Wyoming 18-Wheeler Truck Accidents Likely to Increase This Winter

This video features Grant Lawson, a Personal Injury attorney based in Wyoming.

Wyoming Truck Accident Attorney Grant Lawson

Video Transcript:

Grant Lawson: 

If they are gonna be on the road, they absolutely need to slow down and be cognizant of what's going on and have their eyes locked on the road at all times to make sure that they're being defensive in their driving.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So in some parts of the country, drivers are already having to contend with dangerous wintry weather conditions, but what are the rules for the drivers of the biggest vehicles on our highways when conditions are dangerous? We're gonna find out right now, because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer. Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest is Wyoming attorney Grant Lawson with the Metier Law Firm. I wanna remind you right off the top, if you wanna ask Grant questions of your own, it's easy. Go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says, Ask a Lawyer, or you can call the number that is on the screen when we talk to Grant. Grant, good to see you again. As always, thank you for helping us out.

Grant Lawson: 

Yeah, thank you, Rob. Appreciate it.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So, one thing I do know about commercial drivers is there are plenty of regulations for them, there's nice, real big thick books that have all that, but a run down for some of the rules for them when it comes to driving in hazardous say, bad weather conditions.

Grant Lawson: 

Yeah, so in the winter time, there's always a big increase in the number of crashes and accidents. Most importantly, there is this section, a rule in the Federal Motor Carrier safety regulations, it's 392.14. It talks about driving in adverse conditions in dangerous winter weather conditions and what drivers are required to do, what they're required to know and how they're to react when they're driving through these adverse and dangerous conditions. And it applies to icy conditions, snowy, windy, foggy, rainy conditions, anything that makes the stopping of a big commercial motor vehicle longer or take more time, and other hazards that are associated with being able to see and recognize hazards on the road.

Grant Lawson: 

So it's crucial that these drivers are being trained with regard to this specific rule in the Federal Motor Carrier safety regs, so that when they're driving in winter weather conditions, they're slowing down, they're taking their time, they're appreciating the absolute danger on the road, especially if it's icy because that truck takes up to 10 times longer to stop on ice, than it would be on dry surfaces. So those are very, very crucial concerns, things that these drivers need to know and appreciate to help cut down the number of these big accidents, these tragic accidents that we have throughout the Mountain West and other areas where we experience winter weather conditions.

Rob Rosenthal: 

I've seen some stories and news already you guys up in that, already, you're having some roads closed because of bad conditions and that sort of thing, as far as I know, there haven't been any big pile up so far this year, but we're still really early in the year.

Grant Lawson: 

Yeah, unfortunately, every year, here in my home state of Wyoming, we always do have a pile up, at least one big pile up or more. Unfortunately, last week's first big snow storm event, there was a fatality, another set of crashes that had occurred, and just last night and through today, we had another big winter storm move through and sock in our state with feet of snow in some areas, especially on the interstates, and it becomes exceptionally important that these drivers are paying attention to the forecasting, not only that they're getting notifications of what's going on with the weather conditions looking ahead, but paying attention to road condition reports as they're driving through states, so that they know what they're going to encounter, whether they should even be on the road. Whether these drivers should be pulling off the road and waiting till a safer time, or if they're gonna be on the road, that they're reducing their speed to a crawl when it comes to icy and dangerous conditions, rather than driving as fast as they can, and putting themselves and others on the road in harm's way at risk, and that's what is really the focus of this is try to help these drivers really pay attention to just how dangerous driving through the Mountain West is on snowy and icy conditions, to try and cut these accidents to a zero, cut them down, but hopefully the goal is zero so that we don't have more lost lives.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Okay, that was kinda leading me to another question, Grant, and in that areas are these winter storms something that... Are they sudden and they pop up suddenly, or are these the kind of things that if people are watching the forecast, they know these kind of conditions can happen?

Grant Lawson: 

Yeah, so the forecasting has gotten... The technology has gotten better and better over time. So thankfully, we now have better weather reporting, better forecasting for these drivers to be looking at. That doesn't mean that these storms don't pop up, that especially wind events, if there's snow on the ground, it may not be snow... It may be sunny out and look beautiful until you step outside and realize that the winds are blowing 30 to 50 miles an hour or more, causing severe limitations on the road, ground blizzards, icy conditions that can pop up on a curve in a shady area or behind a set of hills. And so it's not just that, "Hey, I'm looking at the weather forecast, weather forecast told me it was great, so I could drive maxed out down the interstate." It is being aware of what kind of weather conditions are existing and road conditions are existing, and there's lots of tools out there, lots of states have websites, they provide web cams and real-time weather reporting, real-time road condition reporting, so that drivers can learn about what they're going to encounter so that they can prepare themselves in advance. But that doesn't, of course, alleviate the need to always be paying attention to the road and the conditions at all times.

Grant Lawson: 

And know that if you're approaching an area that has icy, windy, white-out conditions, anything along those lines, that they're slowing it way down, way down, or if necessary, finding a place to safely pull off the road, a rest op area, an exit and wait out the dangerous conditions until they improve.

Rob Rosenthal: 

One of the things we always hear during these wintry conditions, Grant, is authorities will say they don't recommend any unnecessary travel or no unnecessary... They have a travel warning for unnecessary travel, what does that mean when it comes to commercial drivers, what should be the protocol there?

Grant Lawson: 

Well, when a state issues a no unnecessary travel warning it's serious business. They don't do that lightly. States don't cut off transportation and wanna limit people from being able to drive unless it's absolutely necessary, because of course, our entire country runs off, especially these commercial motor vehicles, that are transporting goods and needs across the country. So it's a very important thing that needs to be paid attention to, because if a state's making that determination, it's because the conditions are bad, they're severe. And it's a judgement call. A lot of times it's a judgment call whether a driver should even be on the road at that time, but if they are gonna be on the road, they absolutely need to slow down and be cognizant of what's going on and have their eyes locked on the road at all times, to make sure that they're being defensive in their driving, not aggressive driving, not driving with the purpose of just trying to get from point A to B, it's to save lives, to keep themselves alive and healthy and others on the road.

Rob Rosenthal: 

What if someone's involved in an accident with a tractor trailer and it's in wintry weather? What happens? What takes place in those situations?

Grant Lawson: 

Yeah, I represent a lot of people who are injured, or unfortunately, the families of people that get killed in accidents on the road involving trucks. I represent a lot of truck drivers who are struck by other commercial motor vehicle drivers as well. But for anybody that's involved in a wreck with involving a commercial motor vehicle, it's imperative that you get a hold of somebody who can get the wheels turning on preserving the evidence that's involved in the case. There are black boxes, what we call them, or ECMs, Electronic Control Modules, in these trucks that record what's happening in data, most of the trucks on the road today, especially the newer fleets, have video cameras that are recording what happens at the time of the event. All of that needs to be preserved. If a truck that's involved in a crash is then started back up and driven off to another location or something along those lines, it can erase the data that was recorded from a crash, and it's imperative that you get a hold of an attorney who can get the letters out, the phone calls out, and maybe even send an investigator out immediately to the scene so that photos could be taken and all the steps that are necessary could be taken to preserve the evidence in the case about why it happened and what happened.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Is this the sort of thing that any personal injury lawyer that I find can handle this, Grant, or does it need to be somebody who's experienced with truck crash cases?

Grant Lawson: 

Well, I'll say this, anybody that's taking on that type of case should understand and know that these are the crucial steps that have to be taken, the difference between those who are generally doing personal injury cases, maybe have a few trucking cases versus somebody who's dedicated to doing truck accident-related crash cases is understanding and knowing every part and piece and part of the sequence and how to set up an investigation, collect the evidence, notify the parties that are involved. Get records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, get the records from the state investigative agency, whoever is involved, trying to make sure that the cellphone and electronic tablet device data is being preserved, and then of course, having the experts, the investigators, trucking standards, reconstructionist on hand to go and jump in and get involved on a moment's notice. So that really separates those that dedicate themselves to working on this type of law versus somebody more general that may have some experience but doesn't have a dedication to all the rules, both state and federal, the regulations, and the steps that are necessary to properly investigate and work up in one of these crash cases.

Rob Rosenthal: 

What if I'm involved in one of these crashes with an 18-wheeler, a big commercial vehicle, and I'm injured, and I get contacted by, say, their insurance company or their investigator. What's your advice? What should I do? What should I say? What should I not say? What's your advice?

Grant Lawson: 

Tell them you appreciate the call, but you'll have your lawyer contact them. Do not make any statements to any other investigators or insurance agent representatives from any other company because they are doing that for one purpose and one purpose only, to try to protect their own interest, and that is going to come back on you, whether you mean to say something that was inaccurate or you simply don't have a memory at the time, or you're under duress, you're hurt, you've suffered a brain injury, you're in the hospital, there's numerous different variables that are involved, the safest step is if anybody wants to talk to you, direct it through your lawyer so that it can be done properly and safely to protect your interest, to protect your rights.

Rob Rosenthal: 

It makes a lot of sense. Lots of great information as always when we talk, Grant, thank you so much for answering our questions this time.

Grant Lawson: 

Yeah, thank you, Rob. And to all those viewers out there, please stay safe, especially in the winter time, take those winter weather conditions serious and let's cut down on the number of crashes and people getting hurt and killed out there on our roads. Thanks.

Rob Rosenthal: 

That's gonna do it for this episode of Ask The Lawyer. My guest has been Wyoming attorney Grant Lawson with the Metier Law Firm. I'll remind you, if you'd like to ask Grant questions of your own, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says Ask a lawyer, it doesn't cost you anything to ask some questions. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask The Lawyers.

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