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After a Washington semi-truck accident, comprehensive investigation is key

A collision involving a tractor-trailer can be exponentially more complicated than most crashes involving smaller vehicles.

In May 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced preliminary 2019 traffic-related fatality numbers. Deaths from most categories of accidents appear to be decreasing – except those involving large trucks.

Even without official data, it is obvious that in a crash with a semi-truck, people are in extreme danger of injury or death. Because of the sheer size and weight of a tractor-trailer moving at a high speed – or even low speed – the vulnerable human body is usually no match for the forceful impact in a collision with a smaller vehicle, motorcycle, cyclist or pedestrian.

Seek legal counsel swiftly

As soon as possible after an accident involving a large commercial truck, an injured victim (or survivor after the death of a loved one) should talk to an attorney to understand their potential legal remedies such as a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death action. An important reason for early legal representation is to have an experienced lawyer launch a comprehensive investigation of the incident while evidence and memories are still fresh.

Truck crash investigations are complex

While the mechanics and causes of any motor vehicle accident have the potential to be complicated, aspects of semi-trucks automatically push the complexity up a few notches. Consider, for example, the breadth and depth of detail involving large truck design, parts, technology, mechanics and equipment.

In addition, semi drivers are highly regulated. They must meet commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements, undergo specialized training and comply with regulations involving sleep, drugs and alcohol, and recordkeeping – all of this in addition to adherence to the regular rules of the road.

Investigatory stages

Parts of the investigation may be immediately initiated for information that is publicly available or privately kept if permission is given such as:

  • Review of the accident scene
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Police reports
  • Expert accident reconstruction
  • Analysis of road design and maintenance
  • Traffic violations or criminal records related to the accident itself (such as speeding or driving under the influence) or to driver’s history
  • Local weather data for day and time of the accident
  • Recalls of or other lawsuits about defective or dangerous trucking equipment

After filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff conducts discovery, which is the stage of a suit when the parties may request related documents and records, ask written questions (interrogatories) and conduct depositions (testimony under oath) of key witnesses that may not have been voluntarily available. Some of this information may include:

  • Driver training and disciplinary records
  • Employer investigation of the driver before hiring
  • Driver noncompliance with required CDL experience, age and other licensing prerequisites
  • Driver logs and electronic records related to the specific trip during which the accident happened as well of recent trips to determine if the driver violated regulations limiting driving time, requiring time away from the wheel or keeping required log information
  • Truck maintenance, repair and previous accident records
  • Inspection of the damaged vehicle and parts by plaintiff’s experts
  • Driver’s use of alcohol, medication or illegal drugs
  • Driver fatigue during relevant trip
  • Driver’s compliance with mobile phone restrictions and other distracting behaviors just before the crash
  • Information about freight load at the time of collision such as type of freight, weight and whether it was properly loaded, secured and balanced
  • Noncompliant truck equipment

During investigation and discovery, it may become evident that there are more than one potentially responsible parties such as:

  • Driver
  • Trucking company
  • Truck, truck part or truck equipment manufacturer or designer
  • Road designer and construction company
  • Government unit responsible for design and maintenance of road
  • Truck maintenance or repair company
  • Drivers of other vehicles involved in the crash
  • Multiple involved insurers

The facts of each truck accident will be unique, but experienced counsel knows what to look for in uncovering the relevant evidence that will comprehensively establish the circumstances of the accident, allowing the victim to negotiate or litigate for full compensation from a position of strength.

The attorneys at Dubin Law Group with offices in Seattle, Everett and Tacoma seek financial compensation for people in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties who are the injured victims of large commercial truck accidents. We also represent the surviving loved ones of those who have died in such crashes.