Truck Accidents Are Increasing in Washington, Here’s How To Stay Safe

semi truck accidents increasing

The Increasing Presence of Semi-Trucks on Roadways

As we approach the bustling summer months, the number of semi-trucks and large trailers navigating the U.S. roadway system is on the rise. These “big rigs,” due to their sheer size and weight, pose a significant risk of causing severe injuries or even fatalities in the event of a truck accident. With many tractor-trailer trucks stretching up to 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 40 tons, the potential for disastrous collisions with average passenger vehicles, which typically weigh around 5,000 pounds, becomes starkly evident.

The Complexities of Safety and Big Truck Accidents

The operational characteristics of semi-trucks, including the extended distance required for them to come to a complete stop, further complicate safety issues. These vehicles need significantly longer stopping distances than passenger cars, particularly under adverse weather conditions such as wet roads or the presence of snow and ice. The statistics are sobering, with approximately 500,000 large truck accidents occurring annually in the U.S., increasingly culminating in fatalities.

Driver Factors Contributing to Truck Accidents

A troubling aspect of these accidents is the role of driver fatigue, estimated to be a factor in 87% of truck accidents, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Additionally, the use of opioids by truck drivers is emerging as a significant hazard to highway safety. The variability in driver experience and training also contributes to the risk, with many large trucking companies struggling to fill positions with qualified individuals.

Personal Experience: A Case Study on the Consequences of Truck Accidents

The dangers of speeds too fast for conditions were clear in a case I handled involving a 20-vehicle chain reaction collision on I-82 east of Ellensburg, just east of the Ryegrass rest stop.

My client was a 26-year-old Hispanic farm worker from Yakima.  He was a backseat passenger on his way to work at an orchard near Vantage about 6:30 a.m. in December.  It was a typical cold winter day.  As their car headed eastbound down the long hill from the Ryegrass rest stop to the Columbia River, it was foggy and the fog began to freeze.

Two semi-trucks traveling ahead of our client were traveling too fast and lost control when they tried to stop.  Our client’s driver switched lanes and tried to go around a semi blocking the right lane but another semi had lost control ahead of it and blocked that lane.  The driver hit one of the trucks blocking the freeway, causing a huge truck accident.

Our client was injured when another truck approached from behind traveling too fast for conditions, couldn’t stop, and smashed into his van.  Several other trucks piled into our client’s vehicle and the trucks blocking the road.  Ultimately some 20 vehicles were involved in the pileup.  Most of them were large trucks.

The crashes sent 11 people to the hospital.  We represented the most seriously injured of these.  He suffered multiple fractures in his neck leaving him a quadriplegic with no control of his arms, legs, bladder or bowel.  He required a tracheotomy and respirator to breathe.  He was hospitalized for 10 weeks in Yakima, where he underwent spinal surgery, and then spent another 12 weeks in rehabilitation at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Our client wasn’t able to return to work and required around-the-clock care.  His past medical expenses totaled $812,000.

Abeyta Nelson Injury Law filed a lawsuit against five drivers, four of whom were truck drivers.  All the drivers blamed someone else.  Shortly before trial, four of the drivers settled, paying a total of $4.1 million.  The settlement provided for our client’s lost wages and costs of care for the rest of his life.  The settlement will allow him to live independently in his own home with dignity. This settlement was the largest in Kittitas County history.

You can’t be sure you’ll never be involved in a big truck crash.  But, as a driver, you should do everything possible to avoid it by traveling at a safe speed, reducing your speed for unusual road conditions, leaving plenty of following distance, staying out of the truck’s “blind spot” on its passenger side, and anticipate trucks making sudden lane changes to pass slower moving trucks ahead of them.

Hiring a Yakima Truck Accident Attorney

While it is impossible to guarantee avoidance of a truck accident, drivers can take certain precautions such as adhering to safe speeds, maintaining adequate following distances, and being aware of trucks’ blind spots. In the unfortunate event of a collision involving a large truck, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law offers experienced legal representation, emphasizing that there is no attorney fee unless a favorable outcome is achieved.

Send us a message or give us a phone call at 509-588-0240 to get started now.

– written by Terry P. Abeyta, Senior Attorney, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law


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