Were You Injured Because Of Someone Else's Negligence? Browse Our FAQs
In addition to coping with a lot of stress and frustration, personal injury cases also come with a lot of questions. Here are some of the questions we hear the most at Max Meyers Law.
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Who is responsible for my truck accident: the truck driver or truck company?
Liability is much more complicated in truck accident cases than with auto accident cases. In a passenger car traffic accident, you typically only deal with the other motorist and his/her insurer. However, liability for truck accidents can extend beyond the truck driver to include numerous parties, all of which are interested in protecting themselves against liability.
For this reason, it is imperative that you speak with a Kirkland truck accident attorney as soon as possible to preserve your right to compensation: 425-399-7000.
Who is liable for my truck accident?
In most car accident cases, if the driver’s negligence causes an accident, the driver will be your liable party. However, in most cases, you will not hold the truck driver liable for your damages. If the truck driver’s negligence caused the accident, then you would typically file a claim against the trucking company, not the driver directly. This is because of a legal doctrine called respondeat superior, a law that provides that companies can be liable for their employees’ actions.
This is actually a good thing for truck accident victims because trucking company insurance policies are generally better and larger than a personal insurance policy. In other words, trucking companies have deeper pockets and you can likely recover a much fuller settlement by filing against the company.
However, this also means that you will likely be fighting an uphill battle. Trucking companies often have very large, experienced insurers and legal teams. In many cases, accident victims who take on trucking companies themselves end up jeopardizing their case or accepting far too little for their case.
Can a trucking company be directly liable for my accident?
Yes. A trucking company can be directly liable for your accident if the trucking company:
- Forced or encouraged its drivers to stay on the road past federally-mandated hours
- Hired a driver with a history of dangerous driving (e.g., DUIs, speeding tickets, etc.)
- Did not suspend a driver for driving while intoxicated
- Requiring drivers to text and drive
Are there times when a trucking company is not liable for my accident?
There are exceptions to this rule, though. If any of the following circumstances apply, then you may need to file against the truck driver rather than (or sometimes in addition to) the company:
- Independent contractors: Respondeat superior only applies to employees, not self-employed drivers. If the truck driver that hit you was an independent contractor rather than an employee, you will need to file against the driver. (Max Meyers will investigate your case to determine whether the driver was actually an independent contractor; in some cases, trucking companies will misclassify employees to save money or deflect liability.)
- Off duty: Employers are only liable for their employees’ actions when the employees were acting within the course and scope of employment. An employer would be liable if a driver caused an accident making a delivery, but if the driver was off the clock and had an accident while running a personal errand, then the company will not be liable.
- Intentional: If the truck driver intentionally caused the wreck or harmed you, then the trucking company is not liable. You can file a civil claim against the driver and pursue recovery.
What do I need to establish liability?
You will need to be able to show that the trucking company or other responsible party caused the accident as a result of its carelessness or negligence.
The items you may use as evidence to prove liability depend upon the circumstances of your accident. For instance, if the driver was texting while driving, we can subpoena his/her phone records to prove negligence. If s/he fell asleep at the wheel, we can obtain his/her log books to see if s/he overstepped the legal hours of service limits or his/her drug and alcohol test to see if s/he was intoxicated.
It is important to note that trucking companies tend to “lose” or quickly destroy evidence after an accident to protect their interests. Our team at Max Meyers Law PLLC can take steps to stop the destruction of evidence, collect any necessary evidence to prove liability, and obtain maximum compensation for you.
We will also determine whether there are any potential third parties responsible for your truck accident. We will build cases against any parties involved.
For a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer in Kirkland, call Max Meyers Law PLLC today at 425-399-7000.
What are override and underride truck accidents?
An override accident occurs when a semi-truck or any other large commercial vehicle runs over a passenger vehicle, crushing it beneath it. An underride truck accident occurs when a passenger car collides with the rear or side of a truck, sliding underneath it. These accidents are quite common, and many of them prove fatal. In fact, an estimated 55 percent of all fatal truck accidents are underride collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Causes for Override and Underride Accidents
Override – There are a lot of possible contributing causes of override accidents. In many cases, the truck driver miscalculates the distance between the truck and passenger car or simply tailgates and doesn’t provide enough space to stop in time. Poor weather and road conditions can affect the driver's visibility and cause the truck to skid, which can also cause an override accident. Defects in the truck’s brakes or tires can contribute to an accident as well.
Underride – Likewise, there are several factors that can cause an underride accident. Drivers who tailgate obviously put themselves at risk, but sometimes a truck may turn or stop without warning. In many cases, the driver simply doesn’t see the truck. This is a huge problem at night, when the bed of a truck can remain completely invisible until the driver is right up on it. Trucks are required by law to have reflective tape along the side of the trailer to increase visibility, but the tape often gets worn or dirty and does little good. Plus, most trucks lack underride guards, which could do a world of good in preventing these types of serious collisions.
Damages in Serious Truck Accidents
The front of most passenger cars stands 30 inches or less. The trailer of a semi sits 45 inches high. So when a car collides with the back or side of a truck, it can instantly slide right under, crushing the front of the car and the occupants. The injuries are generally catastrophic -- if not fatal -- and the damages are substantial.
If you were hurt in an underride or override accident or if your loved one was killed in one, you will want to speak to an attorney immediately about your case. There are steps you and your lawyer must take to preserve your claim. If you reside in Washington, you are welcome to call our truck accident lawyer at Max Meyers Law for a consultation. We will review your case, determine if negligence contributed to the accident, and then help you seek compensation for damages via an injury or wrongful death claim against the liable party.
Contact us today for a free consultation at 425-399-7000 or fill out our online contact form.
Cell Phone Policy for Truck Drivers: Proving a Mobile Phone Caused Accident
Truck drivers who text while driving are 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a “safety-critical” event, e.g., crash, near-crash, lane deviation, etc. than drivers who refrain from texting, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
As such, the FMCSA, the agency that regulates the trucking industry, provides detailed cell phone policy for truck drivers. When a driver violates the rules and subsequently causes a crash, the victim (or family) can file a claim to recover damages so long as they can prove the violation.
FMCSA Mobile Phone Use Rules
The federal rules regarding cellphone use for commercial truck drivers is simple and straightforward: truckers are banned from using any type of handheld device while operating their rigs. They are permitted to use voice-activated functions and one-touch features to initiate, answer, or terminate a call, but they cannot hold the phone or press more than one button.
They are also prohibited from texting while driving or doing any of the following activities on their device.
- Reading texts or sending texts
- Instant messaging
- Accessing a webpage
“In short, the rule prohibits unsafely reaching for a device, holding a mobile phone, or pressing multiple buttons,” provides the FMCSA.
How to Prove a Truck Driver’s Violation Caused Your Accident
Using a cell phone while driving a truck constitutes negligence. In order to file and win a truck accident claim, you’ll need to be able to show that the driver was negligent (using a phone) and that the negligence is what caused your truck accident.
Proving this can be a tricky task. Your lawyer can help you collect evidence to support your case. S/he can send a letter of spoliation to the truck company to preserve evidence and/or subpoena the driver’s phone records. The records will indicate if the phone was in use at the time of the accident.
In some cases, you might be able to use the following to prove your claim.
- Eyewitness testimonies
- The truck driver’s cab cam footage
- Accident reconstructionists
Taking the First Step to Recover Your Damages
The first thing you’ll want to do is consult a truck accident attorney in your area who can review your injury or wrongful death case and get to work on proving your claim. It’s important to act quickly because 1) there’s a time limit on when you can file a claim, and 2) truck companies tend to “lose” evidence if they don’t quickly receive a letter of spoliation. Also, the sooner you file a claim, the sooner you can receive your much-needed settlement check.
For help in Washington, call truck accident lawyer Max Meyers today at 425-399-7000 for a free consultation or fill out our contact form.