
- Did the trucking company retain the driver after a showing that
- the driver was not competent to drive?
- Did the trucking company train the driver negligently?
- Did the trucking company fail to properly inspect, maintain, or repair the truck?
- Was the truck driver appropriately supervised?
Trucking and Insurance Companies Defend Their Own Interests
Because injuries in trucking cases are can be so different, more severe and devastating, and so much insurance coverage exists, insurance carriers will usually vigorously defend truck accident claims. Trucking companies and their insurance companies are likely to try to shift blame to the innocent injured victim or to minimize the victim’s injuries.
In high damage cases, insurance companies will sometimes hire “investigators” to watch the injured victims. These investigators will try to film the victim doing activities they claim are inconsistent with the injuries. If they find evidence that is inconsistent they could potentially show these videos to juries in an attempt to persuade them that the injured plaintiff is faking or exaggerating their injuries.
In high damage trucking case like these, the defense will often try every trick in the book to try to get out of paying the injured the compensation they are entitled.
To learn more about insurance companies read our 8 Things Your Should Know About Insurance Companies post.
Personal Injury Attorney Robert Hahn Can Help You
If you or your loved ones are facing issues related to a semi-truck accident in Spokane or elsewhere in Washington state, contact Spokane’s Personal Injury Attorney Robert Hahn. We have the experience to answer your questions, find solutions, determine the responsible parties, and move forward to pursue those responsible for your injuries or loss of life. We are here to help—contact us today at (509)921-9500 for experienced, compassionate, and aggressive representation.