Every truck accident in Texas today has a high chance of resulting in injury or death.
Unfortunately, as interstate commerce increases, the likelihood of injury will not decrease anytime soon.
If you or a loved one sustains an injury due to a negligent truck driver or motor carrier, you may have several questions about the claims process.
At Armstrong Lee & Baker LLP, we have put together a guide that explains the different aspects of a truck accident that differentiate it from other claims.
We hope this information helps you as you consider your legal options.
Texas Truck Accident Statistics
In Texas, accidents involving large semi-trucks are more common than one might think.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 22,214 trucks involved in accidents in 2020.
About one out of every four of those crashes involved some sort of injury or fatality. Unfortunately, nearly 20% of all injury-causing accidents resulted in a reported serious injury or death.
This makes truck accidents one of the most dangerous types of crashes on the road in Texas.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Due to their sheer size and lack of maneuverability, trucks may cause accidents in a number of ways. Large, heavy vehicles take a long time to stop, so they often cause serious damage.
Some other common causes of these accidents include:
- Driver fatigue;
- Distracted driving;
- Incorrectly loaded cargo;
- Improper maintenance;
- Poor driver training; and
- Inadequate safety precautions.
These are just a few of the ways a truck may cause an accident in Texas. However, there are plenty of other causes that might not appear on this list.
Ultimately, whether the negligence of the driver or their employer leads to an accident, victims may seek compensation.
Federal Regulations for Trucking Companies
Both the state of Texas and the federal government have specific regulations that trucking companies must follow.
These regulations usually depend on whether the company is an interstate carrier or an intrastate carrier.
However, most do cross-state deliveries, making them interstate motor carriers. This means that they must obey federal regulations at all times.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues and enforces most trucking regulations.
Many of them have to do with things like employee alcohol and controlled substance use, training, safety rules, operational requirements, and more.
If motor carriers fail to follow these regulations, they may receive heavy penalties.
Despite these rules, many motor carriers and drivers take shortcuts or ignore regulations for the sake of efficiency.
This is when accidents are more likely to happen.
For example, many motor carriers break the hours-of-service rules set by the FMCSA. These regulations aim to prevent drivers from operating their vehicles while fatigued.
Currently, property-carrying truck drivers:
- May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 hours off-duty;
- Cannot drive beyond the 14th hour on-duty;
- Must take a 30-minute break after driving 8 consecutive hours;
- May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days; and
- Can extend their driving limit by two hours if they encounter adverse conditions.
Any driver that breaks these rules run the risk of causing a serious truck accident. For this reason, it is important to examine the service logs of the driver after a collision.
An attorney can help obtain this information from the motor carrier on your behalf.
How Liability Affects a Truck Accident Case
Truck accidents can be a lot more complex than other types of auto collisions. Instead of one potentially liable party, several may have some responsibility.
This is because there are so many companies or individuals involved in the carrier’s shipping process, whether it is mechanics or other third-party businesses.
Some potentially at-fault parties include the following:
- Driver—Not all drivers are attentive or have the qualifications necessary to operate a large vehicle. Some may even drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even if the truck itself is in good shape, it needs a good driver to remain safe on the road.
- Motor carrier—If the trucking company that manages the driver encouraged them to break federal regulations or simply were negligent during the hiring process, they might be liable for the accident.
- Mechanic—Some trucking companies have a third-party repair company maintain their fleet of vehicles. If mechanics at these companies fail to fix a broken part or report issues with the truck, they might be responsible if that part breaks and causes a collision.
- Manufacturer—While not terribly common, some trucks get into accidents due to a design flaw from the manufacturer. This could range from a loose part holding the trailer to the tractor to a faulty brake system.
- Cargo loader—Although often overlooked, the way that a company loads cargo on a trailer matters when considering safety. Overloaded or unevenly loaded trucks present a huge risk to other drivers since they are harder to control.
As you can see, a Texas truck accident requires a thorough investigation to determine who holds responsibility.
That is why it is important for victims to seek the assistance of an experienced truck accident attorney after the incident.
Potential Damages for Truck Accidents in Texas
In Texas, there are two types of damages that apply to most claims: economic and non-economic.
Each plays a significant role in calculating your total damages, but they cover different kinds of losses.
Economic damages are the simplest of the two.
Essentially, they include any tangible, financial losses due to your accident, such as:
- Hospitalization fees;
- Doctor visits;
- Property damage;
- Lost wages; and
- Reduced earnings.
Such losses are relatively easy to calculate because they have a standard cost. To get an idea of your economic damages, just add any applicable bills, lost wages, receipts, quotes, or estimates.
This is the first component of measuring total damages.
On the other hand, non-economic damages are not as straightforward. That is because non-economic damages are physical or emotional losses, which are intangible.
Some examples of these losses include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish;
- Permanent disability;
- Severe disfigurement;
- Loss of quality of life; and
- Loss of consortium for a spouse.
These losses are just as important as financial losses, but they vary from person to person. For this reason, many attorneys have their own formulas for calculating non-economic damages.
How Long You Have to File a Lawsuit
Every personal injury lawsuit, including truck accidents, has a time limit for filing a lawsuit known as a statute of limitations. In Texas, the statute of limitations for truck accident victims is two years.
This means that you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. If you try filing after the time limit expires, the court may deny your case.
That is why it is imperative to start building your case immediately, even if it does not end up going to trial.
Three Ways an Attorney Can Help Start Building Your Case After a Semi-Truck Accident in Texas
Due to the complexity of a Texas truck accident, there are several benefits to hiring an attorney.
Not only do they understand the potential parties that are responsible for the crash, but they also know how to manage every aspect of the case from start to finish.
Here are three immediate benefits an attorney might provide once they start building your case.
1. Gather Evidence from the Scene
The most important part of any truck accident case is the evidence you have of your damages.
However, if you sustain serious injuries in the crash, chances are you may not have time to collect evidence at the scene.
If you have an attorney, they can help look for any evidence related to your case, whether it is video footage, images, or road markings.
This important first step helps recreate the events leading up to the collision, making it easier to tell your side of the story.
2. Contact Potential Witnesses
Truck accidents typically have many witnesses, especially if the accident happened on a busy highway or interstate.
If the responding police officer lists any possible witnesses in their accident report or if you receive contact information from a witness, your attorney will reach out to them for a statement.
Simply put, the more witnesses there are, the easier it is to reconstruct the accident.
3. Request Operational Documents from the Motor Carrier
Not all evidence comes in the form of medical documentation or images. Instead, a Texas truck accident often includes records from the motor carrier.
This essential information helps an attorney determine whether a motor carrier or other party broke federal regulations prior to the accident.
In fact, an attorney may seek information from the truck’s black box regarding travel time and statistics. This usually indicates whether a driver exceeded their hours of service or drove erratically.
Injured in a Truck Accident? Contact One of Our Experienced Attorneys
At Armstrong Lee & Baker LLP, our attorneys draw on extensive experience handling all kinds of personal injury cases.
When it comes to truck accidents, we know how devastating the resulting injuries are for victims. That is why we carefully consider every case that comes through our door.
Our goal is to be a fierce advocate for every client and fight for their recovery. With our knowledge, resources, and experience, we never back down and always put victims first.
To schedule a free consultation, send us a message or call us at 832-709-1124.