Truck accidents are often catastrophic and deadly.
If you live in the Houston, San Antonio or Dallas regions and you were hit by an 18-wheeler or commercial truck, you’re not alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says more than 110,000 Americans were injured in one recent year of wrecks involving large commercial vehicles and big rigs.
Nearly 4,000 people died in such crashes, which tend to be the most destructive of all traffic accidents due to the truck’s enormous size and weight. Indeed, though big rigs account for just 3% of all vehicles on our roads, they’re involved in over 12% of all fatal wrecks.
In fact, it’s getting worse. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the number of large trucks and buses in fatal crashes has increased by 42 percent since 2009. Also, the 4,889 large trucks and buses in fatal crashes in 2017 was an increase of 9 percent over the previous year, with large trucks alone having a 10 percent increase.
If someone close to you was killed or seriously injured in a large truck collision, you must take your legal rights seriously to gain justice and financial compensation for your family. And that’s where an experienced truck accident lawyer comes in.
What do I do after a truck accident?
You may be wondering what to do after a truck accident. If you’ve already had one, much of the following advice may be too late. But from this point onward, you can protect yourself and your loved ones with knowledge of how to proceed after a big rig crash.
1. Stop. Do not leave the scene. If you do, you can be accused of being a hit-and-run driver, which is a serious offense. Even so, while remaining in the vicinity of the crash, you can attempt to remove yourself, your passengers and your vehicle from further harm by moving out of a traffic lane.
2. Call 911 to report the emergency. If you can’t find a phone, find someone who can and have them call 911.
3. Check on the other people who are involved in the accident. Assess their injuries and your own.
4. Take photos and capture video footage of the big rig wreck. Perhaps by using your cell phone, if not a separate camera. Capture images of the entire scene, including each vehicle involved from different angles, the nature of the roadway, road signs, road conditions (such as slickness from rain) and injuries to you or your passengers. Also note skid marks on the roadway and any debris flung onto or off the road.
5. Gather names and contact information. Witnesses of the collision can help back up your assessment of the facts.
6. Go to the emergency room, even if you’re not aware of any serious injuries. You could be injured and not recognize it. Concussions and internal bleeding, for instance, don’t always show obvious symptoms right away. Plus, if you eventually file an injury lawsuit against the truck company, you’ll need proof of your injuries via assessments from medical authorities. Medical records can be vital in gaining proper payments for your injury losses. By contrast, if you fail to get a medical exam right after a truck accident, that could send a message that your injury wasn’t that bad, which could work against you in a future claim. Documentation of your injuries is a significant means of making an injury claim.
7. Avoid giving details of your accident case on social media. In today’s society, social media statements can be used against persons making injury claims.
For instance, they may try to reassure friends or family that they’re all right, despite extensive injuries, and such posts later could be used against them during an injury lawsuit as a way to diminish the severity of the injuries.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to do all of these things after a truck accident to prove that the truck driver was at fault. If you’re unable to take photos, make videos or gather witness information at an accident scene, perhaps due to an injury or because your cell phone was damaged in the wreck, there are other ways to prove your case.
Can I sue for being hit by an 18-wheeler?
Most people do not like the idea of filing a lawsuit, but victims of 18-wheeler wrecks may find they have no choice. And if you are in this situation, you may wonder if you can just “keep it simple” and sue without having to hire an attorney. The answer is yes, you have that legal right, but it is not a good idea for a couple of different reasons.
First, lawsuits are complicated and governed by many special rules. If you file a lawsuit yourself, you will still be expected to follow all of the same rules that a trained attorney follows, and violating those rules, even accidentally, can have the same result as it would if an attorney broke them — permanently losing your case.
Second, even if you want to sue without hiring an attorney, the tractor-trailer driver and his employer will not do the same. Most trucking companies are protected by big insurance companies who hire skilled and expensive lawyers. It will not be an even fight, and those defense lawyers won’t think twice about making sure you lose your case.
If you need to file a lawsuit against a trucking company, you do not need to do it alone. At Jim Adler & Associates, we have decades of experience taking on the toughest insurance companies and coming out on top. You pay us nothing unless we win your case and we can even the fight for you.
What do I need to prove my case?
Beyond the elements listed above such as photos, videos and medical records, what else might you need to prove your case and prevail in a truck accident injury claim?
If your accident was in an intersection or otherwise in the vicinity of possible security cameras, those cameras could reveal the nature of the wreck in which you were not at fault.
Your truck accident lawyer also can seek access to truck company records revealing failure to maintain a vehicle properly, failure to hire and test drivers properly and failure to keep proper records of a driver’s hours. Documents such as the trucker’s logbook and shipping and receiving receipts also may help bolster your case.
A skilled truck crash attorney also can seek access to a so-called “black box” for the large truck. This device may include data and records of some driving processes which might have contributed to the crash.
Your Adler truck injury lawyer for Texas also can gather accident reports filed by police or other law enforcement authorities and emergency responders on the scene.
Also possible is engaging accident reconstruction specialists to retrace the steps of the crash. Their research and findings can be used as evidence. But keep in mind that the trucking line or its insurer also may hire such specialists in an attempt to shift the blame for the crash from the truck to the driver of the smaller vehicle.
Our team also works to receive evidence from the trucking company and insurance company and determine if the truck line has broken any state or federal rules or regulations. Such evidence can include logbooks and documents detailing the load and previous deliveries.
For your part, before you have your own vehicle scrapped or repaired, consult your truck accident lawyer. The vehicle in its condition due to the accident may still be needed as evidence.
The semi truck itself also may be used as valuable evidence by your truck wreck lawyer. That’s why trucking companies sometimes try to repair a damaged big rig quickly. But if you have quickly engaged a truck injury attorney, he or she may be able to get a court order to preserve this evidence before the truck line can obscure it.
Also, save all bills or receipts for any services you receive after the truck accident which are related to it. These can include receipts for physicians’ bills, auto repair bills, car rentals and hospital expenses. Keep them all so you’ll have proof of your costs and losses due to the big rig accident.
In addition, make notes of your health on a daily basis after an accident. Has it improved, deteriorated or remained stable? Has it caused you to miss work? And what is your level of pain? These notes and your doctor’s records can be used as evidence in presenting your case.
Do I need a lawyer if I was hit by an 18-wheeler or commercial vehicle?
You need a truck accident lawyer because your injuries are costly and those who are responsible will resist paying for them. Our law firm has decades of experience fighting big trucking lines and their insurance companies to claim such payments for our clients — payments that our clients legally deserve after being injured in a large truck accident.
Keep in mind that trucking companies and the insurers who represent them pay top dollar to their own lawyers to handle their cases. That could include your case against them if you make a substantial claim or file a lawsuit.
Those companies don’t make money by routinely paying what they rightly owe after their negligence causes a truck accident injury or death. Instead, they try in every way at their disposal to resist paying for such losses.
That’s why you should be wary of trucking companies from the start. In fact, it’s wise not to contact a truck company at all when you have an injury claim — and if you do, by all means don’t sign anything for the truck company before first consulting a truck accident injury lawyer.
Also be aware that if you do call, a truck line may record the conversation and ask leading questions designed to misrepresent your case and undercut the severity of your claim.
Besides that, if you try to deal with a truck company or its insurer on your own, they may offer you nothing at all, or they may offer a payment far below what your injury is actually worth — even while trying to sound helpful and sympathetic.
Truck line representatives may even try to make you feel guilty for an accident, despite evidence that negligence of the trucker or trucking line caused it.
If you contact the trucking company or its insurer on your own, it’s virtually guaranteed that they will try to take advantage of you by refusing to pay or by offering only a tiny amount.
Truck companies also may try a strategy of repeatedly delaying your claim or making excuses in order to discourage you from continuing. Or they may question the projected long-term effects of your injury, as well as trying to shift the blame for the accident to you.
These reasons are why you’re strongly advised not to contact a truck company on your own. Instead, let an Adler truck accident attorney make that first call. Then let us deal with the trucking line or insurance company on your behalf.
Our truck injury lawyers know what various types of injuries are worth in terms of financial compensation, and they will fight for your right to claim such money. They will not blindly accept a low-ball settlement offer from an insurance adjuster or truck company. Instead, they will fight for you and for what you are rightfully owed.
Having an injury lawyer on your side can deter the truck line or insurance company from taking advantage of you. When they learn you’re being represented by a skilled truck accident injury attorney, they know they must take your claim seriously and cannot expect you to accept a ridiculously low offer.
How much does it cost to hire an 18-wheeler truck attorney?
There are no up-front costs upon hiring an 18-wheeler attorney. Most law firms take cases on a contingency basis, including wrecks involving 18-wheelers. That means you pay no attorney fees at all unless and until money is recovered for you. And then you pay only a portion of the settlement you are awarded, and nothing out of your own pocket. And if a settlement in your favor is not forthcoming, then you typically pay nothing at all.
How do settlements for commercial truck accidents work?
As with lawsuits for most car crashes, a large commercial vehicle accident may be handled by your truck crash lawyer with no need for a trial. That’s done by negotiating with defendants or their representatives for a settlement out of court.
Keep in mind that our attorneys never will accept a settlement offer without your approval. You must agree with the settlement terms that we negotiate.
Also rest assured that the vast majority of personal injury claims are handled by means of out-of-court settlements, with no need for a trial. You may never have to set foot in a courtroom.
How long does a trucking lawsuit take?
If an out-of-court settlement is not feasible and your case does go to trial, the time needed to resolve your 18-wheeler lawsuit can vary.
“Every case is different,” Schnitzer says. “Some cases can be resolved in a matter of months, but others may require years of litigation.”
Rest assured that your Adler truck accident attorney will fight to resolve your case to your advantage as quickly as is possible.
What is the average settlement for a truck accident?
An “average” settlement may not apply to your situation, since every case is different. But truck accident injury settlements tend to be for many thousands of dollars — perhaps even millions of dollars.
Truck lines and trucking companies carry commercial insurance policies to protect them against claims for severe injuries or wrongful death after a truck accident. Such policies often have liability coverage of $1 million.
“Commercial motor vehicles are required by federal law to carry substantially more insurance than ordinary cars and trucks in Texas,” Schnitzer says. “But the amount actually recovered depends on the facts of each specific case.”
We can tell you this: Our truck accident lawyers will fight to get as much in payments as is possible for you. What can these payments cover? They can include your medical and hospital bills, both past and future; your lost past and future wages or earning capacity; your physical pain and mental anguish or suffering; and your physical impairment or disability. Damages also may be awarded to survivors for wrongful death.
In cases of extreme negligence, your truck accident lawyer also may be able to gain exemplary or punitive damages for you. These go beyond your personal financial losses and instead serve as punishment of the negligent parties or to set an example to warn others against such negligence.
Our mission is to gain such payments for you by holding accountable those responsible for injuries caused by an 18 wheeler or other large commercial vehicle. As for who may be responsible, they can include the trucking company, the driver, the manufacturer, the parts supplier and those who provided truck maintenance. Negligence by any of them may have led to your big truck accident.
Even more parties also may be responsible for a big rig crash. These can include a third party source which mapped out a truck’s route and did not allow for hazardous terrain or weather conditions. Also, a third-party loading company may have failed to secure a truck’s load properly, leading to a spilled load, a truck rollover or other calamities.
In some cases a truck accident is due to negligence or mistakes by the truck’s manufacturer. If a truck’s elements such as brakes, tires, gears or lights were defective when manufactured, the truck’s maker has a responsibility in a crash caused by these truck defects.
What are some of America’s brand names or manufacturers for 18-wheelers? These include Peterbilt, Volvo, Mack Trucks, Freightliner, International, Kenworth and Western Star Trucks.
How long do I have to file a truck injury claim?
Each state has its own statutes of limitations which indicate how long you have to take certain legal actions — a time after which such actions are not allowed.
In Texas, you have two years from the date of the truck accident to file an injury lawsuit. That means you must not wait longer than two years to take legal action, or you’ll never have the chance again.
Don’t wait for your injury costs to manifest fully in terms of medical and rehabilitation bills. These can be projected into the future as part of an injury lawsuit. Get a knowledgeable truck injury attorney quickly, not only to file a claim before Texas’ statute of limitations passes, but also to seek valuable evidence before a truck company can cover it up.
Can I hire an attorney if I’m at fault?
In Texas and most other states, you can hire a truck accident attorney to recover some money even if you are up to 50 percent at fault for a crash. This involves a concept known widely as “modified comparative fault.”
Known under Texas law as proportionate responsibility, that allows you to recover damages in an 18-wheeler injury lawsuit if you were no more than 50 percent at fault for the big rig wreck.
However, the degree to which you were at fault will reduce the amount of your settlement. For instance, if damages were deemed to be $100,000 and you were found to be 25 percent at fault, your recovery would be reduced by that percentage, and you’d be awarded $75,000.
But if you are deemed at fault by 51 percent or more, you can’t recover anything. The cause of the accident cannot be more than half your fault for you to be paid.
Even if you believe you were fully at fault for the truck accident, contact us anyway, because you still may need legal protection. Besides, it may turn out that you were not to blame at all.
What are some common causes of big truck accidents?
Among common causes of large truck accidents are failures by truck drivers.
Some truckers may tailgate or drive recklessly, or they may drive while fatigued and fall asleep at the wheel. Even those who take medications to remain awake may suffer from impaired judgment and reaction times due to those medications.
Truck lines also may be to blame. Driver fatigue can be the result of unrealistic and unsafe delivery deadlines imposed by trucking firms. Some truck lines put profits ahead of safety and disregard regulations designed to keep motorists safe by limiting truckers’ hours.
Truck companies also may not have properly trained or licensed their drivers to handle large commercial vehicles.
As for truckers themselves, they may drive while being distracted or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Sleep apnea also may be a factor in big truck crashes. Many truck drivers are overweight, which leads to a condition known as sleep apnea, which can cause them to become drowsy.
Big truck drivers who spend long hours at the wheel also may suffer from what is commonly called “highway hypnosis.” This means that the hours of monotony driving across long stretches of highway may make the driver less engaged and attentive, thus less able to react to suddenly changing road conditions.
Why do big trucks cause more accidents?
The very nature of big rigs can contribute to their accident risks. Though driver error commonly causes big truck crashes, wrecks also occur due to the nature of the large, lumbering vehicles themselves.
Lengthy and high 18 wheelers have blind spots — mostly in the rear but also to the sides — which their drivers cannot see. That means drivers may change lanes or do other things which endanger nearby vehicles in their blind spots.
Also, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Loaded tractor-trailers take 20-40 percent farther than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is greater on wet and slippery roads or with poorly maintained brakes.”
Indeed, such vehicle failure as bad brakes often is to blame. A big rig also may swerve after a tire blows out. That blowout may have been due to improper maintenance and failure to change overly worn tires, or it may have been due to an illegally overloaded trailer.
Semi trucks also can be dangerous when the truck cab is on the roads without towing a trailer, which is known as “bobtailing.” The Truckers Report says. “Trucks handle very differently when bobtailing, often making them more dangerous, especially in wet weather.”
Large trucks also have less maneuverability than a smaller car.
We’ll review still more causes and types of truck accidents below.
Where do payments for truck accident injuries come from?
As for payments for injuries in a truck accident, most likely they’ll come from the insurance company for the trucking line.
Such insurance companies often don’t agree to pay medical bills promptly and fully. That means your 18-wheeler accident attorney must make sure that the insurance company lives up to its obligations.
Whatever your injuries’ costs, we can fight to get you the settlement you deserve with an 18-wheeler lawsuit.
What are some common injuries from truck accidents?
Because of their size and weight, big trucks can cause terrible damages and life-changing injuries in a crash, especially at highway speeds.
An 18 wheeler or other large commercial vehicle is extremely big and heavy. Your car may weigh 4,000 pounds, but large trucks can weigh 80,000 pounds when fully loaded – or even more when overloaded illegally (which can contribute to your settlement).
Victims commonly suffer broken bones; injuries to internal organs; injuries to the back, neck or spine; paralysis such as quadriplegia or paraplegia; traumatic brain injury or other neurological damage; amputation of an arm or leg; burns; disfigurement; and even death.
For those who survive, 18-wheeler accident injuries often are severe to the point of being life-changing, debilitating and catastrophic. In fact, they’re among the worst injuries a person can suffer in any traffic accident.
Let’s explore further the many types of truck accident injuries. These can include:
According to the famed Mayo Clinic, a concussion is “a traumatic brain injury that affects your brain function. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance and coordination.”
Further the Mayo Clinic states that concussions usually are caused by a blow to the head, but also can occur after violently shaking the head and upper body. Also, while some concussions cause persons to lose consciousness, most do not. “It’s possible to have a concussion and not realize it,” says the Mayo Clinic.
Indeed, many people don’t realize that they are afflicted with a concussion until they are examined by a medical professional. Yet concussions can become serious ordeals if they are not treated. That’s why it’s vital to see a physician as soon as possible after a truck collision — even if you’re not aware of any injuries.
Concussion symptoms can include seizures, vision problems and difficulty with mental function or physical coordination.
Some concussions can lead to bleeding in or around your brain, causing symptoms such as prolonged drowsiness and confusion. Those symptoms may develop immediately after the injury or later. Either way, bleeding in the brain can be fatal.
Other brain injuries
A concussion is a relatively mild form of brain injury. More serious kinds of brain injuries can happen in a collision with an 18-wheeler, big rig, diesel truck, semi truck or tractor trailer. Like a concussion, these are called traumatic brain injuries.
The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) states that a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is “an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force. Traumatic impact injuries can be defined as closed (or non-penetrating) or open (penetrating).”
While a concussion is the most common kind of traumatic brain injury, the BIAA says others can include:
Contusion, which is a bruise (bleeding) on the brain caused by a force (blow or jolt) to the head.
Coup-contrecoup injury, which involves contusions both at the site of the impact and on the complete opposite side of the brain. “This occurs when the force impacting the head is not only great enough to cause a contusion at the site of impact, but is also able to move the brain and cause it to slam into the opposite side of the skull,” the BIAA says.
Second impact syndrome, also called “recurrent traumatic brain injury,” which can occur when a person sustains a second traumatic brain injury before the symptoms of the first traumatic brain injury have healed. The second injury may occur from days to weeks following the first. Loss of consciousness is not required. The second impact is more likely to cause brain swelling and widespread damage.
Penetrating injury to the brain, which occurs from the impact of a bullet, knife, or other sharp object that forces hair, skin, bone and fragments from the object into the brain.
Locked-in syndrome, which is a rare neurological condition in which a person cannot physically move any part of their body aside from their eyes.
Open head injury, also known as a penetrating head injury, which is a head injury in which the dura mater (the outer layer of the meninges) is breached. Penetrating head injury can be caused by high-velocity projectiles or objects of lower velocity such as bone fragments from a skull fracture that are driven into the brain.
Closed head injury, which is an injury to the brain caused by an outside force without any penetration of the skull. With a closed head injury, when the brain swells, it has no place to expand. This can cause an increase in intracranial pressure, which is the pressure within the skull, the BIAA states.
Sprains, strains and tears
Many people underestimate the damage of soft tissue sprains, strains and tears. If you don’t get a medical checkup immediately after a truck accident, more damage may be done to the soft tissue, and you may need surgery.
According to the University of Minnesota, a sprain is “an injury to the ligaments or capsule that holds a joint together. There are no broken bones. Most sprains take about three to six weeks to heal. If the ligament is completely torn (severe sprain), it can take months to recover.”
As for a strain, it is “an injury to a muscle or a tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone). It is sometimes called a ‘pulled muscle.’ A strain happens when a muscle or tendon is stretched too far or is partially torn. Symptoms of a strain are pain, swelling, and having a problem moving or using the injured area. The hamstring (thigh muscle), calf muscle, and Achilles tendon are commonly strained,” the University of Minnesota reports.
Finally, a tear “often occurs when a joint is forced beyond its normal range of motion. This can stretch or tear the ligament, much like the fibers of a rope coming apart. Both surgical and nonsurgical treatments have been used to recover from a tear.”
Any bone in your body can be broken in a violent truck accident. Spinal and neck injuries are usually the most serious. Regardless, they all require serious medical treatment and surgeries.
Broken bones also are known as fractures. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), “A bone may be completely fractured or partially fractured in any number of ways (crosswise, lengthwise, in multiple pieces).”
The AAOS lists these common types of fractures, or broken bones:
Stable fracture. The broken ends of the bone line up and are barely out of place.
Open, compound fracture. The skin may be pierced by the bone or by a blow that breaks the skin at the time of the fracture. The bone may or may not be visible in the wound.
Transverse fracture. This type of fracture has a horizontal fracture line.
Oblique fracture. This type of fracture has an angled pattern.
Comminuted fracture. In this type of fracture, the bone shatters into three or more pieces.
Bone fractures can take several months to heal. They should be evaluated with x-rays and treated by such means as cast immobilization, a functional cast or brace, traction, external fixation, or open reduction and internal fixation, the AAOS reports.
Bleeding internally, which is not visible to the eye, can be highly dangerous. It’s even more dangerous when victims aren’t aware that it is happening. In fact, it can be difficult to diagnose, even by medical professionals.
According to Healthline, internal bleeding can be the result of trauma or injury, and it could be a life-threatening condition.
Also, internal bleeding can lead to bloody or dark vomit or stool, and if it occurs behind the internal organs in the abdomen, there may be bruising around the navel or sides of the abdomen.
Spinal cord injuries
Injuries to the spinal cord can involve herniations or fractures, and these can require surgery. Severe injuries to the spinal cord can cause life-changing paralysis of certain body parts.
What types of accidents occur from truck accidents?
Let’s also explore further the many types of truck accidents. Such collisions can involve vehicles known as tractor trailers, diesel trucks, big rigs, semi trucks or 18 wheelers.
These big trucks can cause severe if not fatal injuries in large part because they are so big. In fact, a semi truck or other large truck with a trailer and a full load can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.
The truck itself may weigh around 18,000 pounds, while the trailer can weigh 10,000 pounds and the full load can weigh around 50,000 pounds, for a combined 78,000 pounds. The maximum legal weight is 80,000 pounds, or 40 tons, according to Truckers Report. (In some cases, oversize or overweight permits may be issued for larger trucks and loads.)
An 18-wheeler also is 70 to 80 feet in length and 13½ feet tall.
As for the average car, according to Autolist.com, the average car in 2018 weighed just over 4,000 pounds, which has been the case since 2015.
When a much heavier truck collides with a much lighter and smaller car or other vehicle, the large truck wreck can be devastating for occupants of the smaller vehicle. Usually, the big rig driver isn’t hurt at all.
The extent of 18 wheeler injuries depends not just on the comparative weights of the vehicles, but also their speed and the type of truck accident. These can include:
Head-on trucking accidents
Head-on collisions with a semi truck often are the most deadly types of trucking accidents. The smaller vehicle can be crushed beyond recognition, and the victims inside can be severely injured if not killed.
Head-on truck wrecks often happen not due to deliberately reckless driving, but because one of the drivers is severely fatigued (as often occurs with truckers working long hours) or is dealing with a medical issue.
One driver also could be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs or be highly distracted, perhaps by a cell phone or laptop computer, which many big rig drivers carry in their cab.
Rear-end trucking accidents
This happens when one vehicle crashes into the rear of another vehicle. If it’s a big rig slamming into the rear of a small car, the large truck could literally drive over the car. As with head-on collisions, rear-end truck accidents can be blamed on sickness, distracted driving, severe fatigue or driving under the influence, among other things.
Rollover trucking accidents
Large trucks can be prone to rollover accidents because of their height and heavy weight. This can happen when the semi truck driver swerves for some reason. The sudden and sharp change of direction, particularly at a high speed, can cause the truck to lean to one side and perhaps roll over.
Other vehicles nearby then are in danger as the large truck rolls across the roadway or even on top of them.
Jack-knife trucking accidents
Because semi trucks often haul a heavy trailer, they are prone to jack-knife trucking accidents. These can occur during bad weather when roads are slick with rain, snow or ice, but also can occur on dry roads. If the big rig attempts to slow suddenly or even stop, the truck may slow down faster than the trailer it’s hauling, which then swings to one side or the other, out of control.
The trailer then could collide with other vehicles in the vicinity. A truck’s trailer also can collide with the truck itself when it swings as widely as a 45-degree angle.
This kind of truck accident is known as a jack-knife since the out-of-control trailer swinging to the side of the truck can form an L-shape or that of an open jack-knife or pocket knife.
Tire blowouts are among the most common causes of big rig wrecks. A sudden blowout by an 18-wheeler’s truck or trailer can cause the vehicle to go out of control and veer into another lane or off the road. In the process, the semi truck can strike other, smaller vehicles and cause catastrophic injuries to their drivers or passengers.
It may be determined after a truck crash that the trucking line or truck driver failed to maintain the vehicle properly, including its tires. Overly worn tires, when not replaced, can lead to tire blowouts — and the horrible aftermath of a big truck accident.
Trailer load spills
A fatal car crash may involve a collision not with a big rig or semi truck itself, but with the spilled cargo of the tractor trailer. Such load spills can occur when the truck’s trailer is not properly secured and the load falls off or out, landing on the road.
There, trailer load spills threaten other vehicles, especially those approaching at the higher speeds allowed on highways. A collision with a spilled load can be devastating in itself, but also can cause a vehicle to bounce and veer into other vehicles. Cars also can crash when swerving to avoid a spilled load, so even if they don’t strike the cargo, they still have a collision.
Causes of such truck load spills can include the trucker failing to secure the cargo properly before embarking, or perhaps not closing the trailer doors securely. Drivers of other vehicles are not responsible for such spilled loads, but can suffer horribly because of them.
What kind of failures occur by commercial trucking companies?
Trucking line or truck company failures also can contribute to a big rig wreck. In what kinds of harmful behaviors do trucking companies engage?
Many truck companies fail to perform regular tests for alcohol or other drugs on their truck drivers. Trucking lines also may hire drivers who have a pre-existing history of driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Trucking lines also may fail to take appropriate disciplinary action if a truck driver is caught operating a truck while under the influence.
Truck companies also may allow drivers to operate trucks without the required certifications and licenses, thus putting inexperienced drivers on roads to operate their vehicles. A CDL (commercial driver’s license) should not be enough to assure driver safety at the wheel of a monstrously large truck. In fact, even experienced truck drivers should receive periodic updates in safety procedures.
Truck companies also may cover up their failures by not keeping required records to indicate their compliance — or non-compliance — with commercial driving rules and regulations.
Trucking lines also may fail to make regular truck inspections and undertake proper maintenance procedures. The truck’s driver may be the only one handling maintenance of a truck, but the trucking line is responsible.
What are the laws surrounding big rigs, commercial vehicles, and 18-wheelers?
Many of the failures named above may be due to a trucking line not obeying big truck laws in Texas and the United States.
Like everyone else, truck drivers are required to follow specific laws and rules. This is to ensure the safety of themselves, everyone else on the road and the transit of their cargo.
What are some important trucking laws which drivers and their employers must obey? Many involve rules of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These include:
Commercial driver’s license
Anyone who operates any commercial vehicle such as a tractor trailer truck is required by law to have a commercial driver’s license. Beyond that, each type of commercial vehicle requires specific training. Trucking lines and their trucker employees must comply.
All truck drivers are required to get operational approval from their primary physicians. If a driver has a severe medical condition that’s not under control, it can be dangerous for them to operate a commercial vehicle.
For instance, a medical exam would reveal if a driver was subject to seizures or other maladies which could suddenly make it difficult if not impossible to drive. Such medical exams can protect not just the driver, but others on the road.
Strict hours of service
Truck drivers must drive only a certain amount of hours a day and should not exceed that limit. Otherwise, truckers may suffer from severe fatigue which can contribute to a catastrophic injury crash.
Truckers and truck lines are required to keep service records to avoid this, but sometimes the trucking company or truck driver fail to do so. Or perhaps they deliberately “cook the books” to make it appear the driver is complying with time restraints on service, when that is not the case.
Under Texas trucking laws, a driver must have eight consecutive hours off-duty before beginning a shift. Then the driver may be on duty for 15 consecutive hours maximum, including no more than 12 consecutive hours at the wheel of a big rig.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allows up 14 hours on duty and up to 11 consecutive hours at the wheel, both followed by a minimum of 10 hours of rest.
Load size and weight
Truck drivers must adhere to strict guidelines on the size and weight of their loads. For instance, the maximum weight that a truck can haul, including the vehicle itself, is 80,000 pounds.
But each truck is different, and some can haul more — or less — than others. If a truck is overloaded and overweight for its size, that can cause an accident.
That’s why truckers are required to make frequent stops at weighing stations to ensure that they are proceeding within size and weight regulations.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles sets the size and weight limits for various kinds of big rigs. These include the 80,000 pound legal limit for any vehicle and its cargo.
The Texas Department of Public Safety even has its own Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Service to work toward greater highway safety in regard to commercial vehicles. Its responsibilities include weighing and checking commercial vehicles.
Prior to any work shift, the truck driver must do an inspection. That’s to prevent any possible accidents such as a tire blowout. Trucking companies also are required to do regular truck inspections. If these were done even more often, many accidents could be avoided.
Drivers also are required by federal regulations to inspect their truck before beginning any trip. Such truck inspections should evaluate the truck’s wheels, tires, brakes, axles, steering, lights, coupling devices, fuel systems and airlines and compressors.
Daily vehicle inspection reports also must be done at the end of a journey. And if any equipment has flaws or dangerous defects, the driver is required to report those to the trucking company or motor carrier immediately.
These reports may become valuable evidence if it’s determined that poor maintenance contributed to a truck accident. If a defect was known but not corrected, the truck line has greater liability.
Like the drivers of many other vehicles, truck drivers today may be reading or sending texts while at the wheel, even though that’s in clear violation of the law. Also, truckers are supposed to use use hands-free mobile communication devices while operating a big truck, but not all of them do this. And even with hands-free devices, truckers can be distracted by outside communications.
Truck drivers actually face tougher rules for drunk driving than do drivers of passenger cars.
The legal limit for alcohol intake by truck drivers is a blood alcohol content, or BAC, of 0.04 percent. For passenger car drivers, the legal BAC limit is twice that, or 0.08 percent.
Truckers also must agree to random drug and alcohol testing throughout their employment.
As such rules show, drivers of big trucks have a greater responsibility given the dangerous nature of their large and heavy vehicles.
Truck Accident Statistics
Would you like more truck accident statistics to understand the nature and scope of the problem? If so, consider these:
According to Trucking Statistics, the U.S. has 15.5 million trucks, including 2 million tractor trailers, and more than 3.5 million truck drivers. Of those, only one out of every nine drivers is independent, or an owner-operator.
The other drivers largely are employed by the estimated 1.2 million truck companies in the U.S. Of those, only 3 percent operate more than 20 trucks.
The trucking industry produces annual revenues of an estimated $255.5 billion. Average annual income for a truck driver is only $32,000. You can see why a truck accident lawsuit should be directed at trucking lines and not individual drivers.
One person is killed in a truck accident every 16 minutes. Also, each year brings half a million truck accidents, according to estimates of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In those truck accidents, about 5,000 persons die, and 98 percent of them are occupants of the smaller vehicles. Beyond that, large trucks also cause around 130,000 injuries in the U.S. each year.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Texas has more fatal truck accidents than any other state, with up to 550 deadly truck crashes in a single recent year. The state also has 32,000 miles of interstate highways.
Thanks to the Port of Houston and its fast-growing population, Houston is a major hub for trucking activity. That means there’s a higher chance for a truck accident injury in the Houston area. Large metropolitan areas such as Dallas and San Antonio also have a large number of truck accidents. Truck wrecks also occur more often on interstate highways.
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Contact us today, either by filling out the form on this website or by calling us, toll-free, at 1-800-505-1414. Either way, you will quickly speak to a legal professional who can help you with your case. And that starts with a free legal review.
You want justice. You want to be paid for your injuries caused by a negligent truck driver or truck line. You want the best truck accident lawyer you can find.
So give us a call. Then let us show you we mean business in dealing with balky truck lines or insurance companies who try to low-ball you by underpaying on a claim, or who even deny a claim outright.
Our truck accident attorneys know how to deal with the delays, underpayment offers and denials of claims which are standard procedure for trucking lines or insurance companies. They do not have your best interests at heart, but rather only their bottom lines.
We can begin by amassing the facts and evidence of your case, and then filing a claim with the trucking line or its insurance company, while providing documentation. Then we can negotiate with the truck company or its insurer to reach an out-of-court settlement that’s fair to you and your family. And if such a settlement is not offered, we can represent you in litigation with a truck accident injury lawsuit.
If you live in or near Houston, Dallas or San Antonio, Texas, contact us today and let’s get started claiming the payments and justice you legally deserve with help from an Adler truck accident lawyer.SOURCES
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Large Trucks,” May 2016
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2017”
State of Texas statutes, “Civil Practice and Remedies Code,” Title 2. Trial, Judgment and Appeal
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Fatality Facts 2017: Large Trucks”
Mayo Clinic, “Concussion: Overview.”
Brain Injury Association of America, “About Brain Injury”
University of Minnesota, MHealth.com, “Sprains, Strains and Tears”
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “Fractures (Broken Bones)”
Healthline.com, “Signs and Symptoms of Internal Bleeding”
Truckers Report, “Facts About Trucks — Everything You Want to Know About 18 Wheelers”
Autolist.com, “What is the Average Weight of a Car?”, Feb. 13, 2019
Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, “Motor Carriers: Texas Size and Weight Limits”
Texas Department of Public Safety, “Commercial Vehicle Enforcement: Objective and Mission”
Truckinfo.net, “Trucking Statistics”
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