A collision with an 18-wheeler truck can change your life in an instant.
Weighing in at up to 80,000 pounds, semi-trucks can cause debilitating or fatal injuries. Each year, nearly 90,000 large trucks and buses are involved in accidents in the United States. These trucks pose a risk to even the most careful drivers on the busy Houston roadways.
If you were seriously injured in an accident involving an 18-wheeler truck, you need an aggressive Houston truck accident attorney who will guide you through the aftermath of your collision, and fight tooth and nail for your financial interests.
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Do I Need to Hire a Houston Truck Accident Lawyer?
If you were involved in a minor car accident with another passenger vehicle, you may be able to handle your personal injury insurance claim without a lawyer. These types of accidents can often be resolved through negotiations with the auto insurance provider for the other driver, and may be finalized in a matter of days or weeks. Unfortunately, an accident involving a semi-truck is more complicated than a motor vehicle accident.
There are several reasons why you should hire a truck accident lawyer to represent you if you were hurt due to the careless driving of a commercial truck driver. First, truck accidents tend to cause more catastrophic injuries that may require several months of recovery or costly long-term medical treatment. In addition, interstate truck drivers and the companies that they work for are covered by commercial liability insurance policies.
These types of policies differ from those applicable to drivers of passenger vehicles, and it may be difficult to get the representatives from the commercial insurance policy to offer you a fair settlement for your injuries. Finally, since many truck drivers have interstate routes assigned to them, the commercial truck company and driver may not be residents of Texas. Even if the auto accident took place in Houston or the surrounding areas, you’ll probably need a lawyer who understands the laws in other states and how federal rules and regulations apply to your case.
After a trucking accident, some people wait too long to talk to an attorney. What people don’t realize is that the trucking company and insurance company are not waiting around to gather evidence. Trucking companies and insurance companies regularly send investigators to the scene of the accident the day of the collision to gather evidence to try to diminish the value of your claim.
Common Injuries in Truck Accidents
Due to their large dimensions and heavy weight, commercial trucks may cause debilitating injuries to drivers and occupants of passenger vehicles. These are the most common types of injuries in truck accidents:
- Broken or fractured bones,
- Bruising and sprains,
- Severe lacerations and scarring,
- Spinal cord, neck, and back injuries,
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries, and
- First, second, and third degree burns.
If you are facing a long road to recovery after a truck accident, call a truck accident attorney to discuss how you can secure compensation for your injuries and other losses. It may be necessary to file a personal injury lawsuitM if the truck driver’s commercial insurance provider is unwilling to treat you fairly.
Compensation for Pain and Suffering After a Truck Accident
If you were seriously hurt in a truck accident, some of your injuries may be physical. But the most difficult injuries from which to recover may not be visible to the naked eye. If you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, or post-traumatic stress disorder, a lawyer can help you understand your rights under Texas law to be compensated for your pain and suffering.
Important Commercial Trucking Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) is a federal agency that is responsible for regulating commercial vehicles that operate on interstate highways in the United States. This includes semi-trucks, big rigs, tanker trucks, 18-wheelers, flatbeds, refrigerator trucks, buses, and more. The FMCSA has regulated the following aspects of the trucking industry in the United States:
- Licensing: The FMCSA requires interstate truck drivers to carry a commercial driver license (“CDL”). Operators of certain types of buses are also required to carry a CDL.
- Drug and Alcohol Testing: The FMCSA requires employees who drive commercial trucks and certain buses to undergo drug and alcohol testing. If you were hurt by a truck driver who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your Houston truck accident lawyer can use the driver’s violation of these rules to establish that he or she is legally responsible for your injuries.
- Hours of Service: The “Hours of Service” requirements mandate that commercial truck drivers get adequate rest and don’t drive when they’re exhausted. One of the most common causes of semi-truck accidents is driver fatigue.
- Insurance: The FMCSA requires commercial truck drivers and the companies they work for to carry a minimum amount of insurance. Unfortunately for truck accident victims, these minimum policy amounts may not be adequate to cover their injuries. Commercial trucking company lawyers also hire powerful attorneys who will try to deny you the compensation you deserve.
- Size and Weight: The FMCSA restricts the size and weight of large commercial trucks and buses. Overweight semi-trucks and big rigs can cause serious and even fatal accidents.
- Cargo Securement: These rules were enacted to make sure that heavy loads being carried on interstate roadways are properly secured. If you were hurt by improperly secured cargo, a truck accident lawyer can help you understand your legal rights.
- Driver Medical Requirements: The goal of these rules is to ensure that truck drivers are physically fit for the demanding job of interstate trucking. Any commercial truck driver who failed to comply with these requirements and caused an accident may be held liable for the resulting injuries.
If you sustained a truck accident injury, you should work with an attorney who is familiar with the FMCSA requirements for commercial truck drivers. As discussed below, a violation of any of these regulations can be critical evidence of negligence in a personal injury lawsuit.
How do accidents involving trucks tend to happen?
Semi-truck accidents can be caused by many different things such as speeding, reckless driving, abruptly changing lanes, failure to yield, unsecure load or even driver fatigue. Speed is almost always a factor in substantially injury or death cases involving an 18-wheeler. Commercial vehicles are different and they handle differently and, thus, they must be driven at slower speeds. Just because it is safe to drive at a certain speed in a motor vehicle, doesn’t mean that such speed is safe for an 18-wheeler. This is especially true when it comes to driving in bad weather.
Who is financially responsible for semi-truck accident injuries?
Assuming the truck driver’s negligence caused the collision, then one must determine the status of the driver to determine who is financially responsible. In all circumstances, the driver is responsible for his actions or inactions. However, depending on the driver’s status, you may be able to hold the company responsible. Meaning, was the driver employed by or under the exclusive control of a trucking company? If so, then you can hold the company responsible for the driver’s actions or inactions. Who is responsible for the crash will likely have an impact on the amount of insurance that is available.
What can I expect from the truck accident claims process?
Choosing a trucking accident lawyer can be a difficult decision. Truck accident cases can be complicated and a long process.
- Investigation: The truck accident will be investigated and evidence will be collected to determine who was at-fault for the collision.
- Filing a Claim: Evidence gathered during the investigation process will assist your lawyer when filing your claim against the negligent party. The claim will include your injuries, monetary damages, and an explanation of how the driver or trucking company is negligent.
- Negotiations: Your injury lawyer will negotiate with the trucking company or insurance company on your behalf to determine if a fair settlement can be reached.
- Litigation: If a fair settlement cannot be obtained, your lawyer will file suit and have a jury decide what amount of compensation is fair for your injuries and resulting damages.
How do you prove the commercial trucking company is liable in trucking accident?
There are several ways to hold the trucking company responsible for a trucking collision. The primary way to do this is through vicarious liability or respondent superior. In the case of an independent contractor, you can accomplish this by showing that the driver was under the exclusive control of the company.
Typically, the driver will be using the DOT number of the company and will be working solely for the company. For an employee, you just need to show that the driver was in the course and scope of his or her employment. Also, you can hold a trucking company responsible for its own carelessness if you can show that such carelessness caused the collision. Notably, truck companies have a number of different state and federal regulations they must comply with when it comes to safety, hiring, supervision, vehicle maintenance, post-trip inspection and work performance.
Hiring a skilled and resourceful injury attorney will allow you to understand which companies may be liable for your semi-truck accident and file the proper claim.
Who is liable when a drunk truck driver causes an accident?
It is against the law for truck drivers to drive with a blood alcohol content over 0.04 percent or with any amount of illegal drugs in his or her system. Also, companies are expected to perform random drug and alcohol tests on drivers.
If a trucking company fails to offer drug tests or properly discipline a drive who fails a drug or alcohol test, the company can be found negligent.
How much is my commercial vehicle accident case worth?
The value of the case depends on numerous factors such as property damage injuries, medical bills, medical expenses for care needed in the future, pain and suffering and how your impairment will affect your ability to earn a living and live your life.
What will it cost to hire a lawyer after a truck accident?
We offer a free, no obligation case review. If you hire our personal injury lawyers, we will handle the legal matters of your truck accident case on a contingency fee basis. This means that you only have to pay if we are able to recover money on your behalf.
How do I choose the right attorney for my trucking accident lawsuit?
Choosing the right truck accident attorney can save you time and unnecessary frustration. It is important to hire a highly skilled personal injury attorney with experience in truck accident cases. For the best chance of receiving a fair settlement, consider a well-established law firm with the resources to handle your accident cases.
Commercial Truck Crashes are on the Rise in Houston
Crash data from the Texas Department of Transportation shows that crashes, injuries, and deaths involving commercial motor vehicles have increased steadily and significantly over the past five years.
Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Crashes Increases In Harris County from 2012-2016
While there was a welcome decline in CMV crashes in 2016, the trend overall is not encouraging:
CMV crashes in 2012: 3,912
CMV crashes in 2013: 4,312
CMV crashes in 2014: 5,475
CMV crashes in 2015: 5,936
CMV crashes in 2016: 5,628
Doing the math…
From 2012 to 2015 the total number of commercial truck crashes in Houston/Harris County increased each year. There were 1,716 more commercial truck crashes in 2016 than 2012, which is an increase of nearly 31%.
The remainder of this article provides some general information about Texas truck accident laws and how to recover compensation for your injuries, but it should not be used as a substitute for a free consultation with a qualified lawyer.
Sutliff & Stout Represent Truck Accident Victims in Houston
If you live in Houston or the surrounding areas and were injured in an accident with a commercial truck or bus, call the truck accident lawyers at Sutliff & Stout today. Our experienced truck accident lawyers work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve. Text or call (281) 853-8446 and someone from our firm will be in touch with you to set up a free and confidential case evaluation.