Tom Patton

Oregon Personal Injury Attorney

Truck Injuries
Oregon Truck Laws & FAQ
Vancouver Washington truck accident personal injury attorney lawyer Tom Patton

Laws are designed to protect the public however as in the picture above, laws are no guarantee of safety.
Free Initial Consultations • Lake Oswego/Portland Phone: 503-546-3357 • Vancouver Phone: 360-213-0399
  • A traffic accident involving a commercial truck, such as an eighteen-wheeler or other large freight carrier (Semi, Semi-truck, tractor-trailer, rig, etc.), can be much more catastrophic than an ordinary car or light truck accident.  A typical fully-loaded large commercial truck can weigh well over 80,000 pounds, while an average passenger automobile weighs approximately 3,000 pounds.  Because of the size and weight disparities and the laws of physics, any collision between a commercial truck and another vehicle is likely to result in serious or even fatal injuries.  While statistics show that truck drivers are generally much more careful on the road than automobile drivers, large truck crashes still accounted for 5,350 fatalities and 133,000 injuries in 2001.  Thankfully, the incidence of fatal crashes involving trucks and other large vehicles has declined in recent years.
As former Corporate Counsel Attorney for a large trucking company. 
Tom Patton, JD knows the unique issues involved in truck accidents.  You will rest assured knowing a truck attorney expert is on your side.


  • An experienced Oregon truck law attorney can make the difference. Tom Patton is an experienced and aggressive trial lawyer who has tried many jury trials.  He is not afraid to take your case to trial if that is what it takes to maximize the amount of money you recover for your personal injury.  Tom Patton and his staff offer personal, one-on-one service.
  • The unique danger posed by commercial truck accidents can be made worse depending on the nature of the freight the truck is carrying.  For example, if hazardous or flammable materials are on board, secondary injuries attributable to such dangerous cargo can result, including burns and respiratory injuries.
  • You need a personal injury attorney experienced in trucking cases and injuries who will work hard to protect your rights, maximize your settlement, and minimize the hassles of dealing with the trucking company or their insurance company.  You need an attorney with vast experience who has served on both sides of the trucking industry.  You will need an experienced and aggressive truck accident personal injury lawyer who will fight for you.  Having an experienced Oregon personal injury lawyer can make the difference between getting what you deserve and having the company take advantage of you.
  • In the event that you or a loved one is involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries by bringing a legal claim against the responsible parties. This is a free and confidential conversation that you and Tom Patton can have to find out how strong he thinks your case is and what it may be worth to you.
  • Tom Patton handles Portland, throughout Oregon, Vancouver and South West Washington personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis.  This means you don't owe him a fee unless he recovers money for you.  If you do not have a case in Oregon or SW Washington then he will gladly refer you to a personal injury attorney that he trusts in other areas of Washington or throughout the USA. 
Oregon Truck Law Information  
Proving Your Case 
  • As is true in most personal injury cases involving vehicle accidents, the primary legal theory of liability in commercial truck accident cases is "negligence." In a nutshell, a person or business entity (the defendant) is negligent if they failed in their duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, and the plaintiff's injuries resulted from that failure. So, a person injured in a commercial truck accident must show that:
  • Defendant (driver, trucking company, or other party) owed the plaintiff the duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care to avoid injury, under the circumstances. This element is almost always automatically met, by virtue of the fact that all drivers on the road owe a legal duty of reasonable care to fellow drivers, passengers, and pedestrians;
  • Defendant failed to exercise such reasonable care, or in legal terms "breached" the duty of reasonable care;
  • Defendant's failure to exercise reasonable care was the cause of injury suffered by plaintiff.

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Potential Defendants  
  • In order to ensure a complete legal recovery for injuries suffered in an accident involving a commercial vehicle, it is important that you and your attorney identify as many potential defendants as possible. In many such cases, the truck driver may not be the only person or business entity legally responsible for the accident. Trucking companies, contractors, employers, and insurance companies may be obligated to compensate you for your injuries.
  • When a commercial truck accident occurs, if an employment relationship is established between the truck driver and a trucking or shipping company, then that company can be held legally liable for the driver's negligence under a legal theory known as "respondeat superior." Under this liability doctrine, among other things your attorney will need to show that the company exercised some degree of control over the driver, and that the accident occurred while the driver was acting in the course of the employment relationship. Establishing the liability of a third-party company can become problematic when a truck driver is an independent contractor of a larger company. In such a situation, the key issue becomes the amount of supervising done by the company. The potential liability of trucking companies, employers, and contractors is a key factor in assessing recovery through insurance coverage, as all these entities will likely carry separate policies that will apply to the accident.
  • In some rare cases, the manufacturer or shipper of hazardous materials carried by the truck may also be legally responsible for any injuries that were caused or made worse by the type of cargo on board. For example, if a shipper fails to advise a truck driver or trucking company of hazardous material contained in a load of freight, the shipper may be liable for injuries that result if that material catches fire or is released.

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Damages  
  • If you are involved in an accident where a commercial truck driver was at fault, you may be entitled to receive legal compensation for any physical, emotional and financial losses that resulted from the accident. This is a complex area of the law because its is always difficult to place a dollar value on injuries that include death, paralysis, disfigurement, emotional distress, pain and suffering, costs of medical treatment, lost income, and loss of earning capacity.

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More specific damages information  
  • Medical Expenses you've incurred in the past;
  • Medical Expenses you expect to incur in the future;
  • Pain, suffering and mental anguish you've experienced in the past;
  • Pain, suffering and mental anguish you are likely to experience 
  • in the future;
  • Lost wages if you missed work due to your injuries;
  • Lost wages if you are expected to continue to miss work in the future;
  • Loss of wage earning capacity in the past if your injury has prevented you from working at the same level you could have before even if you weren't working at the time;
  • Loss of wage earning capacity in the future if your injury will prevented you from working at the same level you could have before even if you aren't working for the foreseeable future;
  • Physical Impairment in the past, if your injury prevented you from participating in your usual activities;
  • Physical Impairment in the future, if your injury will continue to prevent you from participating in your usual activities;
  • Loss of spousal consortium in the past (damages which would come to your spouse) if you were unable to provide comfort, companionship, counsel, service and advice because of your injuries;
  • Loss of spousal consortium in the future (damages which would come to your spouse) if you will be unable to provide comfort, companionship, counsel, service and advice in the future because of your injuries; and,
  • Scarring and disfigurement, if the accident resulted in such injuries.
There may be other money damages available to you because of your particular injury.  An experienced personal injury attorney can explain to you the types of damages which you may have coming.  Call for a free and confidential initial legal consultation503-546-3357.

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Glossary of Legal Compensation  
  • To get an idea of the types of damages for which legal recovery is possible, browse the following glossary, which defines almost every type of legal compensation available to a plaintiff in a personal injury case.  Remember that an experienced personal injury attorney will explain your options, and will work to ensure that you receive all compensation to which you are entitled under the law in Oregon or Washington.
  • Disfigurement - When an accident or injury has left a person deformed or disfigured, e.g., by scars or other permanent effects on personal appearance, the injured person (the "plaintiff") may be able to collect damages for any mental suffering that arises due to awareness of the disfigurement.  These damages are sometimes included as an element of other types of damages, such as mental anguish.
  • Future medical expenses - This type of recovery is permitted if the plaintiff proves that he or she will need continued medical care as a result of the accident or injury.  The proof must be sufficient for the jury to make an approximate estimate of the cost, i.e. through the medical opinion of a treating doctor.
  • General damages - Compensation for harm that ordinarily results from wrongful conduct, such as physical and mental pain, anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life after an accident or injury.  These damages cannot be proved with any clear specificity, but are awarded based on the fact that they normally follow from an accident or injury.
  • Household services - The cost of hiring somebody to do things around the house while the plaintiff is recuperating from an accident or injury, provided that the expense would not have been incurred had the plaintiff not been injured.  These kinds of damages are sometimes included as part of medical expenses.
  • In assessing and presenting your claim, a skilled Oregon truck accident attorney will consider all aspects of the harm and loss you have suffered as a result of your accident, to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injuries.

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Special Considerations In Truck Accident Cases  
  • The operation of large commercial trucks on highways and roads presents certain unique dangers that are not a consideration where ordinary passenger vehicles are concerned:
  • Jackknifing - Large big-rig vehicles such as eighteen-wheelers are prone to jackknifing under certain conditions, especially during sudden braking and turning.  The fact that a truck jackknifes is not in itself proof of operator negligence, because many accident situations present difficulties in which there is no practical way to avoid jackknifing without risking some other form of catastrophe.  For example, operation of a truck that has jackknifed may be held to be non-negligent where the jackknifing was due to unforeseeable slipperiness of the road, or to an abrupt turn undertaken to avoid a motorist or stalled truck.
  • Turning Accidents - Commercial vehicles are very long, and can be difficult to turn.  It is often necessary for the driver of a commercial vehicle to use two lanes of traffic to make a right turn, in order to avoid running the rear wheels into parked vehicles or over a sidewalk.  While also not a clear cut case of negligence, some courts have held that driving a commercial vehicle in this manner (turning from an inside lane or occupying two lanes) is sufficient to establish the truck driver's fault.

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Getting Legal Help After a Commercial Truck Accident  

  • Any traffic accident involving a commercial truck is likely to result in serious physical injury and property damage.  In the event that you or a loved one are involved in such an accident, after receiving proper medical care you may want to consult an experienced attorney to ensure that any potential legal claim is properly assessed and that your rights are protected.  Especially in light of legal deadlines for filing lawsuits, meeting with an attorney as soon as possible is the best way to protect your rights.

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Oregon Truck Accident Attorney - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)  
  1. What are trucking accidents and how are trucking accidents different from regular car accidents?
  2. Are there special rules that apply to commercial trucks?
  3. If I have been involved in a trucking accident, do I need an attorney or can I handle this myself?
  4. What kind of monetary damages can I recover? Is there anything unique about the issue of damages in a trucking accident compared to other kinds of injuries or accidents?
  5. How much time do I have after a trucking accident to file a lawsuit? What if a minor child was injured?
  6. What are the typical arguments used in trucking accident cases?
  7. How much time does it take for a truck accident case to complete? How long will it take to get my money, if I am successful? Do most truck accident cases settle?
  8. How is fault proved in a trucking accident? What kind of evidence do we need?
  9. A big rig jackknifed and I was injured. Can I recover against the driver of the truck?
  10. If alcohol or other drugs are involved, how does this change the case?
  11. Unbelievably the driver of the truck that hit me had no insurance. What are my options?
  12. What are "no-zone" crashes?
  13. How can I determine how much my case may be worth? Is there a limit? How do I know if I have a good settlement offer?

1. What are trucking accidents and how are trucking accidents different from regular car accidents?  
  • Trucking accidents are collisions involving semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-Wheelers or other commercial vehicles that cause property damage and/or personal injuries. Over the past decade, the number of truck accidents has increased by 10%. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2002, 4,897 individuals died and 130,000 people were injured in crashes that involved a large truck. Because commercial vehicles are larger and heavier than passenger vehicles, trucking accidents typically cause much greater harm. And although large trucks are only responsible for 3% of injury-causing motor vehicle accidents, the sheer size of a truck increases the likelihood of significant and very serious damage to human life and property.
  • Another difference between truck and car accidents is that commercial motor vehicles are almost always operated by an individual possessing specialized training, education and formalized instruction. Truckers should possess a special license for operation of the vehicle and generally will have attended an independent trucking school or form of apprentice training within a trucking company. A driver is required to have certain knowledge, experience and training not required of a standard operator. If a truck driver that caused an accident does not possess the requisite amount of training and experience, a claim might be brought against the trucking company for negligent hiring and/or training. In a typical car accident case, there is no one else to sue if you get hit by an inexperienced driver.
  • Addressing the problems caused by trucking accidents is usually more expensive, complicated and difficult than a typical passenger car collision. Some unique aspects of truck accident causation:
  • Jackknifing: When a truck jackknifes, the driver usually does not have time to react before it is too late. However, the tendency for a truck to jackknife is increased when the front brakes are removed or de-powered. Whichever party is responsible for disabling the front brakes could be partially responsible for damages in an accident caused by jackknifing.
  • Fuel Fires: When a truck catches fire, it is usually because the truck’s diesel fuel came in contact with battery spark. The way to avoid this is protecting the battery from being crushed in an accident. If the battery is located in a position where it is vulnerable, the party responsible for locating there may be responsible for a share of the damages in an explosion accident.
  • Rollovers: Rollovers are one of the major causes of fatalities and injuries in trucking accidents. The many factors that can cause a truck rollover including: driver error (taking a curve too fast, driving too fast, fatigue, inexperience or DUI), truck malfunction (improper load distribution, low tires, brake failure) and highway conditions.
  • Braking: Trucking accidents are frequently caused by brake malfunction. The cause of the malfunction may be pinned on a variety of parties (individually, or in combination): the driver, the company that loaded the truck, the party responsible for maintaining the brakes and the manufacturer of the brakes. Air brakes — the only type of brakes used in large trucks — can only take so much heat. A full stop at 60 mph raises the brake drum temperature to about 600 degrees. That is the limit for safe operation. If the brakes aren’t properly set or maintained or the load is not evenly distributed, the brakes overheat and may malfunction. If the accident is caused by brake failure after a decline in the road, an inexperienced driver may be the cause. If brakes fail, the chances are higher for a greater impact between the truck and the car.

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2. Are there special rules that apply to commercial trucks?  
  • Yes. There are many special rules, regulations and laws. The bulk of federal regulations dealing with the trucking industry can be found within Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations and other federal statutes result in Federal Law applying to trucking accidents (and that may bring a trucking accident case into Federal Court). For example, in January of 2004, the new Hours of Service Rules (rules designed to insure that truck drivers obtain necessary rest and restorative sleep) went into effect. Consequently, if you are in an accident where the driver fell asleep, and you rely on a violation of the Hours of Service Rules, you may end up trying your case in Federal Court. There are also a vast variety of state laws that may apply in a truck accident case. Some of the special rules favor the trucking industry, and offer them some protection and defense from people injured in trucking accidents. Other special rules that apply are designed to reduce risks associated with trucking accidents, for example by requiring that drivers get enough rest, or keep their trucks in good working condition.
  • Trucking accident lawsuits involve a variety of elements absent from typical car accident cases. An important piece of evidence in a trucking accident case is the trucker’s driver’s logs. Federal law requires drivers to record their driving information in structured driver's logs. In a trucking accident case, analysis of the log is critical. Among other things, the drivers log may be used to show violations of Federal hours-of-service regulations, intentional illegal conduct and negligent conduct. In addition to drivers logs, the qualifications of the driver, his/her training, education, experience, traffic violations, physical attributes and mental status are all factors to be considered in the determination of whether the driver and trucking company was in compliance with federal and state regulations.

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3. If I have been involved in a trucking accident, do I need an attorney, or can I handle this myself?  
  • Yes, you need an attorney, and you will be well served to hire a lawyer with experience in trucking accidents cases. If you are inclined not to, we advise at least a consultation with an attorney before negotiating a settlement to learn of your rights, and the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
  • Trucking accident cases are complex, and generally involve significant personal injuries that may have lifelong consequences. Sometimes these injuries are difficult to detect and treat. Additionally, trucking accident cases involve considerable financial ramifications resulting from the magnitude of injuries and property damage. You are also at an extreme disadvantage in terms of knowledge and experience in determining the value of your claim. Keep in mind if you do deal directly with the insurance company without the aid of an attorney, the adjuster owes you no duty to see that you are fairly compensated. There is no magic formula for putting a dollars and cents amount on your injury. As a consequence, you run the risk of devaluing your case and agreeing to settlement terms that give away your rights. An attorney will be able to tell you what your claim is worth, and lead you through the legal process without leaving you wondering what to do next. Moreover, you risk settling your case before you know the full extent of your injury.
  • Furthermore, there are multiple sets of special rules that apply to trucking accidents, a factor which raises their complexity. Finally, trucking companies and there insurance carriers will provide their driver with an experienced trucking attorney paid handsomely to minimize the amount of money you recover from your crash.
  • Finally, the trucking industry involves a vast web of players who may be in some way responsible for some aspect of the injuries arising from an accident. For example, trucking companies frequently lease equipment, tractors and trailers from other vendors. These leases often provide for maintenance, repair and inspections to be performed by the vendor or a designated contractor. Furthermore, many trucking company hire independent employment leasing contractors to furnish qualified drivers. Any one of these parties could be a defendant in a trucking accident lawsuit. One of the areas in which personal injury attorneys excel is finding out who is responsible, and who has the money.
  • With trucking injury cases you want to negotiate from a position of strength. A lawyer will give you clout.

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4. What kind of monetary damages can I recover? Is there anything unique about the issue of damages in a trucking accident compared to other kinds of injuries or accidents?  
  • The law permits you to seek recovery after an accident to "make you whole again." The central concept is that you should be compensated in a manner that, as best as the law can arrange, places you back in the same position as you were before the accident.
  • A person who has been negligently injured in a truck accident can sue for all of the injuries and their consequences that arise from the accident. Economic Damages include costs associated with the injury now and in the future (medical care, rehabilitation, nursing home care, domestic services); loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity.
  • An injured person is additionally entitled to Non-Economic Damages for physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional suffering, inconvenience, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium (diminishment of relations with your spouse). In many states there are limits on the amount of non-economic damages available to negligently injured individuals.
  • In addition to damages that are awarded to the injured patient, the injury victim’s family may recover compensation for loss of care, companionship, love and affection by way of a Loss of Consortium claim.
  • In addition to normal compensatory damages designed to make someone whole, in extreme cases, Punitive Damages are available if someone acted in bad faith, or with the intent to cause harm, while some laws allow for special doubling or tripling of damages under certain circumstances (i.e., drunk driving). While theoretically there is no limit to punitive damages, excessive amounts are often later reduced. It should also be kept in mind that many insurance companies exclude coverage for punitive damages. If this is the case, and the driver has punitive damages exclusion in his insurance policy, it is likely that the defendant will apply pressure on its carrier to pay more in settlement so that the defendant is not exposed to punitive risk.
  • Perhaps the most unique aspect of trucking accident injury damages is that the injuries in a trucking accident case tend to be extensive. A loaded semi weighs somewhere around 80,000 pounds or more. Most cars weigh approximately 3,000 pounds. Consequently, injuries to the occupants of the car tend to be serious. Because of the greater likelihood of significant injury, truckers are required to carry insurance with higher liability limits. Therefore, compared to an automobile accident, there tends to be more money available to pay out for damages.

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5. How much time do I have after a trucking accident to file a lawsuit? What if a minor child was injured?  
  • Every state has time limits, contained in "statutes of limitations," which control the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you miss the deadline for filing your case, you claim may be dismissed. The clock may begin to run either after the crash or after you learn of your injuries, and may be a number of months or years. To learn how much time you have to file your suit, contact an attorney at once who will review the timing deadline that applies in your case.
  • When a minor child is involved in a trucking accident, the time period for filing the lawsuit may be extended. In some states, the time period in which to file a lawsuit starts when the child reaches the age of 18. For example, in a state where the 2 year statute of limitation is “tolled” until the child reaches majority, even though the child was injured at 3 years, she would have until she reached the age of 20 to file the lawsuit.
  • Just because there is a long period of time before a lawsuit must be filed does not mean that you should wait. There are many details that need to be dealt with as quickly as possible. For example, an attorney can help you document your injuries, secure evidence, identify potential defendants, and establish insurance policy coverage and the policy limits. Many times a case can be negotiated and settled before the attorney even files a lawsuit.

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6. What are the typical arguments used in trucking accident cases?  
  • One of the more common defenses in a trucking accident case is that the driver of the passenger vehicle caused the accident. Because of their enormous size and slow maneuverability, large trucks have significant limitations when it comes to responding quickly to the action(s) of another motorist. Consequently, if the passenger car does any of the following, the fact of the action will be used to defend the truck driver:
  • Driving left of center into opposing traffic
  • Unsafe passing
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Failing to stop for a stop sign or light
  • Following too closely
  • Driving over the speed limit
  • Driving inattentively
  • Driving in “no zones” (needs to be linked to question below)
  • Improperly merging in front of a truck
  • If the trucking company is sued under a legal concept known as “respondent superior” (the company is liable by virtue of its employment of the driver), the company will frequently argue that it was not an employer of the trucker, but instead that the trucker was an independent contractor. If the driver was an employee, the trucking company may try to show that the accident occurred while the driver was not acting within the scope of his job duties — for example, that he was using the truck for personal reasons. If successful in this defense, the injured party would still be able to proceed against the truck driver and his insurer.
  • Many times trucking, hauling and leasing companies argue among themselves on the issue of whose insurance is going to compensate the victim. The trucking, hauling and leasing company may try to show that the accident was caused by the other party. For example, the truck company might claim that the accident was caused by a defect in the brakes. The brake company would come back and point the finger at the leasing company, claiming that the leasing company failed to maintain the brakes in good working order. A defendant in a lawsuit will usually do whatever is possible to try to shift liability from itself to another party.

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7. How much time does it take for a truck accident case to complete? How long will it take to get my money, if I am successful? Do most truck accident cases settle?  
  • The amount of time needed to finish your case depends on your particular circumstances. Cases take from a few months to over a year or longer to fully investigate, prepare and present to a judge or jury. Because of the larger amounts of damages involved in a truck accident case, the trucking insurers are more likely to authorize the vigorous defense of the case. For this reason, truck accident cases generally take longer to resolve than an auto accident case. Some cases are appealed after a decision is reached at the trial level, and that process can add several months, or more. Most cases settle before going to trial, so that both sides can avoid the extensive delay involved in preparing and presenting their case.
  • Whether a case settles or goes to trial, the attorneys for both sides need some time to discover all of the facts of the case, explore all the relevant laws, claims and defenses, and advise their clients. A significant factor in how much time a case takes is the people involved; for personal, legal and financial reasons, some people choose to move quickly through the court systems, while others seek to cause delay.
  • How long it takes to get your verdict or settlement money will depend on a number of factors. How quickly the particular insurer pays claim is the first variable. Both verdicts and settlement agreements have a date by which the insurer must pay. Because the agreement is an enforceable contract, the insurer will generally pay within the time designated. If there is no insurer and you must depend on an individual, there is no telling how long it could take. If he or she does not pay within the agreed time, it means another action to collect the judgment . Beyond the time period to which the parties agree, the factors include:
  • How many insurers/payors are there? The more there are the more complicated payment is and the more complicated it is, the longer it takes.
  • Are there outstanding liens? The liens against the settlement or judgment have to be settled before you get your money.
  • Are there portions of the claim that are not resolved? If so, the claims must be settled.
  • Are the medical bills or attorney fees in dispute?
  • All of these issues can result in a delay in payment.

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8. How is fault proved in a trucking accident? What kind of evidence do we need?  
  • Determining who was at fault in a trucking accident can be a complicated process. When liability is clear, the chances of a quick settlement are more likely. If it looks like you have a 50-50 chance of wining, or are partially at fault, or have questionable damages, the insurance company will determine whether it is going to cost them more to defend the case, or just get rid of it with a quick settlement. When that is the case, the settlement offer will be as low as possible. In order to bring that amount up to what is fair requires evidence. The evidence necessary to prove fault will depend on the parties in the case and the roles they played in contributing to the accident that caused your injuries. Although you may personally be able to collect some of the evidence that will establish fault — photographs of your car, statements from witnesses, a diary of your own recollection of the cause of the accident — you are wiser to put the majority of evidence collection in the hands of an experienced attorney.
  • Insurance companies have experienced lawyers and a lot of capital. Attempting to prove fault on your own without the aid of a truck accident lawyer is foolhardy. Trucking accident insurers are experts at defending trucking accidents — that is what they do all the time. It is common practice in this industry to have a team of in-house collision experts (attorneys, investigators) whose sole task is to investigate and prepare a defense immediately following an accident. They know which experts (such as accident reconstruction experts, computer graphics technicians, forensics specialists, metallurgist, certified safety specialists) to hire to show that their insured was not at fault in any given accident. You need an experienced trucking accident lawyer to level the playing field.
  • Through the process of litigation, your lawyer will collect evidence of fault: trucking logs, eyewitness accounts, the driver’s log, cellular phone log, communication log between driver and the company, driver’s safety record, safety rating, driver’s personnel file, out-of service inspection, driver’s qualifications, training experience, etc. Your lawyer will also try to establish fault by asking the driver and the driver’ s employer questions in interrogatories and in depositions. For example, your attorney might focus on the following issues, to establish the fault of the following parties:
  • Negligent hiring claim against the company: Did the company know about the driver’s bad driving record when he was hired?
  • Negligent hiring claim against the company: What was the driver’s experience level when he was hired?
  • Negligence claim against the driver: Were alcohol or drugs involved?
  • Negligence claim against the company: Was the truck overloaded or improperly loaded?
  • Products liability claim against the brake manufacturer or negligence claim against the leasing company or trucking company: Did the brakes malfunction?
  • If necessary, your trucking accident lawyer may hire an accident reconstruction expert, or other experts to establish the fault of the driver. All of this evidence will be used in settlement negotiations with the insurance company. To maximize your recovery, you need as much evidence in your favor as possible.

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9. A big rig jackknifed and I was injured. Can I recover against the driver of the truck?  
  • If you can prove that the driver was negligent, absolutely.
  • However, just because a truck jackknifes doesn’t automatically mean that the driver was negligent. The driver may not have been at fault because of road conditions, because he or she was trying to avoid another car, or because the jackknife was caused by some inherent problem with the truck.
  • Proceeding only against the truck driver may not be your best strategy. There may be other potential parties to sue, such as the trucking company, a contractor of the trucking company, the employer or the driver, or the manufacturer or distributor of a faulty truck part (a product liability case). It may also be a public entity such as a town, city, county or state for negligent design of a road. An experienced trucking accident attorney will turn up other potential defendants to file claims against or name in a lawsuit.

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10. If alcohol or other drugs are involved, how does this change the case?  
  • The settlement’s dynamic changes: Anyone who drives a car or a large truck must exercise reasonable care while driving. When the driver does not, it is considered negligent. In most states, if a truck driver is operating his or her vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she is automatically considered negligent.
  • The important issue then in whether the drinking caused the accident. If the car driver was drinking when hit by the truck, the focus will be whether the truck driver was negligent at all. If the truck driver was negligent, the automobile driver who was under the influence would most likely have his or her damages reduced by an amount proportional to how much his or her own negligence was a cause of the accident. Most states have “comparative negligence” or “comparative fault” laws. This means that your damages will be diminished by the percentage of your damages you caused to yourself. So, if your damages are determined to be $10,000, but because you were drinking, you are considered 50% at fault, the truck driver (or his insurer) will only be responsible for paying $5,000 of your damages.
  • The problem with drinking and driving (settlement-wise) is that a drunk driver doesn’t make a very sympathetic plaintiff. For example, let’s say that the injured party was drinking. He cuts off a semi that is speeding. Was the truck driver not speeding, he would have been able to avoid hitting the other car. However, the insurance company knows that the drunk driver is not going to make a sympathetic witness, if the case were ever to go to court. They also know that juries are less sympathetic to drivers who are breaking the law (DUI or DUII). The insurance company knows that it can offer a lower amount, and that the plaintiff will not be able to put his strongest case forward. Consequently, the ability to obtain a high settlement in a case like this is unlikely.
  • Of course, the reverse is true if the truck driver was drinking. Very strict rules apply to commercial drivers. Typically, most states have a legal limit of .08 BAC for car drivers, but .04 BAC or less for commercial drivers. If the truck driver was drinking, it may also open the door to punitive damages. punitive damages are typically awarded for "gross negligence," which is a greater level of negligence than the typical "ordinary negligence." The specter of punitive damages can also effect settlement posture.

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11. Unbelievably the driver of the truck that hit me had no insurance. What are my options?  
  • You can always proceed against the truck driver. Unfortunately, the driver probably won’t have enough money to make the case worthwhile. There may be other defendants who share the driver’s liability, however. Some potential defendants would be:
  • (1) The trucking company.
    • Federal law requires that trucks carry insurance. If the trucking company knowingly let the driver operate without insurance, you may have an action against the trucking company.
    • If you can establish that the driver was an employee of a trucking company and that the accident occurred while the driver was acting during the course of employment, the employer may be found liable for your injuries under a legal theory called "respondeat superior."
    • Federal law requires that trucks carry insurance. If the trucking company knowingly let the driver operate without insurance, you may have an action against the trucking company.
    • If you can establish that the driver was an employee of a trucking company and that the accident occurred while the driver was acting during the course of employment, the employer may be found liable for your injuries under a legal theory called "respondeat superior."
  • (2) The shipper or truck manufacturer.
    • If your injuries were caused by hazardous materials on board, the shipper or manufacturer may be liable for some of your damages.
  • (3) The truck manufacturer.
    • If the accident was caused by a defect in the truck, then you may have a cause of action against the truck manufacturer or the manufacturer of its component parts.
  • (4) The party that performed truck repairs.
    • If a truck mechanic failed to properly repair the truck and that failure caused the accident, the person who improperly repaired the truck or his/her employer, may be liable for your injuries.
  • (5) The government entity.
    • A government entity may be at fault if your injury was caused by poor road maintenance, faulty signage, lighting, utility pole and tree placement, etc.
    • An experienced Washington truck accident attorney will know how to find all of the potential parties who may be responsible for your injuries, even if you can not recover from the truck driver individually.

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12. What are “no-zone” crashes?  
  • A “no-zone” is an area where a passenger car disappears from the truck driver’s view. There are front, side, rear, backing up and right turn no-zones. Studies show that accidents between cars and large trucks are 60% more likely to occur when a car is in a no-zone. Because the government has been educating the public on defensive driving in no-zones since 1991, and because many trucks have warnings on them regarding the driver not being able to see a car in its no-zones, there is a good possibility that the defense will raise the point against the injured driver in a no-zone accident case. Although it may be raised as a defense, however, being a car in a no-zone will not eliminate your chance of recovery against a truck driver that does not see you. The truck driver is still negligent for failing to see your car.

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13. How can I determine how much my case may be worth? Is there a limit? How do I know if I have a good settlement offer?  
  • Because trucking accident injuries tend to be more serious and the insurance coverage higher, trucking accident settlements tend to be higher than typical car accident settlements.
  • How much your case is worth will depend on what kind of damages you will be able to recover. Every injury, every injured person, every accident and every case is different and deserves a thorough evaluation. Two people can have the same injury and one can suffer little while the other suffers a great deal; or one offers better proof than the other with more complete documentation or better witnesses. Moreover, the value of a trucking accident lawsuit is as much determined by the area in which the case is filed, as it is by the injuries involved. A jury in New York City or San Francisco, for instance, might award the same injured person a great deal more money than a jury in a small town in Tennessee or Iowa. Two different juries, even in the same county, may react very differently.
  • In general, the difference between your quality of life before the trucking accident as compared to after the accident will play a significant role in the damages you recover.
  • Economic Damages - damages that are quantifiable - are fairly easy to estimate. In general, there is no limit to economic damages. Economic damages include past and future loss of earnings, past and future medical expenses, and other expenses associated with the injury. The value of these damages can significantly affect the total of your settlement. For example, if you are an investment banker making millions a year, your loss of future income is going to be a significant figure. On the other hand, if you are a retired elementary school teacher, your loss of future income will not. Likewise, if you are seventy years old and have broken your leg, your past and future medical expenses will be far lower than those of a nineteen year old who suffers a debilitating spinal cord injury that is going require life-long, around the clock nursing.
  • “Non-economic damages” - often referred to as “pain and suffering” damages — can vary widely from jury to jury and from state to state. Some states have put a limit on non-economic damages. So in states that limit pain and suffering you might only be able to recover $250,000 in pain and suffering, while in states such as Oregon or Washington that do not limit pain and suffering damages, your non-economic damages may be worth $1.5 million. (Oregon limits damages allowed for wrongful death).
  • In most trucking accident cases, past case law, settlements and court decisions dealing with similar injuries are used as guideposts to determine settlement value ranges. Additionally, the insurance company will place a value on your injury, based on similar injuries it has dealt with. For example, a serious head injury may be “worth” $500,000 to $750,000, while a spinal cord injury would be valued at $1.2 million to $1.5 million.
  • Whether your settlement value will be on the higher or lower end of a possible range of settlement values depends on a variety of issues. To arrive at a fair settlement, one needs to look at the strength of the case and amount of fault, the local practice and precedent, the severity of the injury and how long it will continue, how clear the tie is between the accident and the injury/symptoms, how bad the defendant is and who it is, how much insurance there is, who the lawyer is and how well he or she negotiates, and how desperate the injured is to settle the case. There is also the subjective element: the sympathy of the jury, demeanor, the appearance of the injured, juror perceptions, makeup of the jury, and so forth.
  • Based on these factors, an experienced truck accident attorney will know the settlement value of your case from the perspective of the insurance company, and the amount the case might return if it went before a jury. All of these considerations will drive the negotiations and ultimate settlement your attorney will work for on your behalf.
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Oregon Truck Accident Attorney Serving the following counties and cities in the State of Oregon:

  • Multnomah County • Washington County • Clackamas County • Yamhill County • Columbia County • Hood River County • Wasco County • Marion County • Linn County • Lane County • Josephine County • Jackson County • Douglas County • Clatsop County • Tillamook County
  • Portland • Gresham • Salem • Eugene • Beaverton • Hillsboro • Medford • Bend • Springfield • Albany • Aloha • Corvallis • Keizer • Grants Pass • Lake Oswego • McMinnville • Milwaukie • Oregon City • Roseburg • Tigard • Tualatin • West Linn • Woodburn • Troutdale • St. Helens • Vernonia • Yamhill • Hood River • The Dalles • Pendleton • Ontario • Astoria • Seaside • Umatilla • Cottage Grove • Monmouth • Lincoln City • Central Oregon • Eastern Oregon • Southern Oregon • Oregon Coast

Referrals to Qualified Personal Injury Attorneys in other States:

If you are looking for an experienced truck accident attorney in any other state, please email me as I may be able to refer you to an experienced attorney at no charge to you. Tom Patton, JD can refer you to a qualified personal injury attorney in all 50 states for truck accidents.


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