Representation for those seriously injured by a
commercial truck, big rig, or 18-wheeler accident
PNW Trial Lawyers
Proudly serving Washington State
and the Pacific Northwest


While vehicles make up only a small portion of crashes in the state of Washington, they have a much higher potential to cause severe injuries and damage, as well as deaths. In 2018, trucking accidents led to a total of forty-eight (48) fatal crashes, and 113 resulted in serious injuries. The average commercial truck in Washington weighs several times more than that of a standard commuter vehicle, although, in all likelihood, the weight would be closer to ten or more tons heavier. When a much larger, heavier vehicle collides with a smaller, more compact vehicle, the smaller vehicle’s occupants will likely be injured.

Because the majority of trucks on the road are commercial, their drivers are required to possess the knowledge and skills to ensure theirs and their fellow drivers’ safety. In many cases, commercial drivers spend far too long on the road resulting in intense mental fatigue and bad judgment.

It is common knowledge that when a driver causes an accident that results in serious injury, they are considered liable for any injuries or damages that occur. However, in the event of a trucking accident, figuring out who is directly responsible for covering damages can be difficult to figure out. During 2018, there were a total of 118 crashes between a commercial truck and multiple other motor vehicles. Figuring out who is liable is a process that often involves detailed investigation and thorough examination of evidence before liability can be determined.

At PNW Trial Lawyers, we know that recovery should be the first and only thing on your mind after a truck accident. However, between dealing with injuries and property damage, resolving insurance disputes with the parties involved can seem overwhelming, and in many cases, it can be impossible. Let us help you. At PNW Trial Lawyers, our devoted and experienced lawyers want to work with you to strive for what you are entitled to. Contact us at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation and strategy session.

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    Why Hire Our Firm?

    • We specialize in representing people, not companies.
    • We prepare every case with the assumption it will be tried to verdict.
    • We are not a volume practice. We choose our cases carefully, spend the time and costs necessary to litigate and investigate each case thoroughly.
    • Since 1977, our firm has achieved consistent and exemplary results for hundreds of individuals and their families.

    Advocating for Injury Victims

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    Lawyer for Commercial Truck Accidents in Bellingham, Washington

    Truck drivers are merely operating a commercial vehicle for a large shipping company and therefore are not directly liable for the damages caused by a trucking accident. If the driver is operating the vehicle outside of working hours (off-duty), then they become personally liable for injuries or damages sustained in a trucking accident. As such, pursuing what you are entitled to after an accident can be incredibly challenging.

    Often, these large shipping companies retain teams of lawyers dedicated to fighting against personal injury lawsuits. If you are going to get what you deserve, you need a qualified, experienced personal injury attorney by your side.

    At PNW Trial Lawyers, we have devoted ourselves to fighting for our clients' rights in and out of court. No matter how serious the case is or how severe the injuries or damages are, our team of attorneys will work with you, for you, to push for what you are entitled to. These cases rely on gathering evidence, properly examining it, and presenting a coherent argument to the judge or jury.

    Over the years, our team has worked relentlessly to represent our clients' best interests in court, and we have the skills and knowhow to build the case you need to get what you deserve. Contact us today at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation and strategy session. PNW Trial Lawyers serves clients in Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Anacortes, Everett, and in the surrounding areas of Snohomish, Skagit, or Whatcom counties.

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    Truck Accident Statistics

    Each year in the state of Washington, truck accidents cause hundreds of serious injuries and fatalities. The extreme difference in size and weight between commuting vehicles and commercial vehicles alone can be a significant factor in causing truck accidents. Still, there are many other potential reasons, as well. Fatigue-induced collisions can be devastating, and the larger the commercial vehicle is, the more potential it has for disaster.

    2018 Crash Data Statistics
    Description of Accident Fatalities/Injuries
    Overall Truck Accidents Resulting in Fatalities or Serious Injuries 161
    Overall Alcohol-Related Crashes 16
    Overall drivers that had been drinking 24
    Overall Speeding-Related Crashes 41
    Overall Distracted-Driving Crashes 41
    Overall Fatigued/Drowsy Driving Crashes 8
    Overall Drug Impaired-Related Crashes 5
    2018 Types of Truck Accident Data Statistics
    Description of Accident Situation Overall Crashes
    Run-off the Road Crash 19
    Opposite Direction Collisions 24
    Wrong-way Collisions 6
    Lane Departure Crashes 43
    Single-Vehicle Collisions 43
    Multiple-Vehicle Collisions 118

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    Types of Commercial Truck Accidents

    • Head-On Collisions – In some cases, the impact can be devastating. On a head-on collision, the combined speed of the semi-truck and the passenger vehicle can be fatal, in the instance that the driver of the passenger vehicle survives, they are left with physical pain, deteriorating health, and financial strains.
    • T-Bone Collision – Similar to a head-on collision, a T-bone accident is fatal. A passenger vehicle crashing with a large vehicle such as an 18-wheeler or a delivery vehicle (e.g., dump trucks, buses, etc.) can leave the driver from the passenger vehicle severely injured or dead.
    • Back-over Collision – This crash happens when a tractor truck (i.e., semi-truck) driver “reverses into and injures or kills a nonoccupant such as a pedestrian or a bicyclist.” See DOT HS 811 144.
    • Rollover Accidents – A situation in which this typically occurs is when a truck is carrying heavy loads that may not be adequately secured, and the driver curves too fast, which can cause the loads to fall onto other vehicles.
    • Hazardous Collisions – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has classified nine (9) hazardous materials (e.g., explosives, radioactive materials, etc.). An accident with a truck that carries dangerous materials can leave injuries such as burns, poisoning, amputations, death, etc.
    • Left-turn Collisions– The driver of the truck may not be able to see the driver of the other vehicle when making a left-turn and would require ample space.
    • Rear-End Collisions– This type of collision can have disastrous impacts, either to a standard motor vehicle or with another commercial motor vehicle.

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    Common Causes of Semi-truck Accidents

    Below are some common causes of truck accidents related to the driver’s condition (i.e., fatigued driver, distracted driver, etc.), or the environment:

    • Driver Negligence – For instance, if the driver does not have enough experience or if the driver was exhausted. The Washington State Patrol has adopted the Hours of Service Rule. It limits the number of hours a motor carrier or a freight forwarder driver can work for.
    • Vehicle Equipment Regulations – For example, in Washington State, every truck that is registered in that state must have a cross-view mirror and backup alert (RCW 46.37.400). Truck drivers are required to make sure that the vehicle they will be operating are in good condition before entering a public road.
    • Impaired Driver – Washington state has adopted 49 CFR § 391.43, which requires a medical examination certificate.
    • Improperly Secured Loads – Drivers must secure their loads by law. See 61.655.
    • Texting While Driving or Distracted Driving – Drivers have to be on the road for long hours and have to travel for long-distance, in many circumstances, they get bored. To keep themselves occupied, they might start using their phones to make calls, reply to messages, visit social media sites, etc.
    • Overtaking or Passing – This action is when a driver is trying to pass another vehicle. If a truck driver is speeding and is also attempting to overtake a slower moving vehicle, the smaller vehicle might veer off the road.
    • Speeding – Truck drivers are on a tight schedule and have deadlines to meet, which might cause them to speed. Driving at dangerously fast speed and with other motor vehicles on the road, the driver might have to brake abruptly. Therefore, it can cause them to veer into another section of the road or rear-end another vehicle.
    • Improper Roads – Drivers at times will not be familiar with the area they are traveling to and whether the roads are safe.
    • Weather Conditions – Truck drivers are expected to reach their destination; nevertheless, there are times when the weather makes the drive challenging. For instance, if it is snowing, a driver would have to accommodate their driving to the weather change.

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    Common Catastrophic Injuries & Damages

    The damages from a trucking accident (semi-truck, dump truck, tanker truck, 18-wheeler, etc.) can be financial and mentally devastating. As a result, the ongoing loses from the accident can cause instability. Below is a list of common injuries and damages as a result of a truck accident:

    • Lost Wages or Employment – Losing your income or future potential to earn an income because you lost your job or have suffered an injury that does not allow you to work.
    • Medical Expenses or Life-Changing Accommodations – Depending on the severity of the injuries there are current and future medical expenses that are costly. In some accidents’ individuals suffer a spinal cord injury that would require changes being made to your home to accommodate your new lifestyle.
    • Vehicle repair or Obtaining Alternative Transportation– The passenger vehicle might need accommodations made after the accident or you might have to replace your vehicle.
    • Rehabilitation Therapy
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Brain Injury
    • Broken Bones
    • Burns
    • Concussion/ Head Injury
    • Internal Injuries
    • Paralysis
    • Quadriplegia
    • Seat Belt Injury
    • Spinal Cord Injury
    • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

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    Washington State Trucking Laws, Rules, & Regulations

    Below are some standard rules, laws, and regulations for motor carriers, freight forwarders, and drivers operating a commercial motor vehicle provided by Washington State and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

    Washington State has adopted some of the trucking laws and regulations from the CFR but has implement some of its own changes. For instance, Washington State has adopted Title 49, Part 391, Subpart E, of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) qualification requirements for commercial vehicle licenses. The regulation provides guidelines for who should be medically and physically examined per the law, the responsibilities of medical examiners, as well as exceptions for drivers who have impairment or loss limbs. However, Washington has its list of exceptions to the code. Washington’s exception to 49 CFR § 391.11 reduces the age requirement for an interstate driver to 18 years old or older. Furthermore, individuals who have a Washington State commercial driver’s license and test positive in a drug or alcohol test are reported to the Washington Department of Licensing within three (3) business days of taking the test. Also, 49 CFR § 393 has been adopted entirely, this regulation mainly pertains to the commercial motor vehicles’ maintenance, components, equipment, accessories, reflective devices, electrical wiring, and the securement of cargo.

    Washington’s Administrative Code 446.65.010 demonstrates the adoption of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) for motor carriers in intrastate or interstate commerce.

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    Physical Qualifications & Medical Examination Requirements for Truck Drivers

    • 49 CFR § 391.41 – This regulation provides the description of the physical qualifications that drivers must meet. There is a total of 13 standards, which are “non-discretionary” and “discretionary.” The four (4) non-discretionary standards are vision, hearing, epilepsy, and diabetes mellitus; these do not depend on the medical examiner’s interpretation. The nine (9) discretionary standards require the medical examiner to make a professional judgment based on the physical requirements obtaining the certification.
    • 49 CFR § 391.42 – Schedule an exam with a medical examiner listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
    • 49 CFR § 391.43 – The regulation describes the responsibilities and instructions for the medical examiner and how to perform his/her duties. Also, the section describes the drivers’ task, work environment, and medical criteria. An image of a sample of the Medical Examination Report and the certificate is shown. The Medical Examination Report must be signed by the medical examiner with his/her full name, office address, and telephone number. Also, per 49 CFR § 391.43(b), a licensed optometrist is allowed to perform the medical examination that pertains to “visual acuity, the field of vision, and the ability to recognize color” as stated in 49 CFR § 391.41(b)(10).
    • 49 CFR § 391.45 – This regulation states the persons who must be medically examined and certified per § 391.43. As stated in section (b) any driver who has not been medically examined and “certified as qualified to operate a commercial vehicle during the preceding 24 months, unless the driver is required to be examined and certified in accordance with paragraph (c), (d), (e), (f), or (g).” See 47486 FR, Vol. 83, No. 182, Sept. 19, 2018, § 391.45.
    • 49 CFR § 391.46 – This regulation pertains to drivers who have diabetes mellitus and are treated with insulin. The individual qualifies to operate a commercial motor vehicle provided: (1) the individual meets the physical qualifications per § 391.41 or has an exemption or a Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate under § 391.49. (2) the individual must have the required evaluations, as stated in 49 CFR § 391.46(b) and § 391.46(c).
    • 49 CFR § 391.49 – This section addresses drivers who have an impairment or loss limbs, or those who cannot drive in accordance to § 391.41(b)(1) or § 391.41(b)(2) but who are “otherwise qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.” Any persons who meet the requirements for § 391.49, can apply for the Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate, which is granted by the FMCSA.

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    Vehicle Maintenance Requirements for Commercial Drivers

    Below are some of Washington State's Revised Code regarding commercial vehicle operations within the state of Washington and their safety requirements:

    • RCW 46.37.400 – Washington State Legislation states that every truck that is registered or based of Washington that is (3) “equipped with a cube-style, walk-in cargo box up to eighteen (18) feet long” and is used in the commercial delivery of goods and services must be “equipped mirror a rear cross-view mirror or backup device to alert the driver that a person or object is behind the truck”
    • RCW 46.61.655 – The complete chapter of 46 section 61 describe the rules of the road including, traffic laws, signals, pedestrians’ rights and duties, speed restrictions, etc. RCW 46.61.655 pertains to the dropping of the loads or other materials and covering the load. All vehicles that are operating on a “paved public highway” and carrying a load of “dirt, sand, or gravel susceptible to being dropped, spilled, leaked or otherwise escaping” must be covered, unless, “six (6) inches of freeboard is maintained within the bed.” See Washington State Legislature RCW 46.61.655
      • RCW 46.61.655(4)(b) – Any vehicle that has mud, rock, or any other debris on the body, wheels, frames, tires, etc. must be cleaned before operating the vehicle on a “paved public highway”
    • 49 CFR § 393.11 – This regulation was adopted by Washington State as RCW 46.61.655 in which the lamps and reflective devices are addressed. In addition, the section states the required color, position, and the required devices by the type of commercial vehicle.

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    Hours of Service

    The Washington State Patrol has adopted the Hours of Service Guidelines by the Code of Federal Regulations [49 CFR § 395]. An intrastate driver of a dump truck, hauling logs or agricultural products from the point of production to a destination, is not permitted to drive more than twelve (12) hours after eight (8) hours of being consecutively off-duty.

    • 49 CFR § 395: Scope of Rules – Describes what is considered to be a driver that is “on-duty.” This definition is applied to all drivers of commercial motor vehicles and motor carriers, with the exceptions stated under § 395.1. The driver is “on-duty” from the time he/she begins to work until he/she is relieved of all responsibilities such:
      • Driving time
      • All other non-driving time spent on the commercial vehicle – if the driver is in the vehicle it is considered non-driving time, except if the time is spent resting in the sleeper
      • Repairing the vehicle
      • Miscellaneous time spent (i.e., drug or alcohol tests, travel, etc.)
      • Time spent in the inspection process
      • Time spent unloading and loading the vehicle at any public or private property
      • Performing any work on a common or private motor carrier
      • Performing compensated work for any non-motor carrier business
    • 49 CFR § 395.1(b): Adverse Driving Condition – This regulation pertains to a driver given two (2) hours longer than the law allows if he/she is presented with hazardous weather (e.g., rain, snow, fog, etc.) and dangerous roads or traffic conditions that the dispatcher was not aware of. The drive could have “completed the run in no longer than eleven (11) hours of driving.” The extension allows the driver to reach a safe place for himself/herself, for the commercial motor vehicle, and the cargo.
      • Drivers are not allowed to drive more than fourteen (14) hours after ten (10) consecutive hours off-duty.
      • A driver is not allowed to work longer only because of bad weather, road, or traffic conditions. If the driver can safely stop and layover within their eleven (11) hour drive time, they must do so, unless they cannot make it back to their destination within the fourteen (14) hours.
    • 49 CFR § 395.1(o): Property-Carrying Driver – This regulation states the exceptions to § 395.3(a)(2) if the driver:
      • § 395.1(o)(2) – The driver has returned to their regular reporting location, and the carrier releases the driver after their sixteen (16) hours of on-duty and after their ten (10) consecutive hours of off-duty. By extension, this rule only applies to “Short-haul drivers,” these are drivers that have started and finished their work in the same location for the previous five (5) workdays.
    • 49 CFR § 395.3: Maximum Driving Time for Property-Carrying Vehicles – This regulation stipulates the number of hours a driver is permitted and forbidden to drive
      • § 395.3(a)(1) – A driver is not allowed to drive without taking ten (10) consecutive hours off-duty.
      • § 395.3(a)(2) – A driver cannot drive more than fourteen (14) hours after ten (10) consecutive hours off-duty.
      • § 395.3(a)(3) – A driver may be on-duty for fourteen (14) hours after the (10) consecutive hours off-duty, however, they are limited to only eleven (11) hours of driving time.
      • § 395.3(a)(3)(ii) – A driver must take a thirty (30) minute break within eight (8) hours or less from the moment the driver is on-duty.
      • The fourteen (14) hour period cannot be extended to include breaks, meals, fuel stops, etc.
      • § 395.3(b)(1) – A motor carrier cannot require or allow a driver to drive after sixty (60) hours over seven (7) consecutive days of being on-duty.
      • § 395.3(b)(2) – A driver cannot drive after being on-duty for seventy (70) hours over eight (8) consecutive days.

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    Key Points After a Collision

    Insurances and the state of Washington require the following procedures if you’re involved in a traffic accident:

    • Call 911 in case of any injured parties.
    • Exchange information from the parties involved (e.g., name, address, phone numbers of drivers, passengers, and witnesses, driver license number, license plate, the insurance companies’ information of all parties involved, information about the car (year, model, make), etc.).
    • Do not make accusations, fault yourself, or discuss the accident with anyone that is not your attorney or a police official.
    • Take pictures – be sure to document all that transpired after the incident, after suffering from injuries (e.g., brain injury, concession, etc.) over time your memory might become obscured.
    • File a Police Investigation Report – this allows for documentation of what transpired, it ensures that all drivers involved in the accident are held responsible
      • According to Washington state laws, an automobile accident that resulted in the “injury or death of any person or damage to the property” to be equal or greater $700 must be reported “within four days after such accident.” (RCW 46.52.030 (5)).
      • Nevertheless, if a law enforcement official investigates the collision, then the police officer files the report.
    • If injured tell the police officer and obtain medical treatment as soon as possible.
    • Report your accident to your insurance company – In many cases, the other driver’s insurance company will try to reach out and request a statement. If you do not have an experienced attorney, it is in your best interest to acquire one, to properly represent you and answer any questions. Addressing the question from the driver’s insurance claim adjuster can negatively impact your claim.
    • Do not release or sign any medical or employment records that are being requested by the other parties’ insurance company without an attorney.

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    Insurance Companies

    In cases where the driver was not working during the time of the collision, knowing some of the relevant insurance information for individual commercial drivers in the state of Washington is helpful. There are situations in which the insurance agency will deny claims or delay payments. Having a truck accident attorney can help you through this life-changing, and the horrendous event can facilitate many concerns.

    Not having insurance or not being entirely insured can leave you in an undesirable situation in case of an accident. Washington has minimum insurance requirements for drivers depending on the vehicle the persons would be operating. Nevertheless, there are still penalties for drivers who operate a vehicle without insurance coverage or at least the minimum coverage. Accidents with other drivers that are either uninsured or underinsured can leave you with many concerns.

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    Washington State Commercial Driver Insurance Requirements (Motor Carrier & Freight Forwarder)

    A motor carrier transports passengers or goods for monetary compensation. The motor carrier can also be seen as “truckers-for-hire,” their insurance requirement is based on various factors such as the type of goods being transported, the number of people, etc. A motor carrier must obtain the minimum liability insurance.

    By contrast, a freight forwarder is a person or entity that is responsible for transporting goods from one location to another. The person or firm is liable for the process of storage and shipment of the goods. If the transportation takes place within the state, it is considered to be intrastate commerce. By extension, interstate commerce is crossing national or state lines, and there are factors to help differentiate the freight forwarder and the motor carrier (e.g., a freight forwarder performs the distribution and separates the shipments, arranges for others to assemble or consolidate the shipment).

    The requirements below are provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and it is meant to reflect motor carriers and freight forwarders.

    • Minimum insurance for non-hazardous property: $750,000
    • Minimum insurance for extremely hazardous property: $5,000,000
    • Minimum insurance for hazardous property: $1,000,000

    Truck accidents have the potential to render massive amounts of damage to individuals and property due to the tremendous size differences between commercial vehicles and standard cars.

    Besides, the commercial cargo vehicles carry may also cause damage to vehicles, roads, or persons, as well as costing the shipping company for any damage done to it.

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    Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

    Although Washington State Law does not require PIP coverage, the insurance policy “must offer personal injury protection coverage for each insured,” unless the automobile insurance customer (policyholder) provides a written authorization form to reject the coverage. See RCW 48.22.100.

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    Common Instances of Negligence on behalf of Insurance Companies

    • Unresponsive to claims or not responding in a timely manner
    • Not investigating the case
    • Denying benefits without a reason
    • Requesting documentation that is not part of the insurance policy or the procedure
    • Attempting to settle a claim for an unreasonable amount (low settlement offers)
    • Changing the policy of the insurance without notification
    • Withholding information
    • Making threats to take legal action without a reason

    Accidents happen and it is always best to be insured and prepared. Retaining an attorney at PNW Trial Lawyers can help you make sure that you receive the proper treatment. Insurance claims are time-sensitive; therefore, it is imperative retain a lawyer. In addition an attorney can assist you in strengthening your case, making sure that you have adequate representation, and he/she can evaluate and determine factors that you might not have taken into consideration (i.e., determining who is at-fault, what is covered under the insurance policy, etc.). Retain an attorney from PNW Trial Lawyers, we have been representing victims of motor vehicle accidents since 1977. If you live in Bellingham, Everett, Mt. Vernon or in the surrounding areas of Snohomish, Skagit, or Whatcom counties contact us at (360) 483-5201.

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    Liabilities of Truck Accidents

    The majority of the time, commercial trucks are on the road; they are operating as an employee for a company. While most truck drivers technically qualify as contractors rather than standard employees, liability laws consider them the same way they’d consider a regular employee. This is significant because, legally speaking, the company is found at fault so long as the driver was working at the time of the collision.

    The only situation in which the driver’s private liability insurance comes into play is when they are operating their vehicle while not actively working (off-duty). As such, depending on the exact circumstances of your collision, you may be facing an agency, company, or a business with a team of defense lawyers instead of an individual driver and their insurance. Establishing liability is crucial, and having a competent, reliable, and knowledgeable attorney can help you.

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    Washington State Laws on Accident Reports

    According to Washington State Legislation any persons involved in a collision must complete a collision report unless, a law enforcement officer completes a police report.

    • RCW 46.52.030(3) – This is Washington State Motor Vehicle Code which articulates that a driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in death, injury, or property damage that is “equal to or greater than the minimum amount of five hundred dollars” must file a Motor Vehicle Collision Report Form.
      • However, according to the Washington State Patrol, any persons (e.g., driver, pedestrian, cyclist, property owner) involved in a collision within the state that has one-thousand ($1,000) dollars or more in damages “to anyone unit and/or injury to any person” must file a Motor Vehicle Collision Report. See Online Motor Vehicle Collision Reporting

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    Pure Comparative Negligence

    Washington practices the concept of comparative negligence, which provides the claimant in personal injury cases to receive some compensation even if they are partially at fault for the collision or accident.

    Negligence is when any persons operating a vehicle does not exercise a degree of care (i.e., texting while driving, falling asleep while driving, etc.) and leads to the harm of other individuals. For instance, a driver that is speeding is neglecting to exercise reasonable care to prevent injury to another individual. Per Washington State Statutes, the fact of negligence evidence pertains to an individual violating laws, rules, or regulations, that led to an accident.

    • RCW 4.22.005: Effect of Contributory Fault – Both parties are held accountable and may be found to be responsible for the accident, but it does not bar recovery. In other words, there is no threshold of fault requirement for the claimant to file a claim. For instance, regardless of how many people were involved, a percentage of the fault will be assigned to each party. Thus, allowing for a party to cover a percentage of his/her damages.
    • RCW 5.40.050: Breach of Duty – Evidence of Negligence – Permits the demonstration for the violations of “statute, ordinance, or administrative rule” to present as evidence and let the “tier of fact” determine whether the offense should be treated as evidence of negligence. SeePudmaroff v. Allen, 977 P. 2d 574 – Washington: Supreme Court 1999

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    When filing a claim because of a Truck accident, it is crucial to obtain a lawyer. Overall, the claimant has three (3) years from the date of the accident to file a claim based on the Statute of Limitations. Retaining an experienced attorney is crucial, because the laws, rules, and regulations can be overwhelming and complicated when a truck is involved. If a commercial motor vehicle is involved in an accident, many agencies might have to partake in the case. For instance, many trucks abide by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). In case of an accident, the investigation would start with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) or another federal agency that investigates trucking accidents.

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    Building a Case

    Businesses and insurance companies do not take any unreasonable risks when dealing with truck accident litigations. Trucking collisions often result in devastating injuries, the need for a great deal of preparation and examination makes it challenging for many people to fight for their rights in court successfully.

    In the aftermath of a truck accident, several key jobs must be fulfilled to build or refute a strong case. Scene investigators must review the evidence carefully to work out what happened, and who, and to what extent, is responsible for the accident. Knowledgeable legal experts must pore over the facts of the case, consult the insurance policies, and refer to the drivers involved to develop an argument for court.

    Each step of the process can involve difficult, time-consuming work. This is one reason why hiring an experienced, competent personal injury lawyer can benefit you tremendously. An attorney can direct you on how to organize an investigation for your case, and how to best work with your team to develop your case.

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    Basic Requirements for a Negligence Case

    • Establishing who is at fault – the insurance companies would determine who is at fault; however, if the lawsuit goes to trial, then the jury will decide.
    • Evidence of Liability – The outcome of a negligence case depends on whether the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff. In other words, the law must recognize a relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant, requiring the defendant to act with care. The judge will determine if a relationship exists between the defendants and the plaintiff. On the one hand, if the defendant is loading goods onto his truck and a child was injured because of the products that are being loaded, the defendant might have a duty owed to the child if he/she was loading the truck near a public space and the child was merely passing by. On the other hand, if the defendant is loading products onto his truck and the child was trespassing on private property without the defendant being aware during the time of the accident, the defendant might not owe a duty to the child.
    • Breach of Duty – Your attorney must prove that the defendant breached their duty to another person. “Establishing who is at fault” and “evidence of liability” is meant to help the person demonstrate that a duty was owed to them. Nevertheless, that is not enough; it is important to prove that the negligent party breached their duty to the other party. Unlike the previous steps that are answering the question of who is at fault and if a relationship or duty exists, this step is decided by the jury. The jury must determine if failing to exercise reasonable care by the defendant is a question of fact.
    • Evidence from the Accident – It is essential to acquire pictures and any information you can during the scene of the accident. A plaintiff must prove that the actions by the defendant caused injuries, and if it had not been for his/her actions, the plaintiff’s injuries would not have occurred.
    • Evidence from Damages – Although the plaintiff demonstrates that the defendant has failed to recognize reasonable care, the action must result in damages (i.e., property, injury to a person, etc.) that the defendants owed a duty to.

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    Below are a few examples of the complexity in determining liability in a semi-truck accident:

    • Exhausted Driver – Washington State has Hours of Service Regulations for truck drivers, however, there are instances in which the driver will not follow the law placing others at risk or an investigation can demonstrate that the company/agency should be held responsible for pressuring the driver to work more than the maximum hours that are allowed by law.
    • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs - In this case, it may either be the driver at-fault or the company. Trucking or carrier companies have strict responsibilities and policies, and an employee must pass their medical examination and receive a certificate (49 CFR § 391.43). Also, if the company did not conduct a proper background check on the employee who might have a history of DUI offenses, the company is at-fault
    • Texting while driving or a distracted driver – During a situation in which it might seem evident that the driver is at fault (e.g., texting while driving, talking, eating, not having their attention on the road, etc.), the company might still be liable for negligence and not properly training their employee.

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    Different Types of Compensation After a Truck Accident Case in Washington

    Being involved in a Truck accident can entail many long-term injuries (e.g., paralysis, broken bones, etc.), which are medically costly. In many cases, the victims need urgent medical care requiring surgeries, treatments, medications, etc. that can be financially draining. It is dire to consult with an attorney at PNW Trial Lawyers to speak an experienced professional.

    It is important for your successful recovery to be compensated after a life-changing accident. At times seeking compensation can be a problematic and excruciating process; obtaining a lawyer can make the process less complicated.

    Below are some examples of the different kinds of compensation; however, they vary depending on the case:

    • Lost Wages – Having severe injuries after an accident will cause you to miss time from work. Therefore, the loss of income can result in a financial strain. Washington State Law does not require that policyholders have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage; however, all insurance policies must include the coverage unless the consumer submits a written rejection. (RCW 48.22.100).
      • Nevertheless, if a policyholder that does have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, is covered for lost wages for a limited amount of time.
    • Medical Financial Compensations – i.e., physical and mental injuries (emergency treatments, surgeries, physical therapy, anxiety, etc.).
    • Other financial damages – i.e., property damage

    Seeking compensation is very time-sensitive, documented records must be provided, and claims must be filed. The compensation varies on multiple factors, such as the circumstances of the case, who is the at-fault party (e.g., company, truck driver, etc.). In the instance that the at-fault driver does not have insurance or that the carrier has limited liability coverage, the situation becomes more complicated. It is essential to consult with an attorney at PNW Trial Lawyers and receive the proper representation.

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    Additional Resources

    Truck Safety Coalition – This is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness, supporting, and providing for truck accident victims and their families. On their website, they have a lot of helpful information and tips on how to deal with the aftermath. They also have a memorial page for victims and information for families.

    Department of Transportation – Follow the link to view the document published by the U.S. Department of Transportation. It provides the reader with information about the financial responsibilities of motor carriers, brokers, and freight forwarders. The Federal Insurance Liability Laws cover only three groups of carriers. Many carriers have a limit on their insurance. Once it is breached, it makes it financially problematic to resolve claims, the agency might even declare bankruptcy which further complicates the situation. “Financial Responsibility Requirements for Commercial Motor Vehicles,” contains detailed information ranging from the responsibility of the agency to the role of the insurance.

    Insurance Requirements – Every state is different and does not have the same requirements. View the “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration” website to educate yourself on the insurance filing requirements. “All applicants for motor carrier, freight forwarder, and broker authorities must have specific insurance,” they must at least be insured by the minimum amount stated in the law.

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    Attorney for Commercial Truck Accident in Whatcom County, Washington

    If you or a loved one have sustained serious injuries due to a truck accident, it is crucial to seek professional legal assistance. Personal injury litigation can be complicated, long-lasting, and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.

    We at PNW Trial Lawyers have devoted our careers to fighting for the rights of their clients. It is our primary mission to work with you and for you to ensure your future remains bright, and you and your family receive compensation. The process does not have to feel impossible, nor do the looming threats from insurance companies need to scare you into giving up. Our team of experienced legal professionals has the passion, drive, and understanding to provide you and your case with the type of legal service it requires.

    Contact us today at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation and strategy session. Our firm serves clients in Bellingham, Everett, Mt. Vernon, or in the surrounding areas of Snohomish, Skagit, or Whatcom counties contact PNW Trial Lawyers at (360) 483-5201.

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    Discuss your case with our legal team.
    Use the form below to request your free consultation.