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.
I’ve been hurt in a Seattle area truck-related accident. What’s the first thing I should do?
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.
What are some steps I can take as a motorist to avoid a truck-related accident?
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.
Whom can I sue for damages after getting hurt in an accident involving a truck?
That’s a complicated question. Without getting into the legal technicalities, who you can sue for your injuries or for the loss of a loved one generally depends on whose actions caused the accident and/or whose actions could have prevented the accident, but didn’t.
Skilled attorneys like the team at Boohoff Law understand it’s not always obvious at first look who those people or companies are in a truck accident matter. That’s primarily because a loaded commercial truck typically has multiple people and legal interests associated with it: the driver, the driver’s employer, the truck and trailer owners (often two separate parties), and the owner of the cargo. Every one of those parties could have legal liability to anyone hurt in a truck-related accident. So could numerous other parties, like other drivers on the road, car and truck equipment manufacturers, commercial mechanics, and even local and state government entities. Not to mention that some, but not necessarily all, of those parties may carry insurance.
Bottom line: most of the time, you can’t know for sure who you can sue for damages after a truck accident without having an attorney do a preliminary investigation into the facts and circumstances of the accident, and the legal interests of all of motor vehicles, businesses, and people affected.
How much is a typical truck accident injury claim worth?
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).
How long does it take to recover money for my truck-accident injuries?
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.
I was offered a settlement. Should I take it?
We’re going to answer that question with a question. Do you have a lawyer? If your answer is no, then so is ours. In our years of experience, we have never seen a settlement offer made anyone who doesn’t have a lawyer that’s as good as the one they’d get if they did have a lawyer.
Insurance companies and parties with legal liability to you want to minimize their own financial pain. If they recognize their liability and see they could be on the hook to you for a mountain of damages, then they’re going to do what they can to get themselves off the hook for as few dollars possible. They also bet you could use that money, so they try to tempt you with a quick payment.
What do they want in return? Usually, a full-and-complete release of themselves and anyone associated with them from liability to you forever and always. That includes a promise not to sue them later if you discover you’re more injured than you thought, or if someone else successfully sues them for far more than they paid you.
We understand the emotional and financial pressures to take a fast settlement offer. It feels like free money. But, it’s not. In our experience, a fast, unsolicited settlement offer might as well come with a message reading “These people think they owe you a lot more money than they’re putting on the table!” More often than not, saying “No, thank you,” and letting an experienced truck accident lawyer take over negotiations from there is your best bet for recovering maximum compensation.
How much does a lawyer cost?
Not as much as you might think. For starters, an initial consultation with the skilled truck accident attorneys at Boohoff law is free, confidential, and comes with no obligation to move forward with us as your attorneys.
For the rest, we almost always represent our clients on a contingent fee basis. Basically, that means we don’t get paid unless our clients do. More specifically, it means we enter into an agreement with our clients that says we receive a percentage of any settlement or judgment our client recovers, and lays out how the other expenses of the case will be paid. We like this type of arrangement, because it lines up our interests with our clients’. In essence, we put our own financial wellbeing on the line right next to our clients’.
Call Boohoff Law’s Seattle Truck Accident Injury Lawyers
Go online and search for “Seattle truck accident lawyer,” and you’ll find hundreds of attorneys in the Pacific Northwest who want to help you recover damages for your truck accident injury. How do you choose the right one?
At Boohoff Law, we encourage anyone hurt in or by a Seattle-area truck accident to call us at 877-999-9999 or contact Boohoff Law online to set up a free, confidential, no-obligation case consultation where you can get to know us, tell us about your accident, and find out how we think we can help.