One of the worst accidents in Houston history involved a tanker truck carrying 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia, which lost control, crashed through a guardrail, and landed on the Southwest Freeway. As a result of this collision, the truck’s tank raptured and released deadly ammonia over the busy I-610 at the US-59 interchange.
Although tanker truck accidents of such disastrous proportions are rare, the tanker truck accidents that do happen in Houston are often fatal.
Numerous innocent lives are completely upended. Often, crash victims and their families have no idea what they are supposed to do after such a terrifying collision, what legal remedies they have, and whether they have the right to compensation for their injuries.
This blog post dives into the details of Houston tanker truck accidents—what they are, how they happen and the losses they produce, and the legal remedies victims have to recover compensation for their losses following this devastating collision.
What Exactly Is A Tanker Truck?
Tanker trucks are large commercial vehicles that are designed to carry liquids and gases on the roads. They are often referred to as gas trucks, fuel trucks, tankers, or tank trucks.
Depending on the liquid or gas they are carrying, tanker trucks might need to be insulated, pressurized, refrigerated, or designed to carry multiple loads. With such specific requirements, and because these trucks have a high center of gravity, tanker trucks often can be challenging to maneuver. As a result, they require an experienced and careful truck driver behind the wheel.
Common Causes Of Tanker Truck Crashes In Houston
Unfortunately, determining the cause of a tanker truck crash is not always straightforward, as there are generally numerous reasons why these deadly crashes occur.
However, in Houston, some causes tend to lead to tanker truck accidents more frequently than others.
- Improperly loaded trucks
- Overworked tanker truck drivers
- Inexperienced tanker truck drivers
- Dangerous roadways, including highway ramps such as 610 eastbound from Airline Drive, the complicated design of which has led to various crashes
- Extreme weather, especially from June through November, when Houston is more likely to experience hurricanes, severe storms, and heavy flooding
- Defective truck parts
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Poorly maintained trucks
- Distracted driving, such as texting and driving
- Traffic violations
This list only covers the more common causes of tanker truck accidents. If you have been injured in a Houston tanker truck accident, whatever the cause, you should reach out to a skilled Houston tanker truck accident attorney right away. An attorney can review your case, determine whether you have a viable claim, and advise you on potential legal options to pursue compensation.
Common Houston Tanker Truck Accident Injures
The size of a tanker truck poses a risk of massive and deadly accidents all by itself, but when these trucks carry flammable, pressurized, and hazardous material and cargo, they pose the added potential danger of a bomb in the event of an accident. Consequently, the injuries that occur in Houston tanker truck accidents range widely and can prove fatal.
While injuries will differ in scope and severity depending on the circumstances of the accident, some of the more common types of injuries likely in Houston tanker truck crashes include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Chemical exposure
- Crushed limbs
- Internal organ damage and bleeding
- Broken bones
- Disfiguring lacerations
- Neck and back trauma
- Soft tissue injuries
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Sadly, many of these injuries can lead to paralysis or other extreme health consequences that leave the victim unable to continue living the life they once had, including their ability to maintain relationships, work, and even mobility.
Who Is Liable For A Houston Tanker Truck Accident?
One might assume that following a tanker truck accident, the tanker truck driver bears liability for the crash. However, other entities may share liability for the damages that result from the tanker truck collision.
You might hold any of the following parties potentially responsible for a Houston tanker truck accident:
- The Liable Tanker Truck Driver: If the tanker truck driver’s negligence, careless, or reckless actions caused the accident, they may be held responsible for the collision and the damages that follow.
- The Trucking Company: The trucking company has responsibilities to not only the truck driver but to other people on the roads. As a result, if they violate this responsibility—such as if they make their drivers drive in unsafe conditions or do not adequately maintain their tanker truck—they can bear liability for any accident that occurs as a result.
- The Manufacturers: If mechanical failures due to faulty truck parts contribute to the tanker truck accident, the manufacturer responsible for the defective part may share liability for the collision that results.
- The Mechanic: A tanker truck requires regular maintenance to ensure that everything on the truck is safe to operate and is in good working condition when it hits the roads. Consequently, if a mechanical failure caused the accident, the mechanic could share liability for the accident if their actions contributed at all.
- Other Third Parties: If other people’s wrongful actions contributed to a tanker truck collision, they too can be held at fault for this crash. For instance, if another driver whipped out in front of the tanker truck at an intersection, causing the tanker truck to jerk the wheel to avoid a collision, leading to a rollover accident, the driver of the other car could be liable for any injuries that result.
Figuring out all of the individuals and entities potentially responsible for your injuries and losses following a tanker truck accident can get complicated. (Even that sentence is a mouthful!) This is another reason why, after a Houston tanker truck crash, you must reach out to an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as you can. An attorney can promptly get to work, investigate your accident, figure out who was responsible for your collision, and work to hold responsible those who are liable for your damage.
Types Of Damages Available In A Houston Tanker Truck Accident Lawsuit
Following a tanker truck collision in Houston, you may be entitled to two types of compensation, including economic and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages: These damages encapsulate the actual and verifiable losses that result from an accident. They may include:
- Medical bills, including your past, present, and future expenses related to doctor visits, surgeries, hospital stays, prescription medication, assistive medical devices, and other medical treatments that are needed
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- At-home nursing care
- Replacement services such as childcare or cleaning services
- Personal property damages
- Rehabilitative services such as physical and occupational therapy
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Non-economic Damages: These damages refer to losses that don’t come with a bill. These damages are not as easy to quantify but still constitute real impact for which victims deserve compensation. Non-economic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of a limb
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Loss of consortium
In certain cases, punitive damages—also called exemplary damages—may be awarded to the victim as well. Unlike the economic and non-economic damages—which are meant to compensate the victim for their losses from an accident—exemplary damages are intended to punish the defendant for particularly egregious actions and to deter others from committing such acts in the future. Courts only award them in exceptional cases, specifically when a victim can show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with gross negligence or malice.
What Factors Affect The Amount Of Compensation You Can Receive Following A Houston Tanker Truck Collision
Although an attorney can tell you the types of damages you might be able to recover following a Houston tanker truck crash, they cannot tell you the exact amount of compensation you can receive. There are too many factors that play into determining the cost of your injuries and other losses. Consequently, the amount of compensation you receive is highly dependent on the specific facts of the tanker truck accident and your injuries.
For instance, following a Houston tanker truck accident, these factors can affect the amount of compensation a victim can receive:
- The severity of the injuries the victim sustained from the tanker truck crash
- The extent of the medical treatments the victim will require after the accident and whether ongoing medical care is required
- Whether a victim can recover from their injuries or if they result in permanent damages
- The nature of the defendant’s actions (e.g. whether they were grossly negligent or committing a crime)
- The credibility of the evidence presented
- The victim’s age
- The extent of the pain and suffering the victim suffered
- The victim’s ability to take part in their normal activities
No lawyer can guarantee you compensation for your injuries following a tanker truck crash, but when you work with a skilled Houston tanker truck accident lawyer, they can estimate how much your case may be worth and fight for the maximum compensation you are entitled to.
Time Limitations To Bring A Legal Claim Following A Houston Tanker Truck Accident
Every state has a statute of limitations that dictates the amount of time a person has to bring a lawsuit following a personal injury incident, including injuries from a tanker truck accident. If a lawsuit is not filed by this deadline, a victim cannot pursue compensation for their losses and injuries.
In Texas, the statute of limitations to bring an injury claim following a Houston tanker truck crash is two years from the date of the accident. However, there are various exceptions to this rule that can impact this filing period.
Because of how critical the deadline to file a lawsuit is to your ability to recover compensation, it is important to reach out to a skilled Houston tanker truck accident attorney as quickly as possible after an accident. These lawyers can figure out the maximum amount of time you have to file your case and ensure that your case is prepared correctly before time runs out!
Get The Legal Help You Need After Your Houston Tanker Truck Accident
To bring a successful Houston tanker truck accident injury claim, you need to be able to provide sound legal arguments and strong evidence showing what happened and who was at fault for your injuries. However, as a victim of this gruesome accident, this is likely the last thing you are in a position to do. With a skilled Houston tanker truck accident lawyer on your side, you won’t have to worry about taking on this complex legal battle alone. Rather, you can focus on what matters most: your healing.
When tasked with handling your claim, an attorney can:
- Go over your tanker truck accident, determining if you have a viable case, and estimating the compensation you could potentially recover
- Answer all your questions and concerns regarding the incident and the legal process involved with your claim
- Thoroughly investigate your tanker truck crash and secure the evidence needed to prove fault and damages
- Handle all the negotiations with the other side and the insurance company in pursuit of a fair settlement
- Bring in experts (like accident reconstructionists and doctors) to substantiate your claim
- Take your case to trial, if the other side won’t agree to a fair settlement, and fight for the maximum damages possible
If a Houston tanker truck accident harmed you or a family member, do not wait to contact a lawyer to get the help you need. Recover the compensation you deserve.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.