A semi-truck hauling lumber hit a car sending some of its cargo into a third car. The Idaho State Police report that a 54-year-old woman was driving a Dodge pickup southbound on Atlas road and didn’t stop at a stop sign at the intersection of State Highway 53 and Atlas Rd. A semi-truck hauling lumber westbound on Highway 53 hit the Dodge pickup causing the back trailer to turn over scattering its load of lumber with some of it hitting a Subaru Legacy.
The drivers of the Legacy was seriously injured and had to be taken to a local hospital along with the driver of the Dodge pickup. That accident happened around 4 p.m. on February 4 closing the highway for a couple of hours.
A semi-truck weighs around 35,000 lbs., and can have a gross maximum weight when loaded up to 80,000 lbs. Once a semi-truck gets moving, it can be extremely dangerous. The average car weighs around 3,500 lbs. giving the semi-truck a significant advantage in a collision. When the two collide, it usually doesn’t go well for the car.
The trailers themselves weight around 10,000 empty and as much as 50,000 lbs. fully loaded, and it doesn’t take much to overturn a moving trailer.
Commercial Trucks and Liability
In the U.S., when a vehicle is involved in an accident, the at-fault driver/owner of the vehicle is liable to pay for all the damages which includes things like medical bills, lost wages, disability and personal property damage.
Most people don’t have the ability to just shell out thousands of dollars if they are at-fault in an accident. To prepare for this, people get insurance that will pay out if they are at fault in an accident. Most states, including Idaho and Washington, require that the drivers licensed in that state have automobile insurance.
This is also true of commercial trucks, but their insurance requirements are governed by the federal government because trucks travel from state-to-state. The national average for a required minimum automobile insurance policy is around 35,000. However, because of their size, mass and cargo, commercial trucks are required to carry much higher policy minimums.
The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration sets the minimums based on the type of cargo.
- Non-hazardous freight under 10k lbs: Requires $300,000 minimum policy
- Non-hazardous freight over 10k lbs: Requires $750,000 minimum policy
- Crude Oil/ Petroleum: Requires $1,000,000 minimum policy
- Other hazardous freight: Requires $5,000,000 minimum policy
Most freight companies and private independent contractors carry much more with the average coverage for non-hazardous freight being over $1,000,000.
Who is at Fault?
So when is a commercial driver at fault? This is a complicated question that has many answers depending on the circumstances. Generally speaking, any driver that operates a vehicle negligently—meaning acting in a manner so that others could no proceed in safety—and causes an accident is liable for the damages.
However, commercial trucks also have to load their trucks, secure their load and haul their load with the same requirement. This means that a truck driver might not be the cause of the collision, but if the load wasn’t secured properly, then the insurance company for the driver may have to pay for the damages if the load came loose in the collision.
So in a case where the truck hits another car that ran a red light causing the load to come loose and injure someone, then the car that ran the red light is responsible for the injuries that come from the collision, and the truck is liable for the damage its cargo did if the cargo was loaded or hauled negligently.
Do I need an Attorney?
If you are involved in a crash where there were injuries and damage involving a commercial semi-truck, you should definitely talk to an attorney. Determining negligence can be complicated especially if there are more than one other vehicle involved. You should at least speak to an attorney who can give you unbiased advice regarding your unique circumstances.
If you deice on getting representation, choosing the right attorney is vital to your chances of getting fair compensation. Crary, Clark, Domanico, & Chuang, P.S., serve clients in Spokane, WA, Coeur d’Alene, ID, and surrounding communities. They can go toe-to-toe with the insurance companies and their lawyers to get you fair compensation for your injuries. Call them at (509) 926 4900, or send them a message by clicking here.