Trucking is the lifeblood of the American economy. That fact was readily apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic when consumers throughout Washington and across the country relied on the trucking industry to deliver all the products consumers needed to survive. While truckers are often paid well for their services, truckers also place their life and their health at risk on a pretty constant basis.
A recent report by Trucks.com confirmed that trucking, according to federal data on deaths in the workplace, is a very deadly occupation. The National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries disclosed that more than one in seven of workplace deaths occurred while working occurred in the heavy-duty trucking sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 843 trucker fatalities in 2019 – the most recent year covered. That number is an increase over the 831 deaths reported in 2019. 2014 had the highest number of reported trucking deaths in recent history, when 880 truckers died.
The number of trucking industry deaths increases to 1,005 fatalities if light-duty trucks are added to the count.
Why is trucking such a dangerous occupation?
Steve Williams is the chief executive of Maverick USA and the president of The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security. He said that there are simply too many injuries and deaths on the American highways. The goal should be zero fatalities. Williams identified the following factors that would help reduce deaths in the trucking industry:
- Better road infrastructure to reduce traffic hazards. Williams didn’t identify whether any of the infrastructure proposals being discussed in the US Congress and by the Biden Administration address this concern.
- Advanced driver assistance systems. Technology that would help drivers with blind-spot detection and “forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking” will help reduce fatalities.
- Reducing drunk driving. Too many drivers stop for a few beers or other drinks and then get back into their trucks and onto the highways. Drunk drivers can’t respond to emergencies and often create their own emergency situations. The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security “supports expanding the federal driver Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse database to include drug test failures of all commercial truck drivers, including those who operate delivery trucks and box trucks.”
- Hair follicle drug testing. Williams said these tests are much more accurate than urine tests for detecting the presence of drugs. “A University of Central Arkansas study found that compared with urine analysis more rigid hair drug testing would remove as many as 300,000 truckers from the profession.”
- Better law enforcement. Williams says that tougher law enforcement and better education are needed to address distracted driving. Too many truck drivers and non-truck drivers text while driving, talk on the phone while driving, and do other tasks such as eating while driving – that distract the driver from being alert to dangers and being able to respond to those dangers. Distracted drivers don’t have their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel, and their mind on the traffic conditions. Williams stated, “All the safety technology in the world can’t fix stupid.”
Who is responsible for a fatal trucking accident caused by anyone other than the truck driver?
If a trucker dies in a trucking accident due to the negligence of other drivers, then the family of the trucker has the right to file a wrongful death claim against the drivers of the other vehicles and the owners of the vehicles operated by those drivers. The wrongful death claim beneficiaries are:
- The spouse
- A state-registered domestic partner,
- The children of the deceased truck driver
Otherwise, the beneficiaries include the parents and siblings of the deceased truck driver
Wrongful death damages include:
- The decedent’s medical expenses
- The funeral and burial costs
- The income the truck driver would have earned but for the wrongful death
- Any pain and suffering of the decedent prior to death
- The cost of any property damage such as the damage to the truck
- The value of the companionship, care, and other noneconomic losses of the beneficiaries due to the wrongful death
If the fatal truck accident is due to a defective truck part the family of the truck driver can file a product liability claim against the manufacturer, distributor, and seller of the defective truck part.
The family of the truck driver may also have a workers’ compensation claim against his/her employer. We work with experienced Washington workers’ compensation lawyers.
Who is liable for a fatal trucking accident caused by the truck driver?
If the truck driver caused the fatal crash, then anyone else who is injured (such as other drivers or passengers in any vehicle) can file a personal injury (or wrongful death claim) against:
- The truck driver (or the truck driver’s estate, if the driver dies)
- The owners of the truck
- The trucking company that hired the truck driver
- A trucking broker that arranged the truck delivery
- Any other responsible parties
Survivors can demand damages for their medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage. If another person was killed in addition to the truck driver, that person’s family can file a wrongful death claim against everyone who is responsible for the truck accident.
At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver and Battle Ground, Washington truck accident lawyers have a strong track record of success negotiating just settlements and obtaining verdicts against all responsible parties on behalf of the victims of truck accidents and their families. We understand how complicated these cases can be. That’s why we often work with investigators, physicians, financial professionals, and product safety experts to hold responsible people and businesses liable for your damage. If you were hurt in a truck accident or a loved one was killed, call our offices at 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form to discuss your case.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.