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Truck Accidents 101

The highways and roads of Washington State are shared by all variety of vehicles from tractor trailers to small economy vehicles. Every driver’s intuition tells them that a collision with a truck would be different than an ordinary collision between passenger vehicles, and every driver is aware of the catastrophic consequences that could occur in an accident with a commercial semi-truck.

Guess what? The numbers back up that intuition. Think of it as the sport of boxing. There are different weight classes, such as featherweight, lightweight, bantam weight, heavyweight. Trucks are the heavyweights of the highway. A loaded commercial truck can weigh more than 15 times an automobile. A truck’s frame towers above the passenger vehicles on the road. Typically, the frame is stronger, higher and larger. A negligent trucker isn’t engaging in a game of bumper cars with other vehicles that have an equal chance in a collision. A negligent trucker can bore through a car and into the passenger compartment with ease. It’s like a heavyweight boxer being in the ring with a featherweight. A Honda Civic has no chance against a Mack truck.

Unfortunately, a person is killed or injured every 16 minutes in a truck accident. Not surprisingly, it is almost always is the passenger vehicle that pays the ultimate price. In fatal accidents between trucks and passenger vehicles, 98 percent of deaths occurred to the occupants of the passenger car.

Tractor trailers also have large blind spots on both sides, in front and behind the truck. Commercial trucks cannot maneuver like cars and take much longer to stop. The dangers involved are not limited to the obvious physical differences between trucks and cars. A tractor trailer may be driven 150,000 miles in a single year. The parts on a truck need to be replaced on a regular basis which can be expensive and time consuming. Some truck drivers skip the inspection of their rig despite the fact that the law requires truck drivers to take extra care in maintenance. Some trucking companies will try to squeeze one last trip of the equipment before making repairs. Also, truckers drive long distances at a stretch and may be tired or simply inattentive. Then there are always the bully truck drivers who do whatever they want and pay scant attention to other drivers on the road.

The dangers of trucking are not going away any time soon. The trucking industry typically makes hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Revenues are expected to double by 2015. If anything, the increase in revenue to trucking companies likely means more accidents on Washington’s shared roads.

Fortunately, the law recognizes that trucking is a dangerous business. Commercial trucks are regulated by Federal Interstate Trucking Safety Laws and Washington State law because of the inherent dangers involved in trucking including large blind spots, longer stop times, rollovers and driver sleep deprivation.

The hazards of trucking can touch the lives of any driver or passenger. Injuries or even death may result. The first rule is: don’t play chicken with a truck on the road. Even if you are in the right – back off. It doesn’t matter if you are right if you end up in a coma.

If you were involved in a truck accident – and survived – it will be up to you to vigorously enforce your rights. A skilled attorney knowledgeable about load weights, stopping times and unsafe driving conditions can help you identify typical claims against a trucker and his company. If you were injured, an attorney can also help you understand the amount of compensation you might recover.

Caleb Morgan