Idaho Truck Accident Lawyer
Many of the truck drivers who travel through Idaho are long-haul truckers who begin their routes on the east coast or in the Midwest and who connect to I-90 or I-15 as they continue their travel into other Idaho cities and out west into other parts of the Pacific Northwest. Other truckers are short-haul or local ones who use the portions of interstates along with Idaho and U.S. highways that traverse our state to carry goods around it.
Fatigue, medical issues, substance abuse, reckless driving, and countless other factors can plague truckers that we passenger car motorists drive alongside, leaving us vulnerable to a multitude of different crashes, including head-on, sideswipe, underride, and rear-end crashes—no matter how much we try to share the road with these big trucks with an abundance of caution.
Fortunately, Idaho law affords individuals who get hurt or lose a loved one to these senseless crashes to file legal claims to recover compensation against those whose negligence caused them harm, as we’ll discuss along with other aspects of tractor-trailer accident cases below. Please note that building strong cases like these can be difficult. An Idaho truck accident lawyer from Trucking Injury Law Group can help you navigate the legal process to ensure you have the most successful claim possible. Reach out to us if you’d like to schedule a free initial consultation.
Where Do Idaho Trucking Accidents Occur?
The various interstates that traverse Idaho, including the following, are prime territories for trucking accidents:
- I-84: Passes through Boise, connecting western to southeastern Idaho
- I-15: Runs from north to south, connecting Idaho to Utah and Montana on either end
- I-90: Runs from east to west across northern Idaho, establishing a connection to Washington and Montana
- I-86: Serves as a connector interstate, tying into I-84 near Pocatello
Aside from interstates, there are countless state and U.S. highways on which tractor-trailers travel. As you might imagine, these roadways may not have wide or raised medians and often have soft shoulders, narrower lanes, less lighting, encompass winding roads, and traverse more rugged and desolate terrains than our state’s interstates do.
It should be noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) latest 2020 data shows that 42% of fatal crashes occur in rural areas. At least two-thirds are attributable to roadway departures.
Severe Injuries That Idaho Truck Accidents Commonly Cause
Truck collisions are inherently more dangerous than car accidents. There’s generally no such thing as a “minor” accident when semi-trucks and passenger cars are involved.
The serious injuries that stem from an Idaho truck accident tend to be far more life-altering, such as:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Head injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries
- Bone fractures
- Internal organ damage
- Mental health diagnoses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder
These injuries can not only result in victims incurring significant medical bills upfront, but in also having significant future medical expenses. Thus, recovering maximum compensation after a semi-truck collision is necessary to ensure you can afford your medical costs so you receive the best possible care now and in the future.
Why Truck Accidents Occur
Driving errors are one of the leading causes of semi-truck crashes, but maintenance issues can be another big factor. In terms of the former, tractor-trailers are significantly larger, meaning they sit up higher, are longer, and weigh more than passenger cars, whether they’re partially or wholly filled or there’s nothing in them at all. As a result, operating a semi-truck requires a special skill set that much smaller vehicles simply don’t. With this in mind, each state in our country has its own set of requirements for operating certain types of large trucks and other commercial vehicles carrying passengers and certain types of cargo.
How Idaho Commercial Driver Licenses Work
According to the Idaho Transportation Department Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), anyone wishing to operate one of the following automobiles in our state must secure a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to do so:
- A vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds and is towing another unit that weighs in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR (Class A)
- A single automobile that has a GVWR that exceeds 26,000 pounds (Class B)
- A passenger-carrying vehicle that has a capacity of 16 or more people (Class C)
- Any vehicle of any size that transports hazardous materials necessitating them to carry a hazmat placard or any other potential toxins listed in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and more specifically, 42 CFR Part 73 (Class C)
There are additional endorsements Idaho truckers may qualify for by examination, including:
- “T” endorsement: This is for truckers wanting to haul double or triple trailers
- “H” endorsement: This designation is for truckers wishing to transport hazardous materials
- “P” endorsement: This is for commercial vehicle operators who drive automobiles that can carry 16 or more people (driver included)
- “S” endorsement: This designation is for school bus drivers
- “N” endorsement: This is for tanker truck drivers
Idaho generally does not require individuals operating one of the following larger vehicles to acquire a CDL license to operate them:
- Farm equipment
- Emergency service automobiles
- Military convoy equipment
- Recreational vehicles (RVs)
Despite requiring special licenses to operate these oversized vehicles, truckers who cause accidents generally do so because they deviated from the driving behaviors they were taught to uphold.
Violations an Idaho Truck Driver Can Lose Their Commercial Driver’s License For
Idaho State Code 49-335 outlines how the following behaviors that violate either state or federal law may result in a CDL holder having their license suspended for at least a year or more:
- Operating a truck while under the influence of controlled substances, including alcohol, particularly if the commercial driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.04 or higher
- Leaving the scene of an auto accident in which another motorist is in the vehicle
- Using their vehicle to commit a felony
- Operating an 18-wheeler while not authorized to do so because they have a restricted license due to suspension or revocation associated with past trucking violations
- Causing someone else’s preventable death based on the negligent operation of their commercial vehicle
- Being unwilling to submit to or failing drug, alcohol, and other substance abuse testing when requested to do so while operating their truck
- Transporting materials or equipment used to manufacture, dispense, or distribute controlled substances or the drugs themselves in any motor vehicle
- Being convicted of multiple serious driving violations, namely reckless driving, within a short time frame of one another, whether they occurred in a commercial or non-commercial vehicle
- Operating a truck while it’s subject to an out-of-service order
- Driving a commercial vehicle if recently convicted of a railroad crossing violation
The reckless driving behaviors and others described above are types of negligence which may not only put a trucker’s CDL at risk, but also cause accidents.
Determining Liability in Idaho Trucking Cases
Idaho is an at-fault auto insurance state. This designation means that someone injured in a truck crash, like a passenger car occupant, would typically be able to file an insurance claim against the truck driver or any other responsible party to recover damages they sustained. However, Idaho also subscribes to the modified comparative negligence rule.
Understanding Idaho’s Comparative Negligence Rule and Its Impact on Your Truck Accident Claim
The Idaho comparative negligence rule makes it so that an injury victim is only able to recover damages in their truck accident case if they were less than 50% at-fault for what happened. In other words, under this standard, any accident victim can’t seek compensation by filing a claim or truck injury lawsuit if they were 50% or more liable for what happened.
As you might be able to guess, an insurance company will use sneaky tactics to cast doubt on liability. An insurer’s goal is to push the blame for an Idaho truck accident on the injured victim over that 50% threshold as, if they’re successful in doing so, they can avoid having to pay any compensation on the injury claim.
The scenario above explains why any experienced truck accident attorney like ours at Trucking Injury Law Group will always recommend that you avoid speaking with an insurance company without first speaking with a legal representative. Any conversations you have with an insurance adjuster can affect your ability to recover full and fair compensation or any damages at all.
Evidence Our Truck Accident Lawyers Review When Determining Liability for a Crash
When prospective clients come to us after having been involved in a trucking accident in Idaho, we tend to initially review a few pieces of evidence to see if fault is clear and thus, if they have a viable claim. That evidence includes the police report, medical records, and any pictures of property damage they may have. Generally that information aids us in determining liability. However, if more information is needed to do so, we might have crash scene reconstructionists or medical records reviewers provide us with their professional opinion before moving forward.
The legal process tends to unfold quickly in the early stages of an Idaho truck accident case, as the recovery of certain physical and digital evidence such as the following is time-sensitive. In terms of the latter, tractor-trailers have a few pieces of onboard technology, and data contained within these are often subpoenaed by an experienced truck accident lawyer in building a strong injury claim. Evidence contained on the following electronic devices is most commonly consulted by Idaho truck accident attorneys:
Event Data Recorders
You’ve likely heard of “black boxes” being contained on airplanes, but most motor vehicles and tractor-trailers also come equipped with them too. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), these event data recorders (EDRs) that come installed in most motor vehicles, including 18-wheelers, document both occupant and vehicle data that happens within seconds before and after crashes. Data an EDR (black box) is capable of recording includes:
- Driver speed
- Any driver inputted data
- Restraint (seat belt) use
- Steering angles
- Whether airbags deployed
- The throttle’s positioning
- Details surrounding crash severity
- Whether the automatic collision notification (ACN) system was activated after the crash
- A trucker’s application of their brakes
There’s a lot of conflicting information about how long data remains on an EDR. Some sources suggest that it remains on the device until another accident occurs; however, some information suggests older systems overwrite data merely with routine driving. Other sources suggest that data is either permanently contained on EDRs or automatically gets deleted within as little as three or four weeks.
No matter how long this data actually gets retained on the EDR, its potential value in building a truck accident case is indisputable. That’s why experienced truck accident lawyers tend to impress upon prospective clients the urgency of seeking legal counsel who can assist them in filing any motions necessary to preserve this valuable evidence that can clarify who’s liable for a crash.
Electronic Logging Device
An electronic logging device (ELD) connects to an 18-wheeler’s engine. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the ELD’s use is intended to make it easier for truck drivers to more accurately record their hours of service (HOS). However, ELDs record a few additional pieces of data in addition to driving time, including:
- Distance traveled (in miles)
- Engine speed and hours of use
- Reckless driving behaviors, including abruptly applying the brakes
- Fuel efficiency data
- Real-time global positioning system (GPS) location tracking
- Engine diagnostic codes
From the perspective of trucking companies, ELD systems aid them in keeping tabs on their trucks and clients’ cargo, and assist them in monitoring their drivers’ operation of their vehicles and when maintenance may be necessary. An experienced truck accident lawyer tends to view the value of the data contained in ELDs differently. Again, much like EDRs, data contained on an electronic log like this can help prove liability when it’s disputed after a truck crash.
Other Evidence Critical To Building Strong Truck Accident Cases
Electronic data aside, an experienced attorney who regularly handles semi-truck collision cases will generally request access to a trucker’s driving and employment records. Their DMV report will generally show whether they have a very poor driving history.
As you may surmise, it can be a lot easier to prove that a trucker engaged in unsafe driving practices resulting in your truck accident if they have an extensive history of doing the same before.
Tactics Truckers and Trucking Companies (And Their Insurers) Use To Avoid Liability
While many truckers are owner-operators, meaning they use their own trucks to transport a trailer filled with goods for other entities, countless others are employed by trucking companies. No matter the ownership or employment arrangement, both parties generally purchase insurance to cover them in the event there is an accident.
Insurance companies representing truckers and trucking companies are money-making businesses that aim to spend as little as possible on potential claims filed with them. As a result, they employ a wide range of deceptive tactics, including the following, aimed at casting doubt on liability and reducing any potential expenditures ahead of the settlement of claims:
- Offering an early settlement: Insurers will often make offers soon after the filing of an Idaho truck accident claim or lawsuit in hopes that you’ll “jump” at it before you have a chance to find out how significant your injuries are, treatment you may require for them, and how much in lost wages you may incur as a result. Insurers often make these settlement offers quickly because once you settle a claim, it absolves the insurance company of any potential liability for any added expenses you may incur.
- Requesting a recorded statement or deposition: Insurers tend to request these statements from truck accident victims, hoping they’ll be nervous and make misstatements or omissions that will affect determinations of liability in their cases. Additionally, insurance companies often request these statements to be later used in the courtroom if the truck accident lawsuit goes to trial.
- Asserting that a victim’s injuries are exaggerated: Insurance companies often push back on serious injury cases, requesting a victim’s medical records and claiming that they had an onset before the accident in question. Insurance company adjusters do this to keep their expenditures low.
- Disposing of physical evidence or electronic data: While an insurance company might not do this, a trucker or trucking company may destroy evidence substantiating their liability for an Idaho truck collision. It’s not unheard of for truck drivers or their employers to make repairs post-crash or to delete information off electronic devices that may confirm their contributory role.
- Blaming others: It’s not uncommon for those in the trucking industry to blame others for what happened, whether it’s the passenger car driver who got hurt, a mechanic, an auto parts manufacturer, or anyone else but the party being sued.
- Delaying in processing the claim: Insurers commonly use stall tactics, such as requesting additional medical records, requesting recorded statements, saying that they’re still reviewing documents, and more, with the expectation that doing so will tire claimants out and make them abandon the legal action or simply settle the case for a low-ball offer previously made by them.
Be aware that insurers will often tell Idaho truck accident victims that aren’t yet represented by legal counsel early on after their crash that they can amicably resolve their insurance claims without getting attorneys involved. Don’t fall for what they say, though!
While it’s right that it’s not mandatory to have an Idaho truck accident lawyer representing you in dealing with them, it’s recommended that you do have one to advise you of what your legal rights are so you don’t get taken advantage of by the insurance company representing the trucker or trucking company. Telling you legal representation is not necessary is yet another tactic insurance companies use to deny liability for trucking collisions.
How Long Do You Have To File a Claim After a Semi-Truck Accident in Idaho?
Idaho Statutes section 5-219 outlines how personal injury victims, such as those hurt in semi-truck accidents, have two years from the date of their crash to file a claim to recover compensation. Any eligible surviving relative of a deceased personal injury victim also has only two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim necessary to seek maximum compensation in their respective case.
What Are the Compensatory Damages Available to Idaho Semi-Truck Accident Victims?
Plaintiffs injured in Idaho can recover compensatory losses, which are also commonly referred to as “actual damages.” Among this category of losses, there are general and special damages.
General damages are losses that it’s assumed that anyone who was involved in a personal injury event, like a semi-truck crash, has sustained, such as:
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
Special damages refer to verifiable losses that injury victims must file a claim for and also prove that the accident caused them. Included on this list is anything crash-related that resulted in an economic loss like:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Property damage
It should be noted that Idaho Statutes section 6-1604 outlines how plaintiffs who can show “clear and convincing evidence” that a defendant engaged in “malicious or outrageous conduct” can also petition the court for punitive damages. However, Idaho law caps the amount plaintiffs may recover at $250,000, or three times the compensatory damages outlined above.
Why Seeking Help From an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Is Crucial to Your Case
Taking legal action against negligent parties responsible for truck crashes is a lot more involved than it initially seems on the surface. Not only do they tend to be more severe accidents, but they can have multiple responsible parties that it may be necessary to sue for damages, such as compensation for medical treatment and lost income.
Plus, a truck accident claim is very different from a car accident claim. Sorting out which of the negligent parties to go after (since there can be multiple ones) and which type of insurance coverage each has can prove challenging to do. However, rest assured that experienced truck accident attorneys, like the ones that comprise our Super Team at Trucking Injury Law Group, know exactly what to do in such situations since our law group only handles these types of cases.
We also know what it takes to build a sound truck accident case and, consequently, the common mistakes people make in their truck accident cases that affect their ability to recover just compensation. During an initial consultation, we can go over what it is that you need to do to protect the integrity of your case, and also go over what type of settlement you can potentially expect if you do. This same logic applies if we assist you in filing a wrongful death claim after a family member dies in a truck accident, too.
Each of our truck accident attorneys that comprise Trucking Injury Law Group prides ourselves on being strong advocates for truck accident victims across the state of Idaho, whether you live in our state’s big cities like Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Idaho Falls, Coeur d’ Alene, or Twin Falls, or our smaller ones, like Moscow, Kootenai, Sun Valley, and even our more rural towns.
Do you want to learn more about how an Idaho truck accident attorney from our office can help you? If so, then reach out by phone or email to schedule a free case evaluation today. There’s no risk, no obligation in doing so. You only have something to gain by meeting with an Idaho truck accident lawyer like ours who’s dedicated to making sure victims and their loved ones know their rights and hold negligent parties responsible for their actions.