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18-Wheeler/Big Rig Accidents on I-25 in Colorado

Offered by The Longo Firm, LLC

Common causes, liability, and more from an experienced truck accident lawyer

Interstate 25 in Colorado is one of the most heavily traveled highways in the state. Built in 1958 and running nearly 300 miles north to south the entire length of the state from Weld County to Trinidad, CO, I-25 (officially known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Highway) passes through Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Fort Collins, and many other cities and towns in Colorado. As a result, many 18-wheelers, big rigs, tractor-trailers, and other large commercial trucks regularly use the highway to transport goods throughout the state and the entire country.

Unfortunately, 18-wheeler accidents also occur on I-25. And when they do, they often result in serious injuries or fatalities, especially when smaller vehicles are involved. Whether it’s an underride accident, a jackknife accident, a rear-end crash, or another type of collision, big rig accidents regularly wreak havoc on Interstate 25.

Those crashes can lead to complicated legal cases. Sometimes, it’s because there’s more than one at-fault party. Other times, it’s because the injury victim wrongly gets blamed for causing the big rig accident. Different rules and regulations also apply to drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which a driver must have to operate a truck weighing more than 26,0001 pounds. (A fully-loaded 18-wheeler can weigh 80,000 pounds.) Whatever the circumstances, injury victims need to understand their rights and the legal options available to them.

How common are truck accidents on Interstate 25 in Colorado?

Highways like I-25 in Colorado can be particularly dangerous, especially when it comes to 18-wheeler accidents. About 70 percent of fatal truck accidents involving large trucks like 18-wheelers happen on rural highways (like many parts of I-25), according to the Colorado Motor Carriers Association and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates the trucking industry.

On the 300 miles of I-25 in Colorado, 154 people on average are killed in crashes each year, according to Value Penguin, which analyzed accident data for every highway throughout the country. The same study ranked Interstate 25 in Colorado the 7th most dangerous highway nationwide in adverse weather conditions.

Specific parts of I-25 in Colorado have been called some of the most dangerous highways in the country. The 29-mile-long stretch of I-25 in El Paso County (which contains Colorado Springs) has eight fatalities on average each year, making it the 37th most dangerous stretch of highway in the United States.

Another dangerous part of this highway in Colorado is the Interstate 25 'Gap,' the 18-mile-long stretch of I-25 from Monument, CO to Castle Rock, CO. In recent years, accidents have increased significantly at the I-25 Gap. In one recent year, accidents increased by 60 percent at the I-25 Gap, according to accident data compiled by the Colorado State Patrol.

Common causes

Many accidents on I-25 in Colorado occur due to adverse weather conditions like snow and ice storms, but the weather is far from the only cause.

  • Speeding – The speed limit on I-25 in Colorado climbs as high as 75 mph in certain sections. Because a lot of tractor-trailer drivers face intense pressure to deliver goods faster, many 18-wheeler accidents occur due to speeding. High-speed crashes also occur due to drivers going too fast during adverse weather conditions. Even during ideal weather conditions, truck accidents involving speed often occur on highways like I-25 since 18-wheelers need more time and space to slow down.
  • Distracted driving – Texting while driving is against the law nationwide for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which professional truck drivers need to operate an 18-wheeler. Unfortunately, some tractor-trailer drivers text while driving or engage in other distracting behavior, including looking up directions on a GPS, eating while driving, or talking with a dispatcher on a phone or another type of communication device.
  • Driver fatigue – Long-haul truckers using I-25 often get tired or fall asleep while driving on this major highway. When 18-wheeler drivers fall asleep, they can cause serious accidents. That’s because tired truck drivers often don’t slow down before crashing into another vehicle.
  • Driver inexperience – Operating an 18-wheeler requires a tremendous amount of skill and specialized training. That’s why tractor-trailer drivers must have a CDL and meet other rigorous standards. Unfortunately, far too many inexperienced truck drivers cause serious accidents because they don’t know how to safely operate a big rig truck or don’t accurately assess risks on the road, including going too fast around a sharp curve or highway offramp.
  • Improperly loaded truck – Tractor-trailers that are not properly loaded or imbalanced can easily tip over and cause a rollover, jackknife, or another type of truck accident. This is why it’s critical that trucking companies or packing companies properly load 18-wheeler trucks.
  • Unfamiliarity with the highway – A lot of long-haul, tractor-trailer drivers on I-25 might not be familiar with the highway because they’re from another state or even another country. As a result, these drivers might not be familiar with the sharp curves and other dangerous sections of the highway.
  • Defective truck brakes – Most 18-wheelers have air brakes that need to be properly maintained. Otherwise, accidents can occur due to defective brakes. That’s because tractor-trailers need more space to come to a complete stop, particularly if the truck is fully loaded. A fully loaded tractor-trailer traveling 65 mph often needs up to 600 feet and 5.5 seconds to stop – and that’s with good brakes, under ideal conditions.
  • Tire blowouts – Tractor-trailer drivers and trucking companies need to constantly check the tires on 18-wheelers to make sure the tire treads are not worn out or there are no other problems with the tires. If not, defective or worn tires can blow out, often causing serious accidents when tire blowouts occur at high speeds on highways.
  • Mechanical problems – Whether it’s a mechanical defect due to a truck manufacturer’s mistake or poor truck maintenance by the company that’s responsible for maintaining an 18-wheeler, mechanical problems can cause an accident, especially on interstate highways like I-25.

These are just some of the reasons why big rig accidents occur on I-25 in Colorado. Whatever the cause of your crash, make sure you talk to a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible to learn more about your legal rights.

Who can be sued in a truck accident case?

Liability is a legal term used to describe who’s legally responsible for an accident. This is especially important in Colorado since the state has an at-fault insurance system when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. That means the at-fault party is responsible for the victim’s losses (accident-related expenses), which can include economic damages like medical bills and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.

What makes liability so complicated in terms of 18-wheeler accidents on highways like I-25 is there can often be more than one at-fault party that’s responsible for compensating you and other victims. At-fault parties may include:

  • The 18-wheeler driver who caused your collision.
  • The trucking company that employs the big rig driver, especially if the company didn’t properly maintain the truck or it hired a truck driver with an expired CDL or a history of causing truck accidents.
  • The company that owns the truck’s cab or trailer, especially if a mechanical problem caused your crash.
  • The company that loaded the truck, especially if the contents shifted and caused an accident due to being improperly loaded.
  • The truck’s manufacturer, especially if a mechanical defect resulted in a collision.
  • The manufacturer of the truck’s brakes or tires, especially if the truck part failed to work properly and contributed to the crash.
  • A third-party vendor.

These are just some of the companies you may be able to seek financial compensation from for your accident. The insurance companies for each one of these companies will also likely be involved in the accident claims process.

Who determines fault?

Truck accidents involving 18-wheelers are often investigated by several local, state and federal agencies. This is especially true in cases involving highway accidents. In Colorado, local police and state troopers from the Colorado State Police often investigate such crashes. So does the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

But these official organizations do not ultimately determine who was at fault. They’re simply focused on determining why the accident happened. Instead, the insurance company or companies for the at-fault party often ultimately decide who caused the collision and who must pay for all truck accident-related expenses.

This might seem like a small detail. But it’s critical to understanding who will pay for your accident. This is why you should be part of these conversations with insurance companies. This is why you should talk to an experienced truck accident lawyer who understands how the legal system works in Colorado when it comes to highway accidents involving 18-wheelers.

What laws apply to 18-wheeler accidents?

Another reason why big rig highway accidents can be so complicated in Colorado is that different laws apply to commercial truck crashes. Many of these rules and regulations are on the federal level. Federal regulations include Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which sets the following rules:

  • Mandatory rest breaks – Title 49, Part 395 of the Code of Federal Regulations includes the Hours of Service (HOS) rules for CDL drivers. Such drivers cannot work more than the following number of hours in a given day or week:
    • 30-minute break after driving 8 hours without a 30-minute interruption
    • 10-hour break after working a maximum of 11 hours
    • 60 hours maximum allowed work hours in seven consecutive days
    • 70 hours maximum allowed work hours in eight consecutive days
  • Driver qualifications – Title 49, Part 391 of the Code of Federal Regulations outlines the requirements for someone to legally operate a tractor-trailer or other commercial trucks. Qualifications include that the driver is at least 21 years old, has a valid CDL, must speak English, and has undergone the training required to operate a commercial truck.
  • Preserving certain records – Title 49, Part 379 of the Code of Federal Regulations states which records must be kept by commercial truck drivers and trucking companies. Such records include maintenance logs, shipping records, and certain accident data.
  • Repair and maintenance requirements – Title 49, Part 396 of the Code of Federal Regulations explains how often truck drivers and trucking companies must inspect and repair commercial trucks. This includes the truck’s lights, tires, brakes, and other mechanical equipment.
  • Safety standards – Title 49, Part 399 of the Code of Federal Regulations includes safety requirements for certain parts of commercial trucks, including the size and location of the steps on an 18-wheeler. This part of the federal code also outlines specific commercial zones nationwide, including one located in Pueblo, Colorado. (Title 49, Part 399, Appendix F to Subchapter B of Chapter III - Commercial Zones, Section 35).

In addition, Colorado has its own laws that apply to commercial truck accidents, including Colorado Revised Statute (CRS) Section 42-4-1601-1606. This law states what drivers must legally do in the event of a truck accident, especially if that accident involves a serious injury or fatality.

What deadlines apply in Colorado?

Specific deadlines apply to truck accidents in Colorado. One deadline many people might be familiar with is Colorado’s statute of limitations (the deadline to file a lawsuit), which generally expires two years after the date of the truck accident but will depend on the specific details of your case.

If injury victims wait nearly two years to file a lawsuit, they could miss out on their opportunity to obtain the financial compensation they’re entitled to under the law. That’s because the evidence needed to build a strong legal case might not exist.

Long before the two-year statute of limitations expires, trucking companies and commercial truck drivers may be able to legally destroy a wide range of evidence. An attorney with experience handling 18-wheeler accidents can intervene to preserve this evidence before it is destroyed or overwritten.

  • The truck’s event data recorder (EDR), which includes critical information about how fast the truck was traveling at the time of the crash, if the truck driver applied the brakes before the collision and when the driver last took a break. The EDR is also sometimes referred to as the truck’s black box. Much of the EDR’s information is only stored for 250 ignition cycles, which generally means 3 to 4 weeks on the road for a commercial truck in active service.
  • The truck driver’s Hours of Service (HOS) logs, in which the driver records how many hours the driver works each day and when the driver took a break. Those records must be preserved for 6 months.
  • Inspection and repair logs for the truck. Under federal law, these records must be preserved for 12 months – note that that’s 12 months from the date of the inspection or repair, not 12 months from the date of the accident.

In addition, if there’s any video footage of your crash on I-25, this evidence may be erased long before the two-year statute of limitations expires. That’s why you should always consider taking steps to protect your legal rights.

Why should I hire a Colorado truck accident lawyer?

The stakes can be very high in cases involving 18-wheeler accidents. Your losses can easily add up to thousands of dollars, or significantly more. This includes medical care, vehicle repairs, and replacement income if you cannot work while you’re recovering from your injuries. Insurance companies, trucking companies, and anyone else who might be responsible for the accident know this. That’s why they’ll typically do everything they can to reduce, delay, or deny your claim.

When you have an experienced Colorado truck accident attorney on your side familiar with I-25 and the laws governing these crashes, you can level the playing field and pursue the compensation you deserve. Instead of insurance companies or trucking companies dictating what happens next, a truck accident lawyer can conduct an in-depth investigation and demand to see evidence related to your crash before it’s overwritten, misplaced, or destroyed.

Many insurance companies and trucking companies agree to cooperate and make a fair settlement offer once they see that you have legal representation from an attorney. If not, your attorney can file a lawsuit or take other legal action on your behalf.

Learn more about how a Colorado truck accident lawyer can help you after your I-25 accident. Contact a law firm familiar with Interstate 25 and Colorado’s complex laws. Most attorneys offer a free case evaluation and require no upfront money because they work cases on contingency.

Truck Accidents Assistance
The Longo Firm, LLC

The Longo Firm, LLC, is a personal injury firm based in Colorado Springs, CO and Scottsdale, AZ. Attorney Stephen Longo believes all injury victims are entitled to strong represen...