By now you’re familiar with the kinds of dangers Bellingham drivers face when they share the road with semi trucks. Just the nature of the trucks themselves – their size, weight, and cargo – can itself be dangerous. But what if the driver is negligent?
Drivers can make mistakes, we know this. In fact, nearly every single accident is caused by human error (which means, of course, that insurance companies have to be very savvy on disproving fault if they want to maximize profits. And which means, of course, that personal injury lawyers are an important ally in the complicated, aggravating, and confusing process of car accident claims.) So what happens if a negligent driver is behind the wheel of one of these giant trucks that can weigh as much or sometimes more than 80,000 lbs? Truck driver negligence can take many forms. Whichever way it happens, the consequences for this negligence are so much more extreme, and usually deadly, when they lead to a collision with a motor vehicle.
If you suspect truck driver negligence was a factor in your car accident, take a look at this list of examples of truck driver errors:
- Speeding beyond the posted truck speed limit
- Distracted driving – using a cell phone, GPS, eating, etc.
- Drunk or drugged driving
- Disobeying traffic control devices, such as stop lights and signs, or failing to yield
- Cutting curves too sharply
- Failing to yield right-of-way to other vehicles
- Drowsy driving
- Negligent or poor maintenance of the tractor or trailer
- Unsafe lane changes
- Driving too fast for the conditions
- Violating the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations
To maximize their earnings, truck drivers may try to beat the clock and get ahead of their schedule. Unless there’s an accident, the truck driver and company reap the financial benefits of these behaviors. You can see from the list above that a truck driver might resort to any of the above behaviors out of impatience. Some drivers might purposefully take prescription drugs to stay awake and keep driving. All of these behaviors are negligent and if they were present in your car accident, the truck company would have to pay for their mistakes.
So, what do you need to know about suing a negligent trucker or commercial truck company? Seems pretty straightforward if a truck driver is speeding, or distracted, or breaks some of the regulations to get ahead of schedule and causes a serious accident to an innocent driver. If those things are documented in the police report, the trucking company would likely view this as a fight they couldn't win. Then, the accident victim’s lawyer would need only to file a damages-only lawsuit. Sometimes that does happen, but even in clear cut cases like that, there are still issues to consider. For example, when a truck’s driver is an employee of the trucking company, the injured party may have cause of action against the company, not just the driver. Let’s say the driver was drunk at the time of the accident. If that driver was on the clock at the time of the accident, then the trucking company could also be sued for any personal injuries or damages that resulted from the drunk driver’s actions.
And if a trucking company knowingly hired a problem driver, someone with a history of breaking rules and driving dangerously? Any hint of this could lead accident victims to wonder if only the truck driver had not been the one driving, would their life have been unchanged by a traumatic accident. So if a trucking company knowingly hired, supervised and/or retained a problem driver, the parent trucking company could be sued as well. As you might imagine, this process becomes quite complicated, and accident victims need to seriously consider hiring an attorney who is skilled and savvy in such a claim.