The most important step is to check whether everyone involved is OK or if someone needs medical attention.
Second, call the police.
Third, consider whether vehicles need to be moved before the police arrive as a matter of safety. Before moving vehicles, take pictures of the scene of the collision if you can safely do so.
Next, call your insurance agency. You have a legal obligation to cooperate with your own company and to notify them of your accident. When you call your insurer, you can get protection against underinsured motorists, open a file for property damage and log any need for medical care, depending on what kind of coverage you have.
Now you can contact a personal injury attorney. The insurance company for the trucking company will likely be calling to ask for a recorded statement from you about what happened in the accident. They will of course want to minimize their own culpability in the accident if they can. A call to a personal injury attorney is typically free and it may be a good idea to have someone who understands trucking accidents and insurance law on your side to even the playing field with the insurance company.
The commercial trucking industry is governed by federal law. Of course, the normal rules of the road in Redmond still apply to truck drivers who are passing through. In the case of a big rig accident, we evaluate anything that could have contributed to operator mistakes. The operators of trucks and big rigs have to follow strict driving rules, including:
Different trucking companies will use either their own insurance or an external insurance company. 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. Because one is sometimes dependent upon the trucking company itself to provide the information and documentation that is needed in order to prove one’s case, these matters are almost always hard fought. On top of all that, it’s possible you will be dealing with serious injuries; big rigs and trucks are much larger and exert much more force than normal, non-commercial vehicles on the road. The greater the true value of the case, the more the trucking company, or its insurer, will be willing to fight about it because to do so can save it more money. For all of these reasons, it is critical to get on top of a claim related to a big rig accident in Redmond immediately, before evidence can be lost or destroyed, and before the trucking company can mount a defense in order to discredit your claim for damages.
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 Redmond, the statute of limitations on truck accident claims is three years. Therefore, it is critical to get an attorney on your side as quickly as you can to protect yourself. When you get an attorney on your side quickly you also get the benefit of knowing the investigation into the incident will go well from the beginning and the trucking company will be more incentivized to cooperate with you and produce the evidence and data you need to win your case.
In Redmond, being partially at fault for a vehicle accident can actually have some advantages for our clients. In most cases where someone gets injured in a vehicle accident, they will have multiple layers of insurance to pay their bills. In Redmond, the law allows you to get repaid if the trucking company is paying for healthcare, whether it is automobile PIP insurance or health insurance and even if you as the injured party collect money from a negligent third party. For example, if you were involved in an accident with a truck and a negligent driver’s insurance company paid out $5000 to you in compensation for your medical bills, you could not also get paid $5000 from your own insurance company; you would have to pay back the $5000 if you own insurance also compensated you for the accident.
In a situation where you are partially to blame for an accident, you will just get a percentage of your bills paid by the other driver’s insurance, rather than the full bill. 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. Redmond 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.
But trucking and insurance companies will both try to say you are more at fault in order to gain leverage when it comes to insurance claims. Just because they claim that you were at fault does not make it so. You have nothing to lose, therefore, by consulting with an attorney in the case of an accident to make sure you are not taken advantage of after an accident. Please feel free to contact us to go over your individual case.
At Wiener and Lambka, PS, we will consult with you for free. There is no obligation to become a client. While it is not always possible to ascertain the reasonableness of an offer without reviewing the medical records in a case, and in trucking cases, without knowing a great deal about how the accident was caused, we can generally tell if a proposed settlement is one that is unfair by having a telephone conversation about it. You have nothing to lose and a lot to potentially gain by calling us for a brief consultation over the phone.
The typical manner in which claims are resolved involves the insurance company providing lower than realistic offers of settlement. The trucking companies are well aware that without full knowledge, a person involved in an accident can be susceptible to accepting an offer that is lower than what they actually deserve. 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. Therefore, you need an attorney on your side who can make sure you get the right award right away after an accident, before you sign anything that would prevent you from being fully compensated later.
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. However, operator error is not the only cause; there are many other ways a truck or big rig could get into an accident. At this point, it is important to get all the information you can, including drivers’ logs and inspection checklists, in order to discover the true cause or causes of an accident that involves you and a commercial trucking vehicle. 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.
The other driver in a trucking accident can be severely injured because they are operating a much lighter vehicle. At Wiener and Lambka, we have worked with clients who suffered a broad range of injuries after an accident, including:
Tanker trucks haul everything from the benign to the potentially harmful, from ordinary milk to dangerous chemicals.
Appropriate medical and expert insight on how dangerous the material the tanker truck is hauling is vitally important in situations where that truck is involved in an accident with a vehicle that is not a commercial truck.
Your first step if you are involved in this type of accident is to go to your doctor and make sure you are not going to be harmed by the chemicals spilled from the truck; next you want to talk to an experienced trucking accident attorney.
There are a couple of excellent resources for trucking statistics. You can find a broad overview of this information here.
One resource you can look to for information about trucking accidents is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute. Read on to learn more about general trucking statistics or go to their information page here: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/topicoverview
In 2016, 37,461 people died in crashes in the U.S.
Over the past decade, the amount of people killed by a motor vehicle crash has fallen. Since 1975 when the U.S. Department of Transportation began tracking crashes, the death rate has declined, though the rate increased by 6 percent in 2016 (while still being lower in 2005 when a sharp decline began).
The rate of fatalities has declined even more sharply per population and per mile traveled. 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. Men typically drive more miles than women and are more likely to engage in risky practices.
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/.
For trucking accident statistics regarding 2015 but compiled in 2016, you can go to the FMSCA website, where you’ll find their report. The following is the introduction to the report on the website:
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.
You can read the study in its entirety at: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/LTCF2015 Early Release.pdf.
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