Truck accidents are unfortunately a common occurrence on the busy freeways, highways, and interstates in and around Seattle, Kirkland, Bellingham, and Olympia, as well as Washington State. Truck accidents normally take two separate forms. First, the truck involved is considered a commercial truck, meaning a truck that is driven for work purposes.
These are trucks like semi-trucks, 18 wheelers, and various rigs that are on the road. These trucks have commercial insurance policies that insure them and they are normally operated by professional drivers who have what are called CDL licenses. Second, the truck involved is a truck that is being used for normal purposes, or non-work purposes. These kinds of trucks are driven by non-CDL holders, or just ordinary people. These trucks are insured, assuming they are at all, by normal insurance policies like Geico, Allstate, and State Farm.Washington State Truck Accident Statistics
Heavy trucks are large vehicles that typically weigh from 26,000 to 35,000 lbs., depending on the load and size of the truck. The most popular kind of heavy truck is probably the semi-trailer truck. These heavy trucks are also referred to as “semis,” “tractor-trailers,” “18-wheelers,” and “semi-trucks.” Semi-trailer trucks involve the baseline unit of a tractor that can be attached to a semi-trailer via a fifth wheel, although most of the weight is carried by the front-end, which is the tractor. The main purpose of semi-trailer trucks is to carry freight, often for long distances.
Heavy trucks are class 8 vehicles and represent the highest on-road classification of any motor vehicle. In addition to semi-trailer trucks, heavy trucks include: garbage trucks, dump trucks, cement mixer trucks, log carrier trucks, mobile cranes, refrigerator trucks, tank trucks, and tractor units. When driving, especially on freeways, we tend to see trucks frequently. It is estimated that there are about 2 - 3 million heavy trucks traveling America’s roadways, transporting freight from place to place.
In 2015, there were 6,091 accidents involving heavy trucks, including semi-trucks or 18 wheelers. While 4,565 of those collisions involved property damage, 38 resulted in fatalities, 85 in serious injuries, and 1,352 in minor injuries. In 2018, heavy truck accidents leading to death totaled 51 and those leading to serious injury were 111, which is up significantly from 2015.
The highest volume of truck accidents per county in Washington State occur (from high to low) in: King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Lewis County, and Thurston County – which follows the logics of highest to lowest population. It basically means to be extra careful if you are driving in an area with lots of heavy trucks.
According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), although statistics infer that heavy truck drivers experience less accidents per capita, truck accidents resulting in fatalities tend to occur at twice the rate of passenger vehicle accident fatalities. This is because heavy trucks are extremely huge and heavy, so when an accident does occur it tends to have a more damaging outcome than is the case with a smaller and lighter motor vehicle.
This is basic physics. A heavier object traveling at the same speed as a lighter object will transfer a greater amount of force upon the object it strikes. Think of it this way, a pedestrian who is hit by a bicycle traveling at 20 mph will probably be in much better shape than a person struck by a heavy truck traveling the same speed.
The greater propensity for heavy trucks to damage other vehicles in accidents just means to exercise special care when you are near a speeding truck.
On the national scale, heavy-grade commercial trucks comprise just 2.4% of all car accidents – however, 5,000 people die every year due to a truck accident in the US. As the driver of a passenger vehicle you don’t want to get into an accident with a heavy truck. Statistics show that 98% of the time, the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident with a heavy truck will die as a result of the collision. In fact, nationally, a person dies or is seriously injured every 16 minutes from a heavy truck accident.Common Reasons for Trucking Accidents
- Driver exhaustion, falling asleep
- Distracted driver
- Driver is inexperienced and fails to operate truck safely
- Challenging, bad or treacherous road conditions
- Extreme weather, such as snow, heavy rain or winds compromises driving conditions
- Unstable load, falling debris, etc.
- Equipment failure
- Driver is intoxicated or taking prescription drugs that compromise ability to drive
- Speeding or reckless driving
Like most motor vehicle accidents, a variety of causes can be at play. The main difference is that many heavy trucks are driven by professional truck drivers carrying heavy loads across large distances. After hours and hours (and days) of driving, professional truck drivers can experience fatigue, which compromises the capacity to operate the truck. As with any motor vehicle driver, it is imperative for truck drivers to ensure they get adequate rest and recuperation to conduct their jobs.
The following is a list of statistics, as per a crash data report compiled by WSDOT, of the 162 heavy truck accidents leading to death or serious injury in 2018:
- Nearly 25% involved driver distraction or inattention
- Another 25% involved speeding or reckless driving
- 8.6% involved alcohol
- Just under 2% involved drugs
- Nearly 5% involved driver fatigue or drowsy driving
The most common cause of heavy truck accidents, identified by FMCSA (the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), is driver error, which includes failure to correctly operate the vehicle, failure to recognize and respond appropriately to road hazards, reckless driving, and driver distraction.Truck Insurance Considerations
After being in a trucking accident, you need to understand the insurance considerations that make up these kinds of cases. First, you need to understand that the vast majority of trucks on the road are insured. This means that if you are hit by a truck, you will be dealing with that trucker’s insurance company. If you are struck by an 18-wheeler, semi-truck, or big rig, this truck will have what is called a “commercial insurance policy.”
Most of these policies are for at least one million dollars. Sometimes they are for substantially more than this. In any case, while you will allege in your lawsuit, assuming you cannot settle your case prior to court, that the trucker or trucking company was negligent, you will be dealing with an insurance company. The insurance company will not be named on the lawsuit, however. This means that if you do receive a settlement for your case, the settlement will come from the insurance policy of the at-fault trucking company’s insurance policy, not from the driver or the trucking company itself.
The same goes for if you are hit by someone in a normal pick-up truck, such as a Ford F-150, Dodge Ram, Chevy Silverado, or any other kind of truck you see people driving on the road. These trucks are normally not insured by a commercial policy. Instead, they are insured by just a normal policy through a company like Allstate, Geico, or State Farm. If you are involved in an accident with one of these trucks, then the settlement, if you reach one, will come from this insurance policy.Common Truck Accident Injuries
The injuries stemming from truck accidents can range from very minor scrapes and bruises to even death. The extent of the injury will come in large part from the impact and severity of the accident, as well as any pre-existing conditions you may have at the time of impact. The most common injuries are:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Broken bones
After enduring an injury of this type, it is crucial that you immediately seek medical care
to treat the injury. Injuries of this nature rarely, if ever, simply resolve on their own. Rather, they could very well worsen with time.
It is very important to make sure you communicate to your doctor or healthcare provider that you are being treated for injuries that are related to the trucking accident. While it is up to you what kind of provider you saw, the most common providers people see are doctors, chiropractors, physiatrists, osteopaths, and physical therapists.How The Jackman Law Firm Can Help With Your Trucking Accident
After being involved in a trucking accident, you may be wondering where you should turn or what you should do. The Jackman Law Firm can help get your case on track and moving in the right direct. We can help you recover money for the following:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Future medical bills
- Loss of consortium
- Out of pocket expenses
- Lost wages
- Future wage loss
Each of those categories of damages are things you can recover under Washington State
law for your injuries. To be clear, pain and suffering is an amount of money that you can receive for the pain, suffering, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life you have suffered because of your injury.
For example, if you could not go hiking or sleep as well after the accident as you could before, then you are allowed to receive money for this. Loss of consortium is an amount money that is designed to compensate your spouse or legal partner for the parts of your relationship that were impacted by the trucking accident. To be clear, this would be a separate lawsuit brought by your spouse.
The Jackman Law Firm can help you successfully negotiate a settlement with the at-fault trucking company’s insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company. We have handled hundreds of cases like this over the year and obtained large settlements on behalf of our clients. In the event that the case cannot settled, for whatever reason, we may need to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Litigating a case, especially against a trucking company, requires real skill and experience, both of which The Jackman Law Firm has.
While it may seem unthinkable, there may be cases where the trucking company alleges that you are somehow at fault for the accident. They may allege that you swerved into the wrong lane or that you suddenly braked in front of the trucker, causing the accident. These of course may be completely untrue, but it is up to you to prove your case. If you cannot do this, you will lose the case. The Jackman Law Firm has the resources to successfully prove your case by subpoenaing documents, interviewing witnesses, including the police, and obtaining surveillance footage that may have captured the accident.
Feel free to call The Jackman Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your case.