Houston Truck Accident Lawyer
Table of Contents
- What You Should Know About Texas Truck Accidents
- Why Truck Accidents in Houston Happen
- Common Injuries Resulting From Houston Truck Accidents
- Recoverable Damages in Houston Truck Accident Cases
- Liability Issues in Houston Truck Accidents
- Trucking Laws Relevant to Truck Accident Claims in Houston
- The Difference Between Car Accident Claims and Truck Accident Claims
- Get in Touch With a Competent Houston Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Getting into an accident with any type of truck, such as a delivery truck, 18-wheeler, semi-truck, or big rig, among others, comes with more complex issues than a typical motor vehicle accident. Among the biggest issues that you could face is liability for the accident.
For example, is the driver, the employer, the manager, or the owner of the truck responsible for the accident? Is it possible that they are all to blame for the accident? Similarly, if the truck’s cargo contributed to or caused the accident, will the shipper be liable?
If you have sustained serious injuries and other losses due to a truck accident, The Patel Firm PLLC is here to help. Our skilled Houston truck accident lawyers can help ensure that you receive the maximum compensation for your damages. We can likewise assist you in filing a wrongful death lawsuit if your loved one was killed in a truck accident.
Meanwhile, understanding the most common causes of truck accidents, the relationships between the potentially liable parties, and trucking laws could help you figure out how your personal injury claim might play out.
From 2008 to 2018, the Lone Star state regularly tops the list of states with the highest number of deadly truck accidents. Other vital Texas truck accident statistics for 2020 that you need to know include:
- 46,181 truck accidents took place in total.
- 562 truck crashes resulted in deaths.
- 1,163 truck collisions caused serious injuries.
- 3,820 truck accidents resulted in mild to moderate injuries.
Due to the sheer weight and size of even the smallest trucks, many things could go wrong on the road, even if a seasoned driver is behind the wheel. Based on the Large Truck Crash Causation Study by the NHTSA and FMCSA, truck accidents occur due to the following causes.
Truck drivers typically commit the following driver errors:
- Distracted driving
- Aggressive driving
- Driving over the speed limit
- Turning too fast
- Not monitoring blind spots
Driver Fatigue and Drowsiness
These can significantly reduce the ability of the driver to safely control the truck, reduce reaction times, impair judgment, minimize alertness, and prevent the truck driver from making safe and smart driving decisions. A fatigued and drowsy driver could likewise misjudge otherwise common driving conditions, be inattentive, or drift in and out of sleep while driving.
It’s also crucial to note that controlled substances like alcohol and certain drugs could have similar effects. Trucking companies are required to regularly test their truck drivers for drug and alcohol use as an employment requirement. Likewise, carriers should perform random testing of on-the-clock drivers and test drivers that have been involved in truck accidents resulting in deaths.
Problems With Truck Equipment, Components, and Cargo
Manufacturing issues, such as defective tires or malfunctioning brakes, or design defects, including faulty object detection or backup warning systems, could also cause truck accidents. Failing to regularly maintain truck equipment and components could likewise cause crashes. The most common issues that typically result in mechanical problems include:
- Failure to maintain the braking system
- Depowering or removing the front brakes to try and reduce the costs of brake and tire replacement
- Faulty steering system
- Failure to regularly maintain the tires, resulting in blowouts
- Improper trailer attachment, raising the risk of jackknife accidents
- Improper securing or loading of cargo, which contributes to rollovers
Other common causes of trucking accidents include faulty road design, traffic signal failures, and inclement weather conditions.
There’s no denying that injuries from truck accidents could be catastrophic. In some cases, victims might need months, years, or decades to fully recover if the accident does not kill them first. Many truck accident victims that our Houston truck accident lawyer has worked with have survived severe injuries but find that their quality of life has decreased substantially. This unnecessary suffering is not only tragic but is also unacceptable. Common injuries due to truck accidents can include:
- Broken bones – A truck crashing into another vehicle, motorist, or pedestrian could be especially powerful so that bones could be more easily fractured than in a crash involving smaller vehicles.
- Neck and back injuries – This could include minor back and neck pain, whiplash, or more severe injuries, such as a dislocated spinal disc. Since the neck and back structures are immensely vital to whole-body movement, these injuries, no matter how minor, typically prevent injured victims from going about their daily tasks or working.
- Lacerations – Deeper cuts from truck crashes could be especially excruciating and usually leave extensive scarring.
- Torso and rib injuries – Severe injuries to the torso and ribs could be dangerous since these protect your body’s vital organs.
- Internal injuries – Blunt trauma from truck accidents could result in internal bleeding and pressure on internal organs, including the liver, spleen, pancreas, bladder, and kidneys. The trauma could be fatal if not addressed promptly.
- Brain and head injuries – Trauma to the head could cause brain injury, which could be life-changing or deadly. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) could develop even without direct head trauma but due to whiplash. Likewise, these injuries might not immediately appear. Common symptoms of TBIs can include nausea, confusion, problems with vision, and other cognitive difficulties. In some cases, injured victims might not completely recover and require lifelong medical care and special accommodations.
- Spinal cord injuries – Any serious injury to the spinal cord could be particularly dangerous because of the possibility of paralysis. What’s more, spinal cord damage is not always initially apparent, making it one of the main reasons why getting medical attention following a truck accident is extremely important. This holds true even if you think that you are not injured or have minor injuries.
- Burns – Any motor vehicle crash could cause an explosion or a fire. But truck crashes present unique risks. An explosion or fire could result from a crash due to the truck’s huge fuel tank, an issue with the electrical system, or the flammable or toxic cargo aboard the truck and could cause burns of varying degrees to the victim. These burns could be first, second, or third-degree burns. Third-degree burns could lead to irreversible scarring or death.
If you or a family member has been seriously injured in a truck accident, you can recover damages or losses, which can include:
- Economic or compensatory damages – These typically include all medical expenses, including hospital bills and rehabilitation costs, lost income, and lost earning capacity. These can also include property damage to your vehicle and items inside your vehicle when the accident occurred, such as your mobile phone, other electronics, prescription eyeglasses, etc.
- Non-economic or non-monetary damages – You may also recover damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment, loss of companionship, or
- Exemplary damages – Also known as punitive damages, these damages are specifically meant to punish the liable party if their actions, which led to the accident, were especially reckless, negligent, or flagrant.
How much compensation you can receive for your losses would generally depend on the unique circumstances of your claim. Your compensation would also be dependent on various relevant factors, including your medical expenses, the specific nature and severity of your injuries, and the evidence supporting your case. An experienced Houston truck accident lawyer will be able to figure out a more accurate estimate of your claim.
Proving legal liability for a truck accident is typically more difficult than proving liability for accidents involving private cars. Following a truck accident, multiple parties could be potentially liable for the injured victim’s damages. These parties could include:
- The driver
- The cargo loader
- The trucking company
- The truck manufacturer or the component or equipment manufacturer
- The contractor or government agency tasked to design or maintain the roadway where the accident occurred
In the event that multiple parties or defendants could be held responsible for the truck accident, you might have a chance to recover more compensation by filing multiple claims.
Is the Truck Driver Liable?
You can certainly sue the truck driver if they caused the accident due to negligent behavior, such as distracted driving or drowsy driving. Also, since the trucker is typically responsible for making sure that the truck is in good working condition and ensuring that cargo is loaded properly if the cargo or a maintenance issue contributes or causes the crash, the driver could be held partially liable for the accident.
On the other hand, because the driver’s personal auto insurance plan might not be enough to compensate you fully for your losses, your Houston truck accident lawyer will most likely look for other parties that could be held liable, such as the trucking company.
Is the Trucking Company Liable?
It’s common for trucking companies or owners to evade liability from accidents by requiring those truck drivers who work for them to own their trucks so they can be classified as independent contractors or owner-operators. However, the court will usually consider certain factors when determining whether a trucking company may also be responsible for an accident regardless of the independent contractor relationship. These factors include:
- The extent of control the trucking company has over the trucker
- Whether the trucker is allowed to work with or for other trucking companies or only with the trucking company in question
- Whether the trucking company sets the trucker’s routes and working hours
- Whether the trucker can refuse a load from the trucking company
- How the trucking company pays the trucker
- Whether the trucking company is using the independent contractor relationship to avoid liability in case of accidents, even if the trucker performs the same functions an employee of the company performs
- Whether the trucker is responsible for their own liability insurance or workers’ comp.
Once the court has reviewed these factors, it can then determine the exact relationship between the trucker and the trucking company and determine liability for the accident. In most cases, fortunately, classifying a trucker as an independent contractor instead of an employer will not automatically shield trucking companies from liability.
Is the Truck Manufacturer or the Equipment or Component Manufacturer Liable?
If a component or equipment of the truck failed and caused the accident, like a steering system malfunctioning, the brakes failing, or a tire blowing out, the failure could have resulted from poor maintenance. Likewise, if the faulty system or component was defective, you may have a claim against the truck manufacturer or distributor.
Is the Shipper or Loader Liable?
When truck drivers work as contractors and carry cargo for another company, the cargo is usually sealed before loading and will be loaded into the truck by the shipper’s employee. If that employee failed to secure or load the cargo correctly, that employee and the employer or shipper (through vicarious liability) could be held legally responsible for the trucking accident.
Is The Local Government Liable?
Local governments could be held legally responsible for the accident if the roadway where the accident occurred had defects, such as broken pavement, a flawed design, or malfunctioning traffic signals that contributed to or caused the crash. Other possible accident causes that could be attributed to the government or its various agencies or contractors could include defective guardrails, inadequate warning signs, or a poorly set up road construction zone.
Take note that failure to comply with certain state or federal laws could also provide the necessary basis for truck accident claims. Both state and federal laws establish specific standards that truckers and trucking companies must follow. These federal laws cover topics, such as:
- Truck operation
- Truck driver qualifications
- Minimum auto insurance coverage limits
- Vehicle maintenance and repairs
- Roadside inspections
- Weigh stations
- Complaint investigations
- Trucking terminal audits
- Compliance reviews
For instance, federal trucking regulations limit how many hours a truck driver can work:
- On-duty – Drivers of trucks that carry property are only allowed to work up to 14 consecutive hours but can only drive up to 11 straight hours during those 14 hours.
- Driving time – Truck drivers should be off-duty or have rested for 10 consecutive hours before starting another shift.
- Weekly – Up to 60 on-duty hours in any period of seven consecutive days, but only if the truck operates daily. Otherwise, up to 70 on-duty hours in any period of eight consecutive days, but only if the truck does not operate daily.
In addition, federal trucking laws require drivers to record all their driving details in logbooks. Also, safety standards regulate truck weight, emissions, and equipment, among others. Trucking companies likewise need to maintain specific minimum insurance coverage limits based on the types of materials they carry.
Besides the various federal laws that trucking companies and drivers should follow, they should also comply with state regulations. Most of these regulations, which are similar to federal regulations, are found in the Texas Transportation Code.
Aside from the possibility of catastrophic and life-changing injuries when a truck crashes into a smaller vehicle, truck accidents differ from car accident claims in the following respects:
- Trucking laws – The operations and movement of truck drivers and trucking companies are controlled by various state and federal laws that they are required to follow.
- Investigation – Truck accident cases need a more extensive investigation into the trucker or trucking company’s pre-crash conduct, the trucker’s training and qualifications, and the condition of the truck. Likewise, there are many time-sensitive and critical aspects of the discovery and investigation processes in truck accident cases that need prompt and thorough analysis.
- Multiple liable parties – When multiple defendants are involved in your personal injury claim, all of them might be equally liable for compensating your losses or only liable for the specific damages they caused. For instance, an intoxicated trucker and the manufacturer of the truck’s defective tire might share some liability for the crash. In this scenario, you could file a claim against the trucker (or the trucker’s employer) and the tire manufacturer. In the event that the amount of fault each defendant bears is not clear, the tire manufacturer might need to pay its share and whatever amount the trucker can’t pay because their insurance coverage isn’t enough to cover your damages.
Truck vs. car accidents are simply more complex than car vs. car crashes, so it’s in your best interest to at least discuss your case with a skilled Houston truck accident lawyer to explore your legal options and learn how much your claim might be worth. Truck accidents involving serious or permanent injuries or wrongful death are expensive and complex claims.
However, insurance providers will definitely fight to reduce their policyholder’s liability and, consequently, the amount they owe injured victims. They will try to come up with various reasons to try and lower your compensation amount or deny your claim. But with help from our competent Houston truck accident lawyer, we can make sure that the negligent parties are held liable for their actions and that you receive the full value of your claim. Contact The Patel Firm PLLC by phone at 361-400-2036 or online to arrange your free case evaluation.