Standing up to Trucking Companies for Injured Accident Victims
After a semi-truck crashes into your car, your first concern is to make sure everyone gets emergency medical attention. The chaos after an accident will likely result in trauma and disorientation. Getting through the hours and days after a truck accident can cause stress and difficulties—but this is often only the beginning of a long road ahead. Once you stabilize your health as much as possible, you need to obtain the financial compensation you deserve as a truck accident victim.
Commercial truck crashes may involve many different factors and players, making the recovery of compensation after a truck accident substantially more complex than after a car accident with a non-commercial driver. With the right truck accident law firm behind you, however, you can get every cent you deserve from the negligent truck driver and trucking company.
The team of attorneys led by Stewart J. Guss has represented many truck accidents victims and understands just how these cases work. We fight for your rights and trucking corporations never intimidate us. Call our office for more information today.
Considerations After a Truck Accident
The first question most people ask after a truck accident is whether to call an attorney in the first place. Usually, the answer is a resounding “YES!” You have nothing to lose by scheduling a free initial consultation so we can evaluate your rights.
But you need to answer other questions to determine the size and scope of your particular truck accident claim. Some questions we may ask during your consultation include:
- Did you suffer injuries? How serious are they?
- Was a loved one killed in the accident?
- What was the extent of damage to your vehicle?
- Did the police report to the scene? Did they arrest or cite the truck driver?
- Do you have medical bills stemming from the accident?
- Has your insurance refused to cover your medical costs?
- Do you require future medical treatments for your injuries?
- Were you forced to miss work and lose income due to your injuries?
- Are you able to return to work?
- Are you suffering any lasting impairments from your injuries?
Trying to answer these questions will give us an idea of the compensation to which your truck accident claim may entitle you.
Determining Truck Accident Liability
A lawyer may help you answer other questions after your truck accident. This may include: What specifically caused the crash? You need to answer this complicated question to prove you deserve full compensation for your losses. Fortunately, our law firm has tools and methods to identify the cause of a crash and prove another party’s negligence.
Commercial truckers must abide by many laws and regulations that do not apply to other types of drivers and vehicles, making their jobs difficult. Anyone in the trucking industry, however, should fully understand that everyone’s safety depends on compliance with trucking laws and regulations. Those in the trucking industry who violate safety laws can cause dangerous collisions and injuries to others on the road.
Trucking companies and drivers can negligently violate laws, rules, or regulations—a discussion about some of which follows below.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
This is a set of federal regulations that applies to any trucks engaging in interstate business in the United States. They apply to all types of commercial vehicles, including 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, buses, tanker trucks, and hazardous materials (hazmat) trucks, among many others. Any owners or drivers of these trucks should comply with the following regulations (and more), or they risk causing serious injuries.
Commercial driver’s license – Every person who gets behind the wheel of any type of commercial vehicle must have a current commercial driver’s license (CDL). In addition, certain types of vehicles (for example, hazmat transports) require additional training and licensing. A company that allows an unlicensed, untrained, or unqualified driver to operate a commercial truck can easily cause a crash.
Health certificate – To obtain or renew a CDL, a driver must undergo a medical exam and get a certificate of health signed by a qualified health professional. Unhealthy drivers who suffer heart attacks, seizures, or other severe health events behind the wheel will likely crash. In addition, certain health conditions can prevent drivers from safely operating such large vehicles.
Truck size and weight – The FMCSA regulates the maximum weight of fully loaded commercial trucks. The maximum is based on the size and type of truck, including the number of axles on the truck. No commercial truck can weigh more than 80,000 pounds. A driver cannot easily stop an overloaded truck, which is prone to cause jackknife accidents.
Hours of service – Fatigued driving has become a serious problem in the trucking industry, with drivers under serious pressure to make faster deliveries. The FMCSA strictly regulates the hours of service a truck driver can put in each day and week without taking certain breaks. Hours of service violations can easily lead to fatigued driving accidents.
Distracted driving – Distracted driving is an epidemic for all drivers in the United States today. Commercial drivers on long shifts face especially strong temptations to entertain themselves by using smartphones or engaging in other distracting activities. The law, however, prohibits commercial drivers from ever using handheld devices. They can only make calls that require pushing one button or using completely hands-free technologies. Anytime truck drivers look away from the road for any reason, they can easily collide with other vehicles.
Impaired driving – Because impaired driving is so dangerous for truck drivers, the law holds them to much stricter standards than regular drivers. The legal limit is half that of regular drivers, and they must undergo required drug and alcohol testing to prevent accidents and to identify when drugs or alcohol may have contributed to a crash.
Inspections – If a commercial truck is not in proper working order, a malfunction can cause a driver to suddenly lose control and crash. For this reason, the FMCSA requires that the trucking company and truck driver conduct regular inspections . A driver must properly inspect a truck before each shift to identify any possible issues. Too many drivers skip this important step, however, resulting in a preventable malfunction.
If our attorneys can prove that a truck driver or trucking company caused your accident by violating any FMCSA regulations, we can prove that you deserve to recover compensation for all of your losses from the negligent parties.
State Traffic Law Violations
Texas law expects everyone who gets behind the wheel of any type of motor vehicle to follow all of the state’s traffic laws. Therefore, all commercial drivers passing through Texas must adhere to the specific laws of our state. While this may seem confusing, most traffic codes are relatively consistent from state to state, with the posted speed limits forming the major differences. Truck drivers can obey Texas’s traffic laws just as easily as any other state’s.
Like any other drivers, however, some commercial drivers believe that certain laws do not apply to them. A truck driver who violates a traffic rule places the safety of all other motorists in jeopardy. Examples of commonly violated traffic laws that lead to truck accidents include:
- Illegal passing (usually on the right or on the shoulder)
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Failing to signal
- Aggressive driving
- Reckless driving
More egregious violations of the law can cause severe accidents and injuries. Truck drivers may engage in highly dangerous behaviors, including:
- Road rage
- Drag racing
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Vehicular manslaughter
Any of these offenses will likely end up in criminal charges for the truck driver, as well as devastating damage for any accident victims.
When a court convicts a truck driver of violating a safety regulation or law, this conviction can help prove negligence in a subsequent personal injury case that victims file. Our law firm knows how to examine police reports and criminal records to determine what type of evidence you can use to protect your rights.
Other Types of Negligence
Negligent trucking companies and drivers do not necessarily violate any laws. These negligent acts, however, can still serve as the basis for liability in truck accident claims. Examples of such negligence include:
• Hiring drivers with a record of dangerous driving
• Not properly supervising drivers
• Driving distractions that do not specifically violate the law
• Fatigued driving, even when within hours of service regulations
• Improper truck maintenance
It is possible, if difficult, to demonstrate that the truck driver and trucking company should face liability for all of your accident-related losses due to these types of negligence.
Strict Liability of Trucking Companies
Sometimes a truck driver makes dangerous decisions without an employer knowing—or even suspecting—that something is wrong. However, even when truck drivers cause accidents all on their own, the trucking companies that employ them may share responsibility for the accident—a legal concept called respondeat superior holds companies strictly liable for the negligent acts of their employees.
Because companies often have larger insurance policies and greater assets than the drivers themselves, you must identify when you can hold a company strictly liable for your accident. Our attorneys will always explore all possible liable parties to ensure you recover the maximum amount you deserve for your losses.
Don’t Deal With Trucking Companies Alone
Even in cases of clear liability, trucking companies and their insurance companies will likely do anything possible to avoid liability. Any liability for accidents and injuries hurts their bottom lines and even their reputations for safety. For this reason, companies often try to intimidate accident victims into dropping or decreasing their claims. You need a lawyer working on your behalf whom they will not intimidate, someone who will continue fighting for what is right.
Trucking companies and insurance companies have many resources and often threaten to take your case to trial instead of offering you the settlement you deserve. The attorneys at the law office of Stewart J. Guss have negotiated many truck accident cases and know how to effectively and aggressively present your case to obtain a favorable settlement. If the company refuses to offer an adequate settlement, we have the resources and experience to fight for your rights in the courtroom.
Texas Truck Accident FAQ
With the arrival of imported goods from other countries and the transport of domestic products to and from other regions, Texas sees its fair share of commercial vehicle traffic.
Unfortunately, with that traffic comes traffic accidents. In fact, in one recent year, Texas saw more than 37,000 accidents involving commercial motor vehicles such as tractor-trailers and box trucks. These accidents resulted in 611 fatalities, and more than 1,300 serious injuries.
If you were injured in an accident in Texas that involved a commercial vehicle, your health should be your top priority. While you’re on the road to recovery, however, you probably have a lot of anxiety about how to pay for your medical bills, how to hold someone responsible for your injuries, and how to determine fault in your accident.
Below are some of the questions we are most frequently asked about truck accidents.
What is a commercial truck and what makes them so dangerous?
Put simply, a commercial truck is a large truck used to transport goods from one location to another. In addition to tractor-trailers, otherwise sometimes known as semi-trucks or big-rigs, the term also includes single-unit box-style trucks. When fully loaded, a tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which is roughly 20 to 30 times heavier than the average passenger car. Many of the dangers presented by trucks are due to their size: they make wide turns, they take longer to come to a stop, there’s the increased risk of rollovers due to their height, and they have significant blind spots. Truck drivers may be unable to see small cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and nearby pedestrians. Specific training and skill sets are needed to operate a massive truck.
What causes commercial truck accidents in Texas?
As with any type of motor vehicle accident, human error is the chief cause of accidents involving commercial trucks.
Among the many errors that humans can make, the ones most often responsible for causing truck accidents include:
- Driver fatigue: In spite of hours of service rules that dictate how long a truck driver can be on duty before taking a break, they are still allowed to drive for many hours at a time. This inevitably results in fatigue. In addition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that nearly one third of all U.S. truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea, which is a breathing condition that causes a person’s breathing to temporarily pause during sleep. People with this condition can experience hundreds of these pauses in the course of a night’s sleep, leaving them feeling tired even after getting the recommended eight hours of sleep.
- Alcohol or drug impairment: While truck drivers are subject to random drug and alcohol screenings as part of their job, let’s face it: not everyone follows the rules. When you combine a large unwieldy truck with an inebriated driver, tragedies can happen.
- Speeding: Truck drivers are always on a deadline. This can pressure them into risky behavior like speeding. As we mentioned, large trucks require a longer distance to come to a safe stop. Speeding increases the distance needed even more. Additionally, speeding makes it harder for the driver to maneuver the vehicle.
- Unfamiliarity with Texas roadways: If a truck driver gets lost on a new route or when making a delivery in a part of the city with which they are unfamiliar, accidents can happen. The truck driver might swerve to avoid missing an exit, or try to turn around quickly. This can also result in wrong-way driving on the highway, on an exit, or a one-way road. Wrong-way driving is a major cause of head-on collisions.
- Failure to yield the right-of-way: If a truck fails to stop at a red light or a stop sign, there is a high risk of a broadside collision. Broadside collisions are one of the most dangerous types of accidents, particularly if there is a large size difference between the vehicles like with a commercial truck and a passenger vehicle.
- Inclement weather: Handling a truck in bad weather is no small feat. Heavy rain or fog can create visibility problems, and wet or slick roads result in the need for increased stopping distance. But even if the weather is a factor, drivers can still be held liable for injuries they cause if they have an accident with another motorist, bicyclist, or pedestrian.
Aren’t truck drivers federally regulated?
Yes, commercial truck drivers are subject to regulations put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Some of those regulations include:
- Hours of service requirements
- Drug and alcohol screening
- Medical exams to certify that the driver is fit to drive
- A regular maintenance schedule for the truck
- Regular background checks, including the driver’s full driving record
How do I obtain compensation for my injuries?
If you were injured in a truck accident caused by a truck driver, you can seek compensation by filing a third-party insurance claim or having your attorney draft a demand letter to the trucker’s insurance company.
Often, because insurance companies do not like to pay out on injury claims, they will not pay the requested amount. Instead, your demand letter will begin the negotiation process between your attorney and representatives from the insurance company. If these negotiations fail to produce an acceptable settlement offer, you can file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court and continue to seek damages that way.
Note that the vast majority of truck accident lawsuits never go to trial. They are instead settled at some point between when the lawsuit is filed and the trial begins. In fact, some settlements are reached while the trial is taking place. The reason for this is that it is expensive to litigate a case. Insurance companies are forced to decide which will result in paying less money: offering you a settlement, or going to trial. If they lose, they have to pay the full amount sought by the plaintiff and the cost of the trial as well. This is something they want to avoid.
Should I sue the truck driver or the trucking company?
It all depends on the truck driver’s relationship with the company. If the truck driver is an employee, the company can be named in addition to the driver. If the driver works as an independent contractor for the company, it can be a bit more tricky. However, if the accident resulted from something that the company should have known about—such as a history of speeding that was clear in the driver’s driving record—you still may sue both.
Other potential sources of liability include:
- The individual or entity who performed maintenance on the truck.
- The manufacturer or distributor of auto parts used on the truck, if a defective part caused the accident.
- Other drivers, who may have caused the accident to occur but weren’t directly involved in it.
Your truck accident attorney will painstakingly review the details of your case to determine all potential sources of liability and the associated insurance resources that can be used to compensate you.
The truck driver said I was in his blind spot. What does that mean?
A blind spot is an area around the vehicle that the driver cannot see when they are looking in their rear or side view mirrors. While all vehicles have blind spots, commercial trucks have significant blind spots on all four sides. These blind spots pose risks for other motorists when they are passing the truck, when the truck is passing them, when the truck is merging, or when it is making a wide turn at an intersection. If your accident was caused because you were in the truck driver’s blind spot, they could still be liable, since drivers have the responsibility to ensure that a travel lane is clear before proceeding.
What is an underride?
In addition to their size, commercial trucks have high ground clearance. An underride is a term used to describe a situation in which a smaller passenger vehicle slides beneath the truck during an accident. Accidents that involve underrides are often fatal to the occupants of the passenger car.
I was offered a settlement by the trucking company’s insurance carrier. Should I accept it?
Before agreeing to any settlement offer, you should first speak to our Texas truck accident lawyers. Often, insurance companies will offer a minimum amount in the hopes that they can come to a quick and easy settlement.
Unfortunately, truck accidents often result in injuries that extend far beyond what’s covered by a quick and easy settlement. These injuries can create permanent disabilities, require extensive medical treatments for months or even years, call for follow-up treatments to address complications, result in a victim’s inability to work or to earn the same income as before the accident, and lead to a tremendous amount of pain, suffering, and other life impacts.
Getting a fair settlement takes time, and you only have one chance: you either get the amount you need to completely cover your expenses, or you face paying for some of your expenses out of pocket. Once the settlement agreement is signed, you cannot go back and ask for more money, no matter what complications arise.
Is there compensation for the pain and suffering I have endured since being injured in a Texas truck accident?
Yes! There are two types of damages that victims can seek in a personal injury case:
- Economic damages, which include actual out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills, car repair bills, the cost of modifying your home to accommodate a permanent disability caused by your accident, lost wages, and loss of future earning capacity.
- Non-economic damages, which are compensation for all of the non-economic impacts you’ve experienced in your life as a result of the accident. These can include compensation for pain and suffering, mental distress, and loss of the enjoyment of life.
How are non-economic damages calculated in a Texas truck accident case?
Non-economic damages are assessed in conjunction with the following factors:
- Your age and overall health at the time of the accident
- Whether your injuries are permanent
- How painful or intense the medical treatments are for an injury like yours
- Whether the injuries left scarring or disfigurement
- How disruptive the injury is to your life and your ability to earn a living
- Your range of mobility before and after the accident
There is no average settlement amount for a truck accident case, because every accident is unique. The value of each case is dependent on the individual circumstances in each case. A truck accident attorney can help you consider all your options.
How can having an attorney help my Texas truck accident case?
Having an attorney can result in a higher settlement or award. In many cases, this settlement amount is exponentially higher.
In addition to establishing the value of your case and determining all sources of liability and insurance resources, your attorney will provide these other vital services for you:
- Timely filing of legal paperwork in the proper jurisdiction.
- Collecting evidence that can be used to prove liability. In truck accident cases, the discovery phase – in which the parties conduct investigations to collect evidence – can be quite extensive. You might need to obtain documents from the trucking company that they’re not too eager to provide. An experienced truck accident attorney not only knows which documents to request, but also how quickly you need to secure that evidence before it disappears.
- Interviewing witnesses and recording their statements.
- Aggressively negotiating on your behalf to produce an acceptable settlement for you.
- Providing thoughtful guidance and information that can help you make decisions in your case, such as whether to accept a settlement offer.
- Representing you at all pre-trial hearings and conferences.
- Communicating with professionals such as medical experts or accident reconstruction specialists who can provide knowledge and experience in those fields. This can help you prove the other party’s liability.
- Litigating, if your case goes to trial.
- Assisting you with collecting your settlement or award.
- Providing further representation if the defendant files an appeal.
Let’s talk about your Texas truck accident! For a free case evaluation, contact our Texas truck accident lawyers at anytime. We’re ready to speak to you 24/7, for free.
Contact a Texas Truck Accident Attorney for Help Today
You may want to choose the legal team of Stewart Guss to handle your truck accident case for many reasons. We understand the stress of a crash and we seek to relieve you from as much stress as possible regarding the legal side of your recovery. Our team has integrity and always works tirelessly to protect the rights of our clients.
Consultations are always free, and you never pay us a dime unless we successfully obtain a settlement or award for you. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, please call our office at 800-898-4877 or contact us online today.
Don´t Take Chances – Let Us Help You!
See what past clients have to say:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“We received QUALITY service, reliable guidance and we are VERY satisfied with the outcome. Our treatment was both fair & honest; we highly recommend. If one word sums it up, the word would be Exceptional. “Thank you” for all you did!”