Semi-tractor trailers are to cars, trucks, and SUVs like those smaller vehicles are to pedestrians. In an accident of a semi vs. almost any other type of vehicle, the semi will do much more damage than it, and its passengers, would receive. Therefore, when truck drivers drive recklessly, negligently, distractedly, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the effects can be devastating. These trucks take longer to correct if they’re on a disastrous path, as well. Their drivers have to be extremely careful and focused at all times behind their wheels.
Negligence in Civil Lawsuits
These can be complex claims, as not all injury accidents clearly or easily reveal the singular at-fault party. It can be a combination of factors that lead to an accident. However, if the victim is able to prove negligence or carelessness, it is quite possible that the negligent driver will be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, negligence is a legal term that means that someone had a responsibility and failed to live up to it. For example, truck drivers must obey the speed limit posted for their type of vehicle. They must obey all traffic signs and laws. And they must never drive drunk or distracted. In addition, commercial truck drivers must adhere to strict rules governing the length of time their driving shifts can be, and must not exceed that. This is to help the drivers get adequate rest before they get back on the road. Any failure to fulfill these responsibilities would be considered negligence.
Washington Traffic Violations
Due to the seriousness of the consequences, there laws that govern the behavior of drivers on all Washington roads. Violating these laws can have devastating enough consequences, but when you imagine the size, and unwieldy nature of an 18-wheeler, the results of breaking these laws can be deadly.
- Drunk Driving (46.61.502): A drunk truck driver simply does not have the ability to make good driving decisions. Reaction time while drinking is greatly reduced, which is why it is so dangerous. Trucks have the added difficulty of needing more time to slow down, not able to dodge obstacles, and multiple blind spots. Because drunk truck driving is so incredibly dangerous, most likely a driver found to be driving a semi tractor trailer drunk will lose his or her commercial driving license and job.
- Illegal U-Turn (46.61.295): A truck cannot negotiate a U turn quickly, and an illegal U turn is no different. Since that may find a car in an unexpected situation, and unable to stop to avoid it, an accident like this could be deadly. Trucks are higher than most cars, so if a car crashes into the side of the truck or its trailer, the car’s roof may be crushed and the occupants killed by decapitation. It is a gruesome idea, but the reality is much worse.
- Reckless Driving (46.61.500): Washington law defines a reckless driver as "any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property." If a truck driving is driving recklessly – swerving or making unsafe lane changes, texting while driving, or tailgating, these may be considered reckless acts and could be catastrophic for the victims who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Running a Red Light or Stop Sign (46.61.500): Intersections are known as some of the most dangerous places on the road, and a semi that doesn’t obey the rules might cause incredible harm above and beyond what another vehicle – though just as illegal – might do.
- Speeding (46.61.400): Trucks take longer to stop, and often carry a lot of weight that can become unbalanced. It’s due to their unique nature that often must travel at lower speeds compared to other vehicles, such as on I-5, where they must go ten miles per hour less in many areas compared to other kinds of vehicles. Trucks must also adjust their speed to compensate for unsafe or poor road conditions, such as a rain or snow storm. Any truck driver who travels at an unsafe rate of speed may be held accountable for the accidents they cause.
It is not a requirement that a truck driver must break a law, however, in order to be held accountable in a civil court in case an accident does occur. There is a different court system for criminal cases and civil court cases. Criminal cases can result in fines that go to the state or other government entities, or jail time, etc. But a civil court can award financial compensation directly to the victim when they determine the reasons to do so. This is why it is so critical to work with an attorney skilled with truck accident cases. The laws are complex, and no victim should attempt to go up against the big commercial truck companies and not expect a fight. They’ll have a team of legal attorneys on their side; wouldn’t you want someone on yours? Call Bill Coats about your truck accident case. He offers a free consultation where you can discuss what happened, and he can give you an idea of next steps. Don’t hesitate; the longer you wait, the more it may work against you. You can reach Bill Coats Law, located in downtown Bellingham, Washington, at (360) 392-2833. Bill works cases all over Whatcom and Skagit counties, and has decades of experience. With empathy and grit, he is ready to represent you.