Below are some answers to questions frequently encountered by the Tacoma attorneys at Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler, L.L.P. as they represent the victims of car and commercial vehicle accidents in Washington's Puget Sound area. We hope the following information provides you with useful information. If you have other questions or need advice or representation in a specific matter, please contact our office for a free consultation regarding how we may be able to help.
Q. What should I do in the event of an accident?
A. Obviously, the most important thing to do is to make sure you are okay. Seek appropriate medical care for yourself and anyone else who has been injured at the scene by calling 9-1-1 or administering first aid if appropriate. You should also follow up with your doctor for a more thorough medical examination as soon as possible after the accident; some injuries are not immediate apparent, but need to be diagnosed and treated at the earliest possible stage to prevent or minimize further complications.
While at the scene of the accident, exchange information with the other driver. Be sure to obtain the person's insurance, registration and driver's license information, if available. Also, obtain contact information from any witnesses. If possible, take notes or pictures regarding the scene, such as the damage to the vehicles and other property, the angle of the vehicles, skid marks, etc.
In an injury-causing accident, the police should be called to make a report. If you have been involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer, you may not be in shape to talk to police at the scene, although the truck driver may be able to. In that case, be sure and obtain a copy of the police report once you are able, and check to see that the facts were accurately represented.
Finally, contact an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced, established firm will dispatch its own investigators to the scene to gather and preserve evidence before it is lost. Your attorney will also be able to advise you on the steps you should take to make sure your medical and other needs are taken care of, while pursuing appropriate legal avenues to make sure you are fairly compensated for your injuries.
Q. Can I still recover if the other driver did not have insurance?
A. All drivers in the state of Washington are required by law to carry liability insurance or proof of financial responsibility sufficient to cover $25,000 for personal injury to one person, $50,000 for personal injuries to multiple parties, and $10,000 in property damage. Despite this law, many drivers choose to operate their vehicles without carrying liability insurance. In this case, if you have Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, your insurance policy may compensate you for your damages to the limits of your policy. Insurance companies are required by law to offer UM/UIM coverage, although drivers are not required to purchase it and often decline coverage to save money on their premiums.
Whether the other driver is fully covered, partially covered, or uninsured, you may be able to institute a civil lawsuit against the driver personally, and if a judgment is entered against the defendant, there are many different ways to collect that judgment from the assets or wages of the responsible party. Your attorney will be able to discover the financial condition of the defendant and advise you appropriately. At Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler, L.L.P., we represent clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning that our fee is based on a percentage of what we collect for you. If we are not able to secure a settlement or verdict, we do not charge a fee.
Q. How long can truck drivers operate their vehicle without a break?
A. The federal government has published regulations governing hours of service for drivers, ostensibly to reduce the possibility of fatigued driving and encourage safety on the road. However, the trucking industry lobby has the ability to exert influence on these regulations. Generally speaking, a trucker can be on duty for up to 14 hours, including 11 hours behind the wheel. A driver could be required to work seven or eight of these 14-hour days in a row, and the trucking company would still be in compliance with all regulations. Also, many drivers are not covered by the federal regulations at all. Our lawyers possess in-depth knowledge regarding the laws and regulations surrounding 18-wheelers, and can help you determine whether the federal regulations are applicable and if they have been followed or broken in a particular instance.