The first thing you should do is ensure the safety and condition of everyone involved in the accident.
Second, call the police.
Next, decide if the vehicles involved should get moved out of the way for the sake of everyone’s safety. If they need to be moved and pictures can be safely taken of the scene and resting place of the vehicles first then consider doing so.
Then call your insurance company. If you are in a collision, you are legally obligated to call your insurance company and notify them of the incident. Depending on the coverage you have with your company, this call will initiate certain procedures, such as claims for property damage, medical care and underinsured motorist protection.
This is when you can call an attorney. Don’t be alarmed if the trucking company’s insurance agency calls you and wants to get a statement about what happened in the accident. They will of course want to minimize their own culpability in the accident if they can. Don’t get left trying to defend yourself here;level the playing field by calling a personal injury attorney, who can consult with you for free about your rights and help you understand what the best next steps are in regard to an accident with a big rig.
The commercial trucking industry is governed by federal law. Truck drivers still, of course, need to follow the rules of the road in Puyallup. Additionally, in trucking cases, we want to look at many different things that can contribute directly or indirectly to operator error. Of all the rules that big rig operators need to follow, here are some of the most common:
Trucking companies are sometimes self-insured, and sometimes insured through a separate entity. Regardless, it can be tough to get a fair deal after an accident that involves a big rig and that requires you to work with them for compensation. Trucking companies will do everything they can to protect themselves and make it seem like any accident is not their fault so the incident doesn’t end up on their record. If you are trying to prove your case in an accident and need any information from the trucking company itself, you might find yourself with a tough fight ahead of you when working with the company. Even worse, trucking accidents can often involve very serious injuries due to the sheer size and force of a big rig in comparison to the usual types of vehicles driven by ordinary, non-commercial drivers. Injuries and other high costs will only make the trucking more incentivized to try to push the blame away from them and onto you. These kinds of incidents with big rigs and trucks are litigated more often than any other type of vehicle collision; it is imperative that you act quickly and decisively to file your claim and build your defense, before evidence corroborating your story can be lost or destroyed.
At Wiener and Lambka, PS, we work on a contingency fee basis. This means that our clients do not have to pay us up front out of their pocket. Payment is made when cases resolve, and we are compensated by receiving a portion of the proceeds obtained. In most cases, our fee is one third of that which we obtain for our clients. Sometimes this fee will go up to 40%, depending upon the nature of the case and the work needed to be done to obtain the award, but the vast majority of the time our charges are only 33.3%. If no monies are obtained for a client then no fee is charged.
We will also forward the costs needed to move cases forward and then get repaid these monies when the case resolves. Clients in Washington can only hire an attorney with the understanding that all costs are ultimately the client’s responsibility, but attorneys are allowed to front these costs and be repaid out of the settlement proceeds. This means that clients are never out of pocket as their case progresses.
Here in Puyallup, the statute of limitations on truck accident claims is three years. With so little time to act, you should get an attorney to represent you as soon as you can. Plus, the trucking company will probably act more helpfully and work with you more on evidence and the details of the claim if they know that you have started an investigation promptly and have an attorney working with you on your side.
If you are at fault in an accident involving a truck then you do not need to worry; it can actually be a good thing. Often, when someone is involved in any kind of car or truck accident where there are injuries, they are protected with more than one layer of insurance. Whether that is automobile PIP insurance or health insurance, Puyallup law allows for the company that pays first for healthcare to be repaid if the injured person then collects the money representing those same bills from the negligent third party. You can’t have a double recovery, however, which means that if you suffer an injury and your insurance pay for it, then the trucking company’s insurance also pays for it, you would need to pay back the money that your own insurance company paid out to you so that you weren’t getting the same compensation twice.
If you are partially at fault in an accident then the other driver’s insurance will only pay out a percentage of the damage to you and not all the damages. So if you had $5,000.00 in medical bills and were 20% at fault for the collision, the other driver would only be responsible to pay you $4,000.00 back for your bills. Puyallup law at this point, however, provides a bit of an advantage to the injured party because in instances where one has not received all of their damages from the other driver, they do not incur the same responsibility to repay to their insurance company any of the monies back because they did not receive ALL of their damages from the other side. Therefore, if you are partially at fault but only to a small degree, it can provide some benefit in an accident.
You should be aware that trucking and insurance companies will try to say you are more at fault in order to gain leverage, though. Just because they claim that you were at fault does not make it so. Consultation with an attorney about the particulars of your case is always advised, especially where the consult is free – there is nothing to lose. Please feel free to contact us to go over your individual case.
First, set up a free consultation with Wiener and Lambka, PS. There is no obligation to become a client afterward. While it is difficult to make a judgement without knowing how the accident was caused or without access to medical records related to the incident, we will do our best to ascertain how reasonable the offer you are getting from the trucking company really is based on our phone call. A quick phone conversation can mean the difference between a small award and the full award you really deserve.
It is not at all uncommon for the trucking company to offer too low a settlement in accidents involving a big rig. They have every incentive to do so as sometimes people need the money or don’t know any better and therefore accept a lower than reasonable offer. You will probably be asked to sign a release that prevents you from going back to the trucking company and asking for more money if you realize later that you should have been compensated better after a claim is fully resolved. This is why you need an attorney on your side, ensuring you are compensated fairly and fully after an accident when the trucking company may be pressuring you to accept a lower award and sign a release.
Big rigs and commercial transportation vehicles are harder to operate than other vehicles and require more stopping time and more time to switch lanes and stuff, making them prone to accidents. It is easy for there to be operator error involved in an accident. But operator error is not the only possible cause of an accident with a commercial trucking or transportation vehicle on the road. In order to ascertain the exact cause of a trucking accident it is usually necessary to have some amount of information discovery involving drivers’ logs, inspection checklists and other information from the driver or trucking company. If you are able to work with an attorney at the early stages of discovery you will also be better protected later in the ordeal.
Because of the forces involved truck accidents can involve serious injuries. Wiener and Lambka, PS, has extensive experience with clients who have incurred the following types of serious injuries:
Tanker trucks can contain materials as safe as milk, but also can have chemicals that cause injury if one comes into contact with them, including in an airborne capacity.
That is why it is important to have experts on your side when dealing with a tanker truck accident, experts who understand the exact dangers that are involved with whatever a tanker truck is transporting when it gets in an accident.
If you have been involved in an incident whereby chemicals spilled from a tanker truck caused health problems then you should consult your doctor first and an experienced trucking accident attorney next.
There are a couple of excellent resources for trucking statistics. We’ve collected some of the highlights and resources below.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute provides extensive information about truck safety and accidents. For example, here is an excerpt from their general statistics page: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/topicoverview.
In 2016, 37,461 people died in crashes in the U.S.
In the past 10 years, the amount of people who have died in motor vehicle crashes has fallen. The death toll increased 6 percent in 2016, though it still is lower than it was in 2005, when it began a sharp decline, or in 1975, when the U.S. Department of Transportation began keeping track.
Fatality rates per population and per mile traveled have dropped even more rapidly. The crash death rate per population has fallen by nearly half since the 1970s, but increased 5 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Men are more likely to die in a crash than women. This data comes partly because men tend to drive in a riskier way than women and partly because men usually drive more miles than women.
You can also find excellent statistics on the trucking industry through the United States Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/.
The FMCSA website can give you a comprehensive report detailing trucking accident statistics from 2015 and 2016. The introduction, entitled “Trends” reads as follows:
The tables in this chapter present crash statistics for large trucks and buses over time. Fatal crash statistics generally are available from 1975, the first year of FARS data, through 2015. In some cases, such as for alcohol involvement, data are available only from 1981 or 1982 through 2015. Nonfatal crash statistics are presented for 1995 through 2015. The statistics shown in this chapter represent crashes, vehicles, drivers, fatalities, and injuries in crashes. Below is a summary of some of the trend information in this section: In 2015, 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, an 8-percent increase from 2014. Although the number of large trucks and buses in fatal crashes has increased by 26 percent from its low of 3,432 in 2009, the 2015 number is still 18 percent lower than the 21st-century peak of 5,231 in 2005. There was a 34-percent decrease in the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses between 2005 and 2009, followed by an increase of 20 percent between 2009 and 2015. From 2014 to 2015, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses increased by 5 percent. The number of injury crashes involving large trucks or buses decreased steadily from 89,000 in 2005 to 60,000 in 2009 (a decline of 33 percent). This decline was followed by an increase of 62 percent from 60,000 in 2009 to 97,000 in 2015. On average, from 2005 to 2015, intercity buses accounted for 13 percent, and school buses and transit buses accounted for 41 percent and 33 percent, respectively, of all buses involved in fatal crashes. Over the past year (from 2014 to 2015): The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased by 8 percent, from 3,749 to 4,050. The number of large trucks involved in injury crashes decreased by 1 percent, from 88,000 to 87,000. The number of large trucks involved in property damage only crashes decreased by 1 percent, from 346,000 to 342,000. The number of buses involved in fatal crashes increased from 236 to 261, an increase of 11 percent.
To access the entire study, please go to: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/LTCF2015 Early Release.pdf.
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