Truck Accidents Attorney in Anchorage, Alaska
According to statistics compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) from 2009 to 2019, Alaska saw a rise in fatalities from accidents involving large trucks, as has almost every state. Though Alaska’s population of only about 735,000 people in a land mass equaling 20% of the lower 48 states in size may make the numbers seem small (9 fatalities in 2019), the study doesn’t detail the many others who were seriously injured in truck accidents.
The FMCSA study calls these motorized behemoths of the road “large trucks,” but other terms used to describe them include big rigs, semis, 18-wheelers, and tractor trailers. Call them what you will, these trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds in operational mode, while your average passenger vehicle weighs in at about 4,000, sometimes less. A collision with a large truck can be devastating due to the sheer size of the vehicle that strikes you.
Since 70% of consumer goods needed by the residents of Alaska to meet their needs for everyday living arrive by sea and the goods must then be trucked up and down the state, FMCSA, which regulates hours of operation for the nation’s trucking industry, has even granted commercial drivers in Alaska an exemption to work longer hours per day than drivers in the lower 48 states.
If you or a loved one has been injured — or if a loved one lost their life — due to an accident with a truck in or around Anchorage, contact us immediately at the Law Office of Jason Skala, LLC. An accident with a big rig is rarely as straightforward in assessing blame as in a routine two-car fender-bender. More parties than just the driver may be responsible. We are ready to work with you to determine liability and guide you as you seek the compensation you deserve. We also serve neighboring communities such as Bethel, Kotzebue, and Barrow (Utqiagvik).
Laws Regarding Trucking Operations
FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) regulates the trucking industry based on Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The agency’s rules cover everything from driver qualifications to truck maintenance and (most importantly) standards of operation on the road.
To help prevent fatigue and the resulting accidents on the highways, federal regulations limit the number of hours a truck driver can be on the road. Drivers are limited to 14 hours of service (HOS), 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 (or 70 hours if the truck sits idle for a full day).
However, as mentioned above, due to the size of Alaska and the need to get necessary goods to consumers in a timely manner, FMCSA has carved out an exemption for truck drivers in Alaska. The exemption allows drivers in Alaska a 20-hour HOS window (compared to 14 hours) and 15 hours of driving time as opposed to 11 elsewhere.
Alaska is an “at-fault” auto insurance state. This means If you’re injured by another driver who is found to be at fault, you can file a claim against that driver’s auto insurance, or file with your own insurance to seek a subrogation claim against the other driver’s insurance, or you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.
As previously mentioned, however, though the truck driver is probably going to be the principal party who is held liable, other parties may be liable also. Sometimes, the entirety of the fault may lie elsewhere.
Here’s where trucking accidents get much trickier than simple fender-benders. Truck drivers often work for trucking companies, which may also share in the fault for having failed to adequately train the driver or for forcing the driver to break HOS rules to make a delivery. If breaking the driving and rest restrictions, the driver becomes overly fatigued and fatigue causes the accident, the parent company can potentially be held liable for forcing a violation of FMCSA standards.
A maintenance crew may also be responsible. One of the largest categories of truck accident causes is tire failure. If a tire blows, it can send the truck off on a wayward path. The maintenance people should foresee tire wear-and-tear problems and should have replaced the tire. Likewise, if faulty brakes are the cause, the maintenance crew may potentially be held liable.
If the tire or truck defect that caused the accident — whether brakes or something else — arises from a manufacturing problem, then the manufacturer or parts supplier may be held responsible as well.
If the cargo is not loaded correctly and/or secured safely, and the cargo puts the truck’s center of gravity off-balance, making it difficult to navigate, then the cargo loaders could possibly be liable. The same goes if the cargo itself contributes to the accident by coming loose and striking other vehicles or causing drivers to swerve, resulting in accidents.
This is why you need an experienced attorney to investigate and assess the true causes of the accident you were in with a large truck.
Filing a Personal Injury or
Wrongful Death Claim
The first step is normally to file a claim with your insurer or the other driver’s insurance company, but if there are multiple parties at fault, it gets more complicated. Then you’re no doubt looking at filing a personal injury lawsuit or even several, which you also may end up doing if you can’t get the results you deserve from the truck driver’s insurance policy.
The statute of limitations for adults filing a personal injury lawsuit in Alaska is two years from the date of the accident. If the victim is a minor at the time of the collision then they have two years from their 18th birthday.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to a truck accident, the statute of limitations is also two years from the date of your loved one’s death. The standard for bringing such a lawsuit is that, had the person survived, they would have been eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit.
In some states, spouses, parents, and other relatives can file wrongful death lawsuits, but Alaska requires that the personal representative (or “executor”) of the deceased person’s estate must file on behalf of the deceased. A personal representative is generally named in a person’s last will and testament. If there is no will, then the court will appoint a personal representative, generally from among family members.
Trust a Skilled Attorney
Having been injured in a truck accident, or having lost a loved one, can be a time of great stress and emotion, including the pain of your injuries. While you recover at home, let us examine the details of your accident to determine liability, and then guide you through the process of recovering the compensation you deserve.
Truck Accidents Attorney Serving Anchorage, Alaska
If your accident occurred in or around the Anchorage, Alaska area — including the areas of Bethel, Kotzebue, and Barrow (Utqiagvik) — contact us at the Law Office of Jason Skala, LLC. In more than two decades of helping victims of other people’s negligence, our clients have recovered more than $40 million in damages. Reach out to us for a free consultation.