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Four people were injured in a crash between two tractor-trailers on I-90 five miles east of Sprague. According to the Washington State Patrol officer at the scene, one of the semis jackknifed blocking all four lanes, and the second semi was unable to stop and struck the first semi. One of the trucks was a U.S. Postal truck, and the USPS is sending their crash investigators to the scene.

One of the drivers died, another was airlifted to a local hospital and two others, believed to be passengers of the semi-trucks, were taken to the hospital by ambulance. Slick road conditions were believed to be a factor in the crash.

Semi-Trucks and Slick Roads

Large commercial trucks have enormous mass compared to other vehicles on the roadway. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh upwards of 75,000 lbs while the average car weighs around 4,000 lbs. This means when a semi-truck collides with another object, the damage can be substantial.

According to a report put out by Utah Department of Transportation, an average car going 65 mph takes just under 300 feet (1 football field) to stop while a fully loaded tractor-trailer takes going the same speed takes twice that length. These results are in good road conditions, if the roads are wet, then this can be almost doubled, and when the roads are icy or snowy, then it can take up to 10 times longer.

What can be Done?

All experts agree that the best thing to do in bad weather conditions is to slow down. All stopping distances are shorter when the speed is lower. When driving in rain, slow down, this is common sense, but many don’t do it. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that in wet condition, drivers should slow down by 1/3, and by 1/2 in snowy or icy conditions. This can be frustrating, but it can save lives.

Passengers Injured in Commercial Trucks

Passengers often ride in commercial trucks, sometime to help unload, other times just to get a ride. Many companies have rules governing their truck drivers having passengers with some outright prohibiting them or having to clear any passengers with the company beforehand. The reason for this is the liability for the passenger when there is an accident. This is even made riskier when the road conditions are poor.

So what happens when a passenger gets injured in a commercial truck? A lot of it depends on the circumstances of the crash, but in almost all cases, commercial trucks carry substantial liability insurance. In Washington State, commercial trucks must have coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that covers up to 1 million in property and injury. The same amount is required for uninsured and underinsured which is needed if the at-fault vehicle has no insurance or too little insurance.

Who Pays for the Passengers Injuries?

The primary party responsible is going to be the at-fault driver’s insurance. If it’s another commercial truck, then there should be plenty of insurance to meet most of the injures persons losses. However, if the crash was caused by a car, then there may be insufficient funds, and then the commercial vehicle’s underinsured policy will apply.

There might also be coverage from the commercial truck who wasn’t at fault. In some cases, you might be able to seek compensation from the person who allowed you to ride in the commercial truck. Many people might not be comfortable with this, but if it’s necessary to avoid a severe financial loss, it may be the only choice. Remember, that’s what insurance is for.

Do I need an attorney?

If you are injured as a passenger in a commercial vehicle, you might need an attorney to help you get compensation. While this is not always necessary, insurance companies often will only pay out when forced to by the law. Talk to an attorney who knows the law regarding commercial vehicles and snowy roads and has the experience with insurance companies. The attorneys at  Crary, Clark, Domanico, & Chuang, P.S., have the experienced attorneys trained in the law dealing with inclement weather conditions and personal injury. 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.

CCD Law