You don’t need to be a highway safety expert to understand the risks large trucks pose on Washington roadways. Anyone who has driven a tractor trailer or shared the road with one knows the size, weight, and typical speed of these vehicles means they need more time and distance to stop or avoid road hazards, have large blind spots, and cause enormous damage to other, smaller vehicles in a collision.
Statistics from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) bear this out. In 2018, there were 162 reported crashes on Washington roads involving heavy trucks that resulted in 138 serious injuries and 57 deaths. That’s an average of a one heavy truck-related serious injury or death every other day in our state. More than 10 percent of those crashes occurred in Seattle.
If you sustained injuries or lost a loved one in a Seattle-area truck accident, you may have the right to substantial compensation. Contact the experienced, Seattle truck accident attorneys at Boohoff law today to learn more.
Contact us today – call (877) 999-9999 or email us. We’re available 24/7!
Why You Want Boohoff Law’s Truck Accident Attorneys on Your Side
Attorney Tatiana Boohoff and her colleagues at Boohoff Law have years of combined experience representing victims of truck accidents and their families. Together, they bring a wealth of practical skill, legal knowledge, and Tatiana’s reputation as a star personal injury litigator with a track record of success and a commitment to client service.
A graduate of the top-ranked Boston University School of Law, Tatiana Boohoff focuses her law practice entirely on helping personal injury victims recover the compensation they deserve. Accidents involving heavy trucks are one of her core areas of focus.
Truck accidents inflict catastrophic damage, as anyone who has watched an evening news report about one probably knows. Still, seeing images of the aftermath on television and experiencing the violence of a large truck accident firsthand do not compare. Survivors of these accidents feel lucky to escape them with their lives, because many victims do not. Even those who cheat death in a truck accident often contend with devastating and disabling injuries that can cause a lifetime of pain and distress.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Like any form of motor vehicle accident, truck accidents have a variety of root causes. Though some merely amount to freak occurrences that no one could have predicted, a far greater number can be tied back to someone’s poor decisions or lack of care. Here are some common human-related causes of truck accidents on Washington roads.
Truck driver fatigue. Truck drivers work long hours and irregular shifts. According to IIHS, truck driver fatigue is a known crash risk. Although federal and state regulations dictate the number of hours a trucker can spend behind the wheel, and require careful reporting and record-keeping to prove compliance, trucking is still an exhausting profession. Even when they comply with hours of service requirements (which isn’t always the case), truck drivers have to contend with the monotony of seemingly endless roads and the sleep-disruptive effects of driving at night and catching shut-eye at odd hours. Fatigue can have the same effect on a trucker’s driving abilities as being over the legal drunk driving limit, or can result in drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
Speed. We have all been on the road with a truck that seems to be driving way too fast for the road conditions. It’s scary. What’s worse, trucks have a longer stopping distance than smaller vehicles. A truck traveling at an inappropriately high speed will need an even greater distance to slow down or avoid road hazards.
Unbalanced/unsecured loads. Large trucks frequently haul heavy loads. The distribution of a load can affect how a truck handles. If the weight distribution of a load shifts while the truck is moving, truck drivers can—and often do—lose control. Even if the load is secure, it can affect the truck’s center of gravity. Unbalanced loads can cause truck rollovers, particularly on highway ramps or other sharp curves.
Blind spots. Tractor trailers have large blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle. Vehicles riding in those blind spots increase the risk for a collision substantially.
Operating under the influence. Truck drivers tend to drive drunk less often than other drivers on the road. But, that does not mean they pose a lower risk of operating under the influence. Some truck drivers have been known to rely on illegal drugs to keep them alert, which only increases their crash risk. Truck drivers with health problems (not uncommon because of their sedentary lifestyle) also run risks when they take the wheel under the influence of prescription medications.
These are just a few of the more common ways truck accidents can happen. There are many more. Because every truck accident has its own unique facts and circumstances, it is important for anyone injured in an accident to retain the services of an experienced truck accident attorney familiar with the particular challenges of investigating a truck accident injury.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Truck accidents result in frequent fatalities. Even when no one dies, however, a truck accident can inflict a wide range of catastrophic injuries. The people particularly vulnerable in truck accidents are occupants of smaller vehicles. The vast difference in size and weight between a car and a fully-loaded truck can destroy a passenger vehicle while leaving a truck relatively intact. Some of the most common, and devastating, injuries victims of truck accidents sustain include:
- Traumatic brain injuries;
- Spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis;
- Crushed or traumatically amputated limbs;
- Burns and disfiguring scarring;
- Broken bones and orthopedic injuries; and
- Severe internal and soft tissue damage.
Some of the injuries above heal in time, but many do not. In seeking damages for injuries sustained in a truck accident, one important task for a Seattle truck accident attorney is to determine the likely medical needs of a truck accident victim into the future, so as to ensure the victim receives adequate compensation from the parties with legal liability.
Common Parties With Legal Liability for Truck Accidents
Figuring out what caused a truck accident is only the beginning of the job an experienced Seattle truck accident attorney does for injured clients. Equally important is figuring out who may have legal liability to the accident victims. The cause of an accident can give clues to who may have liability for it, but it’s not the only piece to the puzzle. Below are some of the most common parties with liability for truck accident injuries:
Truck (or other) drivers. Obviously, all drivers on the road may have legal liability if their actions or decisions led to a crash. Truck drivers may especially face liability if they drove fatigued or under the influence.
Trucking companies. Trucking companies that employ truck drivers may have liability for driver decisions if they knew or should have known drivers operated unsafely. These companies may also have liability for failing to maintain safe trucking equipment.
Shippers and warehousers. If a shift or imbalance in truck cargo leads to a crash, the party who loaded the truck could face legal liability. Often, this party is a company that ships or stores goods.
Government entities. Local and state governments have an obligation to design and maintain safe roads. Some road design and maintenance decisions create dangers that can particularly impact large trucks, putting governments at risk of legal liability.
Truck equipment manufacturers. A manufacturer that produces a product that is unreasonably dangerous may have liability to anyone harmed by that product.
As we noted above, every truck accident is different. That includes who may have legal liability to victims of a truck accident. The best way to determine who has liability for injuries you or a loved one sustained in a Seattle truck accident is to retain the services of an experienced truck accident attorney.
Seattle Truck Accident FAQs
Accidents involving large trucks cause chaos; on the roads, for businesses, and most of all, in the lives of the victims injured or killed. In the aftermath of a truck accident, the people affected often have questions about their legal rights and how they can recover compensation for the harm done to them.
Boohoff Law is a Seattle law firm that exclusively represents victims of accidents and tragedies. We help people struggling physically, emotionally, and financially because of an accident to hold those who hurt them accountable. In this blog post, we tackle some of the common questions our clients have about truck accidents and the process of taking legal action for damages after they happen. We hope you’ll find our answers helpful, and that you’ll contact us with any additional questions or legal needs you have.
See a doctor. Do not wait. Do not pass off your injury as something inconvenient to suffer through or that it’s no big deal. Check-in with a doctor as soon as possible after any motor vehicle accident, even if you don’t think you’re too badly hurt, or hurt at all. Why is seeing a doctor so important? For several reasons. First, because your health takes priority, and the sooner you see a doctor for any health condition the better off you are. Additionally, some injuries typical of motor vehicle accidents take days or more to show symptoms, but are easy for doctors to diagnose and begin treating right away. Second, because not seeing a doctor risks all sort of complications:
- Health complications, from letting an injury go untreated or undiscovered, leading to worse health outcomes;
- Insurance complications, from failing to give your (or someone else’s) insurance company notice of your injury, which could cause you to lose benefits;
- Legal/financial complications, from failing to take the simple, practical steps necessary to protect your rights and to prevent someone from claiming you brought an injury on yourself.
From the legal standpoint, seeing a doctor soon is critically important if you ever hope to prove the truck accident caused your injury, the extent and prognosis of your injury, or the past, current, and future cost of treatment for your injury. Your lawyer will thank you.
Sometimes getting hurt in an accident is simply unavoidable. You can drive as safely as possible, but you can’t control how others on the road act. Still, there are affirmative steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting into a truck accident. Perhaps most important is by avoiding No Zones, the large blind spots that surround tractor trailer trucks. The typical tractor trailer No Zones are:
- 20 feet in the lane directly in front of the truck;
- 30 feet in the lane directly behind the truck;
- One lane-width in the driver-side blind spot extending from just behind the truck cab to mid-trailer; and
- Two lane-widths in the passenger-side blind spot extending the bumper-to-bumper length of the truck.
Not sure if you’re in a No Zone? Just remember: if you cannot see the truck driver in the truck’s rear-view mirror, then the truck driver cannot see you, either. Other steps you can take to steer clear of accidents with large trucks are to give yourself a safe distance behind trucks on the highway (especially in windy or slick road conditions), anticipate trucks’ wide turn radius, and never pass trucks or cut in front of them on downhill stretches of road.
That’s another tricky one. In all honesty: any lawyer who tells you right-off-the-bat what your truck accident injury claim is worth is probably blowing smoke. At best, it’s an educated guess with a LOT of wiggle room. At worst, it’s just a number the lawyer pulls out of thin air. What a case is worth, by which we mean, how much money you can reasonably expect to recover in damages for your injury or loss, depends on a huge range of factors, including:
- The severity of the injury or loss to you;
- What maximum recovery from your injury looks like and your probability of reaching it;
- Your age, general state of health, employment status, and income at the time of the accident;
- How badly you’ve suffered physically, emotionally, and financially because of the accident;
- The amount of insurance carried by anyone with potential liability to you; and
- The ability of anyone with potential liability to you to pay damages in excess or in the absence of insurance.
Those are just a few of the relevant factors, mind you. Making definitive statements about the value of a case at the outset is, as we said, not something responsible lawyers like us do (We can, however, point you to our track record of having recovered millions of dollars in total for our former clients, so long as you understand there are never any guarantees: every case is different). What we can say definitively is that, in most cases, Washington law permits recovery of fixed, knowable, present and future expenses associated with an injury or loss (medical expenses, lost wages, etc.). Washington law also allows for recovery of subjective pain and suffering and loss of consortium type damages, but only up to a maximum of 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington (a number set by law) multiplied by your life expectancy at the time of the accident (which can’t be less than 15 years).
You’re probably getting tired of hearing this, but again, it all depends on the facts of your case. First things first, however. If you carry health insurance, it will typically cover the cost of your medical care after an accident, subject to your policy’s applicable co-pays, deductible, and limits. If you end up recovering compensation from others for your injuries later on down the road, then your health insurance company will slide in and recover what it paid to your medical providers through a legal principle called subrogation. You may be thinking: “Okay, but that’s just my medical care. I have other expenses because of this accident, plus I’m out my co-pays and deductibles! How do I get that money, and fast?” We hear you. Generally speaking, aside from your own health insurance coverage, money for injuries and losses caused by truck accidents comes from the defendants’ insurance or from the defendants directly. How long it takes for those parties to pay out, and how much they’re willing to pay, depends on factors including:
- Whether they recognize their legal liability to you;
- Whether they accept your view of how much money you should receive;
- How much less than maximum damages you are willing to take to get paid quicker; and
- Whether the money is coming from insurance or directly from the defendant.
On one hand, we have seen cases settled for at-or-near insurance policy maximums in a matter of weeks when liability is clear and damages are indisputable. On the other hand, we have also seen cases take years to resolve when parties dispute liability and the case goes to trial. At Boohoff Law, we hesitate to predict how fast a case will go or how soon you can recover money (assuming you can recover money at all). Instead, we promise to work our hardest to get our clients the best available outcome for their cases, and to listen to your needs so that any outcome serves your interests as well as possible.
Truck Accident Statistics in King County
Common Damages for Truck Accident Injuries
In Washington, truck accident victims and the survivors of those killed in truck accidents often have the right to pursue compensatory damages from parties with legal liability. Lawyers generally classify these damages in two categories: economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages reimburse out-of-pocket costs associated with the accident and injuries the victim sustained in it. They commonly include:
- Un-reimbursed medical bills
- Chronic or long-term care costs
- Assistive medical devices and home modifications
- Physical therapy
- Lost wages from time off from work while recovering
- Lost income or employment opportunity due to injuries
In some cases, the party with legal liability for a truck accident victim’s injuries may be allowed to make periodic payments of economic damages, rather than a lump sum payment.
Non-economic damages cover subjective injuries sustained by truck accident victims. These injuries are more difficult to quantify, and include:
- Pain and suffering
- Damage to personal relationships (a.k.a. loss of consortium/companionship/parent-child relationship)
- Negative impacts on quality of life
In Washington, non-economic damages cannot exceed 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington multiplied by the plaintiff’s life expectancy at the time of the accident (which can be no less than 15 years). Unlike most states, Washington law generally does not permit a court to award punitive damages.
Truck Accident Statistics
How Many Truck Accidents Occur in Washington and Across the Nation Each Year?
The FMCSA estimates 4,237 fatal crashes including 4,761 fatalities involving large trucks across the nation in 2017, an increase from almost 3,900 in 2016, and a little over 3,600 in 2015. Although these numbers represent an increase from an all time low of under 3,000 crashes in 2009, they are much lower than the high amount of crashes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Injury collisions involving trucks remain plentiful. In recent years, more than 100,000 large trucks were involved in injury crashes on United States roads and highways, representing a drastic increase since 2009’s all time low of 53,000 large trucks involved in injury collisions.
Who Is Involved in Truck Accidents?
Female and male drivers of all ages have been involved in truck accidents, but some groups are more prone to accidents than others. Some statistics regarding particular groups of people and truck accidents include:
- The vast majority of the 4,600 truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2017 were between the ages of 25 and 66. Only 270 were under the age of 25, and 299 over the age of 66.
- The majority of those killed in fatal truck crashes in 2017 were between 26 and 35 years old, which is consistent with most previous years’ data. When factoring sex into the equation, the majority of fatalities for males (17 percent) fell in the 26 to 35 age range, while the majority of female truck accident fatalities (16.5 percent) were between 18 and 25.
- More than double the amount of males (3,423) died in truck accident fatalities than females (1,366).
Many different people might be involved in a fatal truck accident, but truck drivers, who are protected by their big rigs, don’t die as frequently as other motorists. According to the FMCSA, those who were killed in large truck accidents in 2017 include:
- Driver of Large Truck (591)
- Driver of Other Motor Vehicle (2,327)
- Passenger of Large Truck (74)
- Passenger of Other Motor Vehicle (685)
- Pedestrian (337)
- Bicyclists (55)
How Often Do Certain Types of Truck Accidents Happen?
Many different types of collisions occur between trucks and other vehicles, but some are more common than others. The FMCSA gathers data on the frequency of each of the following types of fatal truck accidents:
- In 2017, 28.7 percent of all fatal truck accidents were angle collisions. Angle collisions often occur on highways when a truck or another driver is changing lines.
- A little more than 24 percent of fatal truck accidents in 2017 were rear-end collisions, often a result of vehicles or trucks following too closely, especially in heavy traffic.
- Head-on collisions constitute 14.4 percent of all fatal truck collisions in 2017.
- Sideswipes in both directions made up approximately 7 percent of fatal truck crashes in 2017.
When Do Truck Accidents Occur?
You might get injured or lose a family member in a truck accident at any time, day or night, but the data show truck accidents occur with a higher frequency at some days and times more than others.
- According to the FMCSA, the most likely time of day to die in a truck accident is between noon. and 3 p.m. In 2017, 18.8 percent of fatal truck crashes occurred during this time period.
- A little over 16 percent of fatal truck crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. in 2017.
- Approximately 15 percent of 2017’s fatal truck crashes occurred between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and between 9 a.m. and noon.
- Those who drive between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. are least likely to be involved in a fatal truck accident, suggesting the traffic level has more to do with fatal truck accidents than the actual time of day. Less than 8 percent of fatal truck crashes occurred between 9 p.m. and midnight and between midnight and 3 a.m.
Under What Conditions Do Truck Accidents Occur?
Many different factors come into play when a truck accident happens. Some factors which might play a part include weather conditions, road conditions, and light conditions. The FMCSA provides data about all of these conditions during fatal truck accidents.
- Typically, more than two-thirds of fatal truck crashes take place on clear days. In 2017, 66.1 percent of fatal truck accidents were on clear days.
- 14.6 percent of fatal truck accidents occurred on cloudy days in 2017.
- 8.1 percent of fatal truck accidents occurred when it was raining in 2017.
- Surprisingly, only 1.6 percent of fatal truck accidents occurred during snow in 2017.
- In fact, 1.8 percent of fatal truck accidents occurred when fog, smoke, or smog was present.
- Many assume traffic accidents always occur on wet or snowy roads, but in 2017, 82.6 percent of fatal truck accidents occurred on dry roads, consistent with previous years’ data.
- 12. 6 percent of fatal truck crashes occurred on wet roads in 2017.
- Ice, frost, slush, standing water, mud, dirt, gravel, and sand comprise less than 3 percent of road surface conditions for fatal truck accidents in 2017.
- Each year, a little more than 61 percent of fatal collisions involving large trucks occur during daylight hours.
- Less than 5 percent of fatal truck crashes occurred at dawn or dusk in 2017.
- Of the fatal truck accidents which occurred when it was dark in 2017, 24.1 percent occurred in unlighted areas, and 9.6 percent occurred in areas which were well lit.
Start Working With a Truck Accident Attorney Right Away
In the aftermath of a truck accident, life can feel extremely challenging and even hopeless for anyone injured or mourning a loved one. Truck accident victims have to contend with painful injuries, financial strain, and unfamiliar interactions with doctors, law enforcement, and insurance adjusters, to name just a few.
At Boohoff Law, we understand how hiring a lawyer might be the last thing on a truck accident victim’s mind. But, the fact is, the sooner truck accident victims consult with an attorney about their accident, the better their chances of recovering the compensation they deserve. Here’s why.
For starters, the general statute of limitations on personal injury claims in Washington is three years. That may seem like a long time, but for lawyers, it’s not. Investigating a truck accident takes time. Plus, the more time that passes before beginning an accident investigation, the more likely it is that crucial evidence will disappear and witnesses’ memories will dim. The best time to collect evidence and start building a case for damages is right away.
Another reason to get an attorney involved in a truck accident case right away is that insurance companies don’t waste any time. When an insurer knows an accident may result in liability for the person or company it insures, it will begin investigating immediately. An insurance company’s goal in this investigation is not so much a pursuit of truth as it is an effort to limit the insurance company’s financial exposure. To that end, insurance adjusters may try to interview accident victims before victims understand their legal rights, hoping the victims will make statements detrimental to any legal claim. Adjusters may also dangle settlement offers for unreasonably low amounts of money, hoping accident victims will take the offer without thinking through its consequences. Having an experienced truck accident attorney on your side can protect you from these insurance company tactics.
Call Boohoff Law’s Seattle Truck Accident Lawyers 24/7
Boohoff Law is a team of experienced, diligent legal professionals who focus all of their work on serving the interests and protecting the rights of victims of personal injury. We understand the difficulties our clients confront after truck accidents turn their lives upside-down. Our mission is to give our clients the best possible chance of recovering every dollar of compensation the law allows.
If you sustained a serious injury or lost a loved one in a Seattle-area truck accident, dial (877) 999-9999 or contact Tatiana Boohoff and her colleagues at Boohoff Law to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. We cannot guarantee you will recover compensation, but we can promise to treat you with dignity, respect, and compassion in this difficult time.
“Bill and Erin expertly walked me through every step of the process keeping their focus on my needs from start to finish. They always took time to explain the entire insurance process in an easy to understand format, while assuring my best interests were always their top priority. Thanks to the Firm, Bill and Erin for providing the professional support needed and obtaining the justice deserved.”
★ ★ ★ ★ ★