Accidents Caused by Drunk Truck Drivers: What You Need to Know

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We’d like to think that with all their training, truck operators are doing everything possible to stay safe on the roads and to drive responsibly. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some truck drivers do get behind the wheel while intoxicated—and when they do, the results can be catastrophic. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recorded more than 56,000 drug and alcohol violations among truck drivers in 2020.

Large trucks accounted for two percent of all alcohol-related fatal accidents in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). And while that’s a small percentage compared to the 20 percent of DUI fatalities caused by passenger cars, it’s still enough to rank substance abuse as one of the top five causes of truck driving accidents. If you or someone you love is involved in an injury accident involving a drunk truck driver, here’s what you need to know to get properly compensated for those injuries as presented by our Washington semi truck accident lawyer.

The DUI Standard for Washington Truck Drivers

People who drive trucks and other commercial vehicles are held to a much higher standard than the average driver when it comes to how much alcohol is “too much.” While the typical “legal limit” in Washington State for DUI is a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08, for commercial licenses, it’s only 0.04 BAC. This standard is set because truckers and other commercial drivers operate very large and heavy machinery, which can be dangerous even under ideal conditions. The average adult can easily exceed the 0.04 BAC threshold by drinking less than two beers, and some exceed the limit with only one drink. This means truck drivers are in danger of legal impairment if they consume any alcohol at all.

young truck driver taking breathalyzer test in Washington

Types of Accidents a Drunk Truck Driver May Cause

Drunk truck drivers are operating heavy vehicles with both logical and cognitive impairments. As a result, the following types of accidents are quite common with impaired truckers:

  • Perception-related accidents. These are caused when a truck driver can’t gauge distances and relative speeds correctly. These can result in rear-end collisions, head-on collisions, sideswipes, jackknifes, rollover accidents, etc.
  • Decision-related accidents. These are caused when a driver can’t make good cognitive decisions while operating the vehicle. These may include accidents caused by improper lane changes, failing to brake properly, overcompensation on turns, etc.
  • Response-related accidents. These accidents happen because the driver’s response reflexes are slower due to the alcohol in their system and sometimes due to drowsiness. This can cause a wide range of collisions simply because the driver can’t compensate for changes on the road.

Common Types of Injuries With Trucking Accidents

Any accident involving a “big rig” is potentially life-threatening due to the sheer size and weight of the vehicle, and serious injuries are quite common. Examples include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Broken or crushed bones
  • Severe lacerations
  • “Soft-tissue” injuries (e.g., sprains, bruises)
  • Internal injuries (e.g., bruising or bleeding from internal organs)

Types of Compensation That May Be Available

If you’re injured in an accident involving a drunk truck driver in Washington State, that driver will likely be considered “negligent per se,” meaning they are presumed to be at fault in the accident. The trucking company may also bear some liability, particularly if they failed to conduct regulation drug and alcohol screenings. Whoever is at fault, you may be able to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit to cover:

  • Medical expenses
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages and lost earning capacity
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., in-home care)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium

What to Do After a Bothell Drunk Truck Driver Accident

If you’re injured in an accident with a large truck, our Washington auto accident attorney recommends taking the following steps as quickly as possible to ensure you receive the compensation you need and deserve:

  • Get medical help immediately. Even if you don’t appear injured, you could be suffering from internal injuries that could put you in danger if not treated. Always get checked out.
  • Gather as much evidence as possible. This includes photos of the accident scene and your injuries, witness testimony, medical reports, receipts, etc.
  • Get a copy of the police report. If the truck driver was DUI, the police report will be your best source of evidence to hold the driver liable.
  • Talk to an experienced attorney. A good personal injury attorney will know how to ask questions, gather evidence, calculate the true value of your losses, and negotiate and/or litigate aggressively to get the appropriate settlement for you.

The Max Meyers Law Firm has extensive experience with trucking accidents in Washington State, including accidents involving drunk truck drivers. Contact our offices to schedule a free consultation or call us at 425-399-7000.

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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.