Truck Accidents Attorney in Denver, Colorado
Large trucks, which go by the terms big rigs, semis, tractor-trailers, and 18-wheelers, are behemoths of the road, coming in at 80,000 pounds or so when loaded. In comparison, an average passenger vehicle may weigh around 4,000 pounds. Thus, the impact of a big rig on the road can be devastating.
According to the research website Policy Advice, truck accidents across the country have risen 52 percent since 2009, accounting for 74 percent of fatalities in collisions with passenger vehicles. The stats also show that some 160,000 individuals each year suffer from injuries in accidents with trucks, ranging from whiplash to broken bones and back and neck injuries. Colorado is home to a large uptick in traffic fatalities in general, which reached 672 in 2021, the highest number since 2002.
If you or a loved one has been injured—or worse, lost a life—in a collision with a large truck in or around Denver, contact our personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Malcolm B. Seawell. An accident with a big rig can be much more complicated than a simple fender-bender with another car, as there can be multiple parties responsible. Let us sort through the details and advise you of your best options going forward.
Law Offices of Malcolm B. Seawell proudly serves clients throughout the Denver Metro area, including Aurora, Golden, Lakewood, Arvada, Boulder, Brighton, Englewood, Castle Rock, Littleton, Highlands Ranch, and the rest of Colorado.
Laws Regarding Trucking
Operations & Driving Standards
Federal regulations govern the operations of commercial vehicles that are conducting interstate commerce. They are monitored and enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates everything from the qualification of drivers to maintenance standards to hours of service (HOS).
Hours of service refer to the time a driver can be behind the wheel or otherwise performing job-related duties on a daily and weekly basis. Drivers are limited to 14 hours of service (HOS) maximum, with 10 hours of rest, within a 24-hour period. Of those 14 hours, only 11 can be spent behind the wheel. In a 7-day period, work totals cannot exceed 60 hours maximum (or 70 if the truck sits idle for a day).
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) regulates intrastate trucking operations. The department generally follows the FMCSA standards regarding hours of service.
Who Can Be Liable for
a Trucking Accident?
Here’s where a trucking accident can become more complex and involved than a wreck between two passenger drivers, in which one driver is clearly at fault. If you’re struck by a large truck, the assumption is that it’s no doubt the driver’s fault. This may well prove to be the case. Perhaps the driver was fatigued or distracted—but other entities and factors may come into play.
First, it’s important to remember that these drivers generally work for a trucking company. If the parent company pushes the driver to exceed the hours-of-service limitations or rushes the driver into the field without proper training or qualifications, then the trucking company may be liable as well.
What if the accident were caused by brakes that malfunctioned or a tire that blew? This brings into the picture the maintenance crew that is responsible for keeping the truck in top operating shape. Perhaps they shrugged off a braking issue, or saw a tire in need of replacement and ignored the potential danger. They could be held liable as well. When it comes to brakes and other important mechanical features of a truck, perhaps even the manufacturer or supplier used below-standard parts. They could also be liable. Even the cargo loaders could be responsible if they didn’t load or secure the cargo properly, making the truck hard to navigate and control. The cargo itself may even cause an accident if it spills out.
In other words, you will need the services of an attorney experienced in trucking accidents to help you determine who can be held liable. You may end up with multiple claims for one accident.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
First, you’ll probably want to file a claim with the truck driver’s insurance company or through your insurer, who will then seek a subrogation claim against the other insurance company. If that proves unsatisfactory, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit, or lawsuits if others are liable as well. In some instances, you may even want to start with the lawsuit. According to Colorado’s statute of limitations, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit from the date of the injury/accident.
If your loved one has lost their life in a trucking accident, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit, with a statute of limitations of two years following the person’s death. The general standard is that, had the person survived and been eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit, then a wrongful death lawsuit can be pursued.
The law gets complicated when it comes to who can file. In the first year after the death, only the surviving spouse, if any, can file unless they transfer the right to the children. If there is no spouse, then the children or a designated beneficiary may file. In the second year, the list expands to include spouses, children, and designated beneficiaries. If they wish, they can file jointly.
Truck Accidents Attorney Serving Denver, Colorado
Truck accidents can be devastating, presenting you with major injuries and major challenges in seeking compensation for these injuries. You should consult with an attorney experienced in trucking accidents to assess liability and help you navigate the process of recovering the compensation due to you. If you’re in Denver or elsewhere in Colorado and have been injured in a trucking accident, contact the Law Offices of Malcolm B. Seawell. We will investigate your case, determine liability, and guide you forward.