- After a car accident in Washington State, you should immediately call the police.
- It is crucial to collect evidence at the scene of the accident, as this will help strengthen your claim.
- Do not admit fault or apologize, as this can be used against you during your case.
- You have three years to file a lawsuit for a truck accident in Washington State.
- Working with an attorney can help you navigate a lawsuit that involves large trucking companies and federal regulations.
According to the American Trucking Association, truckers logged over 327 billion miles in 2021. These large trucks are crucial to the American economy, but what happens when they get into accidents? Trucking accidents are often more dangerous than other auto accident types because of the sheer size and weight of the vehicles. If a semi-truck hits your car, you could sustain critical, potentially life-threatening injuries. Learn what to do after a truck accident in Washington and how a truck accident attorney with McPartland Law Offices can help you recover fair compensation for medical bills and more.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents in Washington
- Speeding, as in driving too quickly for the current conditions or failing to obey speed limit signs
- Driver fatigue, often due to driving long hours without proper rest
- Poor weather conditions, including rain, sleet, and snow
- Aggressive driving, which might involve cutting off other vehicles, following too closely, or making an illegal maneuver of some type
- Ignoring traffic laws, such as not yielding or stopping at stop signs
- Distracted driving, such as eating, talking on a cell phone, texting, or reaching for something
- Driving under the influence of over-the-counter medications, alcohol, or an illegal substance, all of which can impair reaction time and judgment
- Equipment or mechanical failures, such as vehicle systems malfunction, braking issues, or tire problems
- Improperly loaded cargo, which can shift and suddenly throwing the large truck off balance
- Lack of driver experience or training
What to Do Immediately After a Washington Truck Accident
Following a Washington truck accident, you must know what to do immediately after. These steps are essential because they can impact your personal injury claim in various ways.
Take the following steps after an auto accident involving a commercial truck.
1. Call the police. It is important to let police know immediately that an accident has occurred, where you are located, and how many vehicles and people are involved so the dispatcher knows how much help to send.
2. Collect evidence. If you can, and your injuries do not need emergency medical attention, collect evidence from the accident scene. You can accomplish this by taking photos of vehicle damage, any traffic signs or signals, road conditions, other environmental factors, and your injuries.
3. Gather the truck driver’s information. Obtain the truck driver’s name, contact details, driver’s license number, insurance information, employer name, and ask who owns the truck. In most instances, this information will be provided. If not, take photos of the truck and license plate.
4. Find eyewitnesses and collect contact information. While these witnesses may give statements to the police for the police report, your attorney may want to contact them at a later date to clarify or ask additional questions and even ask for their testimonies in court.
5. Make notes. While the accident is still fresh in your mind, write down notes of what you remember before the truck crash and immediately afterward. Keep these notes with your photos of the crash scene in a separate file that you can share with legal counsel.
6. Seek legal advice from a truck accident attorney. Consult with a Washington truck accident attorney who understands the complexity involved in a truck accident claim and can help you understand your rights going forward.
What NOT to Do After a Washington Truck Accident
While there are important steps to take following a truck collision, there are also some things you must avoid doing so as not to put your insurance claim at risk.
- Do not admit fault or apologize. When being questioned by law enforcement or talking about the accident, stick to the details. There may be factors involved that you are currently unaware of, such as the truck driver previously being cited for speeding or mechanical defects that contributed to the accident.
- Do not post about the accident on social media. Insurance companies and defense attorneys will review all forms of media for mentions of the accident and look for ways to use your posts against you.
- Do not ignore your doctor’s medical advice and recommendations. After the accident and immediate medical care, continue whatever medical treatment your doctor orders and go to all follow-up appointments. Not doing so can result in the other side claiming that you did not suffer serious injuries.
When Does a Truck Accident Need to Be Reported in Washington?
State law requires that a truck accident be reported to the Washington Department of Transportation (DOT) if it meets one of the following criteria:
- The accident resulted in $1,000 or more in property damage, or
- A fatality or personal injury occurred as a result of that accident.
It is highly unlikely for a semi-truck accident not to fit one or both of these criteria.
How Long Do You Have to File a Truck Accident Case in Washington State?
You have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit after a truck accident in Washington state. This three-year time limit is what is known as the statute of limitations. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, including for minors or people who are otherwise incapacitated, failing to file within the legal timeline can put you at risk of losing any right to bring your case in the future.
While three years may sound like plenty of time, you should schedule a free case evaluation with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Truck accidents are complex, and it takes time to investigate to find the appropriate responsible parties and assemble your case.
The best advice we can give is do not delay! Trucking cases are not car crashes. There is critical information that must be preserved in trucking cases, and spoliation letters are critical. Additionally, trucking cases require public records requests from state and federal agencies. Depending on the circumstances, these requests — particularly those of the federal government — can take a year or longer to acquire all the information. During this time, your personal injury lawyer must also investigate the shipper, receiver, driver, and broker. There is a significant amount of work to prepare your case, so time is of the essence.
Parties You Can Sue After a Car Accident With a Semi-Truck in Washington
In a Washington truck accident, various parties can be held responsible. Was the cause related to driver error, defective equipment, or something else? Liable parties might include one or more of the following.
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The truck owner
- The cargo loader
- The shipping company
- The receiving company
- The broker (i.e., coordinator of the shipment)
- The truck or parts manufacturer
Additional parties may also share in liability, such as a government entity that oversees the maintenance of highways.
To establish who is at fault for the accident requires diligent investigation. Your legal team will examine truck driver records, including hiring and training information. If it is determined that the truck had equipment failure that contributed to the accident, research will extend to the manufacturer and maintenance personnel of that particular truck or part.
There are several factors to investigate in a Washington truck accident and several parties who may be at fault, so having an experienced truck accident lawyer is crucial. Your lawyer will know what to investigate and how to obtain the necessary information to establish fault.
What is Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations?
The commercial trucking industry is governed by laws and regulations on the federal level, which set specific standards that drivers and trucking companies must meet. Title 49 (Code of Federal Regulations) lays out the majority of these and relates to such things as:
- Licensing requirements
- Maximum vehicle weight
- Transportation of any hazardous materials
- Required inspections
- Driver drug and alcohol testing
Failure to follow these regulations constitutes negligence, and as such may influence who is at fault for your accident.
Why It is Important to Hire a Washington Truck Accident Lawyer
Truck accidents usually have more potentially at-fault parties, as well as additional laws and regulations that a dedicated truck accident lawyer can guide you through. You are also more likely to be critically injured in a truck accident than in a car accident, so you have less energy and time to spend handling your own case and communicating with all involved parties. In addition, medical expenses for injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, can add up, leaving you in financial hardship.
A Washington truck accident lawyer will be able to investigate your accident case, compile convincing evidence, establish fault, communicate with the insurance company and adjusters on your behalf, determine damages, and keep you updated at each stage of your claim. Should the insurance companies fail to offer a fair settlement in your case, your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf or a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of a family member.
As a law firm committed to truck accident cases throughout Eastern Washington state, McPartland Law Offices has the experience and ability to handle these cases by knowing who to investigate, how to prove fault, and which damages you can seek compensation for in your claim or lawsuit. We value the attorney-client relationship and will confidently and vigorously seek to protect your rights and hold those at fault accountable.
We Take the Wheel So You Can Heal
Being in a truck accident can be overwhelming and the days ahead challenging, even more so if you suffer injuries or have lost a loved one. Let an experienced personal injury attorney with McPartland Law Offices take the wheel and build your truck accident case for you as you heal. Bryce McPartland has over 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases in Washington, and he’s ready to help you. Call us today at 509-495-1247 or use our convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation.