A Real Nightmare: Truck Head-On Collisions in Houston
Getting into an accident with a truck is bad enough, but when a truck hits you head-on, you can expect severe—if not catastrophic—injuries or death.
Houston is a big city that sprawls out to Galveston and beyond, which means it sees a lot of truck traffic delivering to all the grocery stores, gas stations, and other retailers that support the population. More truck traffic means that those living in and visiting Houston have a higher risk of getting into a wreck with a truck.
Causes of Head-On Collisions
A truck driver could leave their lane and cross over into yours for many reasons, including a medical emergency like a seizure, stroke, or heart attack.
Additional reasons for head-on collisions include:
- The truck driver is distracted by a cell phone, radio, or other device.
- Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other illicit substances.
- Driving under the influence of legal prescription medications.
- The driver is fatigued.
- An auto part, such as the brakes or an airline, on the truck malfunctions and causes the driver to lose control.
- A tire blows out.
- There is debris in the road.
- Other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, or even animals cause the truck to swerve.
- Slick roads.
- The driver is inexperienced or improperly trained for the job.
These are just some of the reasons a truck could hit you head-on. Because of the size and weight of a truck—even an empty truck—head-on truck accidents are more likely to result in long-term or permanent disabilities caused by truck accident injuries.
Head-On Truck Accident Injuries
In some cases, you could be very lucky and walk away with nothing but bumps, bruises, scrapes, and cuts, or maybe a sprain or strain.
However, it’s more likely that you will suffer more severe injuries, including:
- Simple and compound fractures
- Crushed bones
- Face and eye injuries
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries and whiplash
- Internal injuries and internal bleeding
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Pulled and/or torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries
- Road rash
- Thermal and/or chemical burns
You could also suffer from secondary injuries, such as infections. Open wounds—whether sustained in the accident or because of surgery for accident injuries—are more likely to become infected if you have underlying conditions that affect your immune system. Diabetes, immunodeficiencies, and even medications and treatments such as chemotherapy can all affect how quickly you recover and whether an open wound might become infected.
Additionally, accident injuries could exacerbate a condition you already have, causing you to incur additional medical expenses and pain and suffering. Because you would not have made your previous injury or condition worse if not for the truck accident, the court can hold the defendant liable for those damages.
What to Do After a Head-On Collision With a Truck
If you can move without causing additional damage to yourself, call first responders and check on other drivers. Take photos of the accident and give the police officer your story. Allow the emergency medical technicians to check you over.
If you can, obtain contact information from other drivers and witnesses, including passengers in other vehicles involved in the wreck. You should also obtain the driver’s registration information, insurance information, employer information, and CDL license information.
Go to the hospital to have doctors check you thoroughly. Keep in mind that some injuries can manifest hours or even days after the accident!
If you do not believe you can move without causing more damage to yourself, do not move! If you can reach your phone, call 911.
You or a loved one should contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible—even before your doctor releases you. While you have up to two years to file a lawsuit in Texas, most insurance companies give you only a few days—sometimes as little as 15 days—to file a claim.
Dealing With Insurance Companies
You can call an insurance company and notify them that you were in a wreck, but do not give any information other than your name, contact information, the date and location of the wreck, and your attorney’s contact information. Insurance companies will try anything to avoid paying out a claim; they have no sympathy for you and they only want to avoid decreasing their profit.
Attorneys know the tricks insurance companies pull, including twisting what you say to assign blame to you instead of the at-fault driver. Insurance companies know this and are less likely to try to trick an attorney.
Other actions and inactions the insurance company might take in an attempt to save money include:
- Outright denying a claim without giving you a reason.
- Not communicating promptly on your claim, causing you to miss potential deadlines.
- Undervaluing a claim, especially if you have injuries that could turn into long-term or permanent disabilities.
- Stalling and taking time to resolve your claim.
- Improperly investigating your claim or failing to investigate your claim at all.
If they don’t make a fair and reasonable offer, insurance companies know that you are more likely to take your case to court when you retain an attorney. Thus, you have a better chance of getting the compensation you deserve when you have an attorney. Show them you mean business!
You can recover three types of damages in Texas car accidents.
Economic damages and non-economic damages are compensatory damages. The court orders these in an attempt to make you whole again. While the money does not ease your pain and suffering or bring back a loved one, it can significantly reduce the financial stress brought on by your inability to work after the accident.
The court orders punitive damages only as a punishment to the defendant. You cannot collect punitive damages if the court finds that you should not receive compensatory damages. Thus, if you ask for punitive damages, the trial is bifurcated (meaning it is in two parts.) In the first part, the court hears the evidence and the jury awards the compensatory damages you deserve. In the second part, usually with the same judge and jury, the jury determines if the defendant should pay compensatory damages and makes the award.
Special damages, often referred to as economic damages, have a monetary value and include:
Medical Expenses. You could collect past and future medical expenses. Past medical expenses are those you incur because of the wreck and before a settlement or a trial award. Future medical expenses are those you incur because of the wreck but after a settlement or a trial award.
Medical expenses include surgeries, follow-up appointments, regular doctors’ appointments, ambulatory aids, prescriptions, and costs for therapies, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and cognitive and other psychological therapies.
Should you have to add wheelchair ramps, grab bars, or otherwise change your home to accommodate your injuries and disabilities caused by the crash, the defendant must pay those expenses and the costs to install hand controls or make other modifications to your vehicle.
Lost Wages. If your accident injuries prevent you from working, you could recover past and future lost wages. Past lost wages include those for the time you cannot work from the date of the accident through the time you settle or win a trial award. Future lost wages are those you lose after a settlement or trial award if your doctors believe that your injuries caused long-term or permanent disabilities that prevent you from working.
If your truck accident injuries caused long-term or permanent disabilities that prevent you from working at the hourly rate or salary you had before the accident, you could recover partial future lost wages by explaining your lost earning capacity.
Personal Property. After a head-on accident, you could recover compensation to pay to replace or repair destroyed or damaged personal property, including your vehicle, anything of value in the vehicle, or anything you were carrying with you if you were on a motorcycle or bicycle or if you were walking when the truck hit you. This could include computers, cell phones, clothing, and other items you have with you.
End-of-Life Expenses. Finally, you could recover any expenses for a loved one’s funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses if the head-on collision was fatal.
General damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, do not have a monetary value as it is impossible to assign a dollar amount to items such as loss of use or pain and suffering.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to use ambulatory aids or take prescription medication for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as your hand or foot.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you normally do, such as house cleaning, lawn maintenance, grocery shopping, and home maintenance and repair.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Disfigurement and/or excessive scarring.
As part of emotional distress, you might need psychiatric therapy. This is common in the case of traumatic accidents and is nothing to be ashamed of. In some cases, the injuries might not be traumatic, but the intense emotions of the wreck cause anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
For example, a truck hits you but causes very little damage because the driver was going slow. However, your mind could only think about your screaming child and how badly they are injured. Even when you turn around and notice that your child has a few bruises and scratches, your mind already pictured more severe injuries. This is traumatic for some and might require psychological therapy to deal with the resulting anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Who Is Responsible for My Damages in a Truck Accident?
Commercial vehicle accidents are different from other accidents in that you could recover damages from several entities.
In some cases, the driver is not completely responsible for the accident. Some of the other entities—and people—that you might include in a settlement or jury trial include:
- The trucking company
- An independent owner/operator
- The lessee and/or lessor
- A third-party repair technician
- A third-party inspector
- A third-party dispatcher
- A city, county, or state if poorly maintained roads caused the wreck
- Another driver, such as someone that cut a truck off, causing the truck to lose control (In some cases, more than one other driver could share in the responsibility for causing the accident.)
- The truck and/or trailer manufacturer
- Parts manufacturers (For example, defective parts that have hidden defects. Neither the repair tech nor the store that sold the parts could see the defect. If the defective part caused the wreck, you could recover from the company that manufactured the part.)
In some car accident cases, you might have to sue the driver personally if they do not have enough insurance to cover your damages. However, with a commercial vehicle accident, if more than one person is responsible for the accident, you have more of a chance of recovering the compensation you deserve from the various insurance companies since liability would be spread across multiple parties and it would not be only one insurance company shouldering the full amount of the damages.
Cost of a Head-On Truck Collision Case
When you retain a personal injury firm, they will likely set up an initial case evaluation for free. If you decide to retain an attorney, they will likely have you sign a contingency contract, meaning you would not pay for their legal services unless they win your case. The agreement outlines all of the fees and costs and when you pay them, including expenses such as deposition expenses, investigation expenses, and expert witness expenses. If you settle your case, you might not even incur some of these expenses—it all depends on the insurance company's actions.
If you were injured or lost a loved one in a head-on truck collision, you deserve an advocate to guide you through this trying time. Contact a compassionate Houston truck accident attorney
now and learn more about the compensation you are entitled to.