Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Of course, the first place to turn when looking for someone to blame in a collision with a big rig is the driver of the truck. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck drivers are often to blame for accidents. The FMCSA breaks down crash causes by categories and percentage of occurrence, including:
- DECISION (38%): The driver is speeding, following too closely, or not paying attention to the speed of others on the road.
- RECOGNITION (28%): The driver is inattentive or distracted.
- NON-PERFORMANCE (12%): The driver fell asleep or suffered a physical problem, such as a heart attack, seizure, or other impairment.
- VEHICLE (10%): Vehicle problems, such as brake failure, are to blame.
- PERFORMANCE (9%): The driver panicked or exercised poor directional control.
- ENVIRONMENT (3%): Heavy rain, fog, severe weather, or poor roadway conditions contributed to the crash.
Who Is Really Liable?
In addition to the driver, other parties may potentially be held responsible. Brake failure is among the main causes listed above. Sometimes, truck companies will even remove or depower the front brakes of a truck to reduce tire wear and brake costs, or maintenance people assigned to keep the truck in a safe operating condition simply don’t do their jobs.
Cargo loading can also be a factor. If the cargo load is off-balance, it can cause the truck’s center of gravity to shift, making it hard to maneuver. The load itself may even cause an accident if it is not secured properly and spills out into the highway or onto other vehicles.
The trucking company may be liable for not properly training the truck driver and rushing the person into service before they were ready. The parent company may also be forcing drivers to exceed the hours of service (HOS) limits set by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Not enough rest and too much time behind the wheel can lead to driver fatigue and accidents.
Drivers themselves may be using substances — even over-the-counter medications — that can cause them to be drowsy or inattentive, to say nothing of what happens if they abuse a substance that is illegal.
In other words, unlike a car crash involving two drivers, assessing liability in a collision with a large truck requires investigation and knowledge of applicable regulations. Experienced truck accident attorneys can assist in making a determination regarding what factors contributed to the crash.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
The first thing to note about seeking compensation through a personal injury lawsuit is that the statute of limitations in Washington is three years from the date of the accident. Exceeding this timeframe may prevent you from filing a lawsuit against the responsible party.
Another important aspect of a personal injury claim — whether through the courts or an insurance company — is what steps you take after you are in an accident with a large truck. You need to call the police to the scene to investigate and seek immediate medical attention for your injuries. You will need the documentation of your medical exam and treatment for your claim.
Remember, some injuries don’t show up until later, so even if you feel “okay” but shaken up, go get evaluated anyway.
Also, be careful in what you say to the police, an insurance claims adjuster, and anyone else — including the other driver. If you say something that sounds like you’re admitting fault, that can come back to haunt you. Even apologizing to the other driver can be construed as an admission of fault.
Finally, seek legal counsel as soon as possible. A collision with a large truck is much more complex than a fender-bender with another car. An attorney can guide you in the proper direction and help you pursue your claim with the best chance of success.