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 it’s possible to take pictures of the crash before moving the vehicles out of the way then you should do that.
Fourth, contact your insurance company. Legally, you are required to contact your insurance company and let them know about the incident. Doing so should also trigger the opening of appropriate files for your property damage, medical care and possibly underinsured motorist protection (depending on which coverages you have).
This is when you can call an 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. These companies train their adjusters to look for potential ways to eliminate or lessen claims. 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.
Federal rules and guidelines govern the commercial trucking industry. Of course, the normal rules of the road in Tacoma still apply to truck drivers who are passing through. We aim to evaluate all the factors that might have contributed (directly or indirectly) to a trucking accident. Of all the rules that big rig operators need to follow, here are some of the most common:
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 seek to keep any and all accidents off their own books by going to lengths to ensure they are not at fault no matter how the incident actually occurred. 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 cases are litigated more often than other types of vehicle collision cases for these reasons and starting your case off properly, immediately after the accident so that evidence doesn’t get lost or tampered with or destroyed, is important.
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 Tacoma, the statute of limitations on truck accident claims is three years. While this information is important, in most cases, having an attorney involved much earlier is of paramount importance. A prompt investigation can make cases much more likely to resolve because important evidence has been properly retained and the trucking company has greater incentive to act reasonably knowing that an attorney will ultimately be holding their feet to the fire.
It sounds strange, but there can be benefits to being at fault in an accident with a big rig in Tacoma. 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, Tacoma 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. So if you have $5,000.00 in medical bills paid for by your own insurance stemming from an accident that is not your fault, and you then collect that $5,000.00 as part of your overall damages from the negligent driver, you will then have to repay your insurance company that money (you don’t get both the care paid for and then the money representing that same care in your pocket; this would be a double recovery).
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. In a situation where you were 20% at fault and had $5000 in medical bills, for example, the other driver’s insurance would only pay out $4000. However, in Tacoma you as the injured party in the accident do have some extra rights and advantages in this situation; if you do not get fully compensated from the other driver than you do not have the same responsibility to repay the insurance company because you did not receive all your money from the other side. It can therefore be somewhat advantageous to be partially at fault but only to a small degree.
You should be aware that trucking and insurance companies will try to say you are more at fault in order to gain leverage, though. Do not take these claims of fault at face value. Consultation with an attorney about the particulars of your case is always advised, especially where the consult is free – there is nothing to lose. Reach out to us to review your case and situation.
Wiener and Lambka, PS, provides free consultations. There is no obligation to become a client afterward. 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.
It is not at all uncommon for the trucking company to offer too low a settlement in accidents involving a big rig. 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. Because this is a complicated question involving a serious matter, you should never resolve your claim without at least having a discussion with an experience attorney.
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. An accident with a truck often includes some amount of operator error. But operator error is not the only possible cause of an accident with a commercial trucking or transportation vehicle on the road. Most of these reasons require discovery of information and documents unique to the trucking company such as driver’s logs and inspection checklists. 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 sheer size and force of a truck can lead to serious injuries for the other driver. 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.
Making sure that clients get the appropriate medical care and having a network of expert witnesses who understand the dangers involved with a chemical spill is an important consideration in handling these matters.
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 many means of finding statistics on trucking accidents. You can find a broad overview of this information here.
One excellent resource for data on trucking safety 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).
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.
Another excellent resource for trucking industry statistics is the United State Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website – https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/.
At the FMCSA site, one can find a comprehensive report compiled in 2016 regarding 2015 statistics for trucking accidents. 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.
A complete copy of the study excerpted above can be found at: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/LTCF2015 Early Release.pdf.
“A job well done! The staff at Wiener and Lambka made a point of explaining everything to me and if necessary I’d work with them again in a heartbeat.” - O. Yusuf“Wiener & Lambka took care of the leg work for me and even managed to get a larger settlement than expected.” - J. Hanson"Wiener & Lambka always kept me up to date with my case. I'd certainly suggest them to a friend." - J. Trujillo“Calls were returned in a timely manner, and the office staff is friendly. I’d recommend Wiener and Lambka to a friend in the future.” - T. Their“In my moment of Crisis Wiener & Lambka lent me a helping hand. Their dedication to my case was outstanding. They stuck by my side and fought for my rights. Thank you!” - K. Tuazon“Wiener & Lambka helped me through the process, always discussing all of the available options. In particular, I was happy about the ease with which I was able to access my attorneys.”- B. Froton“Everything was great. It was the best legal experience I have ever had!” - T. Hoskins“Wiener & Lambka get the job done. I appreciated their concern and interest in my case, and would definitely recommend them to a friend.” - Y. Martin“Everyone was great. The staff at Wiener and Lambka make a good thing out of a bad situation, and for that, I am very thankful.” - D. Grami“You minimized my stress levels on a process foreign and scary to me. Very professional, caring, and patient with me.” - A. Maas“I was satisfied by the timely manner with which my case was handled. I would definitely recommend Wiener & Lambka to a friend in the future.” - D. Yusuf“The service and the staff were great. I was happy with everything, and would refer Wiener and Lambka to someone else in the future.” - I. Aleman“The Staff at Wiener and Lambka are friendly and understand customer needs. They reduced their fee on my case and didn’t even take any on my son’s.” - M. Ngo"It was a stress free experience. I particularly enjoyed when, on my initial call, they sent someone out to my house to speak with me in person. I would certainly use or recommend Wiener & Lambka in the future." - M. Randall“Wiener and Lambka did a good job of keeping me up to date on my case, and I’d definitely suggest their services to someone looking for an attorney.” - L. Lafond
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