Establishing Truck Accident Negligence and Liability
Injuries suffered in a major truck accident can lead to large payments for victims who can establish the negligence and liability of others in a truck accident lawsuit. Jim Adler & Associates is here to help you understand the process of receiving such payments.
What does negligence mean in an 18-wheeler wreck?
“Negligence” is a word with a specific legal meaning, but it boils down to this. In addition to all of the formal rules and regulations we learn when we first get our driver’s license, every driver on the road has a duty to act reasonably at all times. When a truck driver breaks road rules or acts unreasonably in a predictably dangerous way, he breaches his duty to every other driver on the road. And when that breach of duty causes an accident, we call that driver “negligent.”
Basically, negligence means fault — who is to blame for this truck wreck. Whether it’s breaking the speed limit, failing to conduct required vehicle maintenance, or disobeying driving time limits, there can be any number or ways that an 18-wheeler driver and his employer negligently causes a crash. Every case is different, and sometimes it takes a lot of legal work to make the trucking company reveal what went wrong.
For instance, a truck driver who was speeding or driving recklessly and then caused a truck crash showed negligence in his or her duty to exercise a standard of care to protect others on the road. Such actions would constitute truck accident negligence.
Or, a manufacturer who provided sub-standard parts to a large truck such as a flatbed, tractor trailer, diesel truck, big rig, semi truck or 18 wheeler and thus caused an accident also would have committed truck accident negligence. If a defective tire caused a blowout, which then led to a truck-auto accident, that would be negligence.
And, of course, the truck line or trucking company may show truck accident negligence by hiring unqualified drivers, by loading trucks too heavily, but failing to maintain trucks properly, by compelling drivers to work unsafe long hours and by other actions or inactions.
As for third party negligence, that could involve failure by someone not employed by the truck line who was responsible for mapping a truck’s route but failed to heed hazardous weather and terrain.
A third party also might be responsible for improperly loading a truck’s contents. Failure to secure a truck’s load can cause a truck rollover or a spilled load, leading to accidents on the road.
Even a truck’s manufacturer may be found negligent and liable in a truck accident lawsuit. When a truck’s tires, brakes, lights or gears are found to have been defective upon manufacture, and such defects caused a crash, that is the truck maker’s responsibility.
Texas has a standard of negligence per se, which means that a reasonably prudent or careful person would not violate a legislatively imposed standard of conduct which endangers others. That is, a trucker or trucking company has a duty to exercise care, and failing to do so is negligence per se and constitutes truck accident negligence.
How do I establish truck accident negligence?
Now that you understand the legal terms involved, you may want to know how to establish truck accident negligence in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio or elsewhere in Texas.
Such negligence can be determined by the investigation of a skilled truck accident injury lawyer. He or she can learn whether the accident was caused by driver error, maintenance issues, overloading issues or other factors.
Such factors are the keys to establishing negligence in a truck accident lawsuit claiming payments for injury losses.
Are there time limits on how long a truck driver can be on the road?
The short answer to this question is yes. Driver fatigue is a huge concern for tractor-trailer drivers, and that means more than just falling asleep behind the wheel. A tired truck driver has slower reaction times, and that alone can result in catastrophic truck wrecks.
To guard against driver fatigue, federal law has two different limits on how long tractor-trailer drivers can work. What’s the first limit?
The first limit is a daily restriction called the 14-hour rule. A driver can only be on duty for 14 hours each day. Of that 14 hours, he can spend no more than 11 hours driving, and he cannot drive more than 8 hours at a time before he takes at least a 30 minute break. Then, after that 14 hours on duty, the driver must be off duty for at least 10 hours before he can work again.
The second limit is called the 60 or 70 hour rule. Depending on whether the truck driver’s company operates trucks every day of the week or not, the driver’s on-duty time is limited to either 60 hours over the course of 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours over the course of 8 consecutive days.
Every tractor-trailer driver must follow the 14 hour rule and either the 60 or 70 hour rule, but not all of them do. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in an accident with a big rig, and you suspect it was caused by a tired driver who shouldn’t have been on the road, give us a call.
What is truck accident liability?
As for truck accident liability, that is applied to the party or parties whose negligence made them liable, or exposed, to civil lawsuits. A truck driver may be liable for being distracted and then inadvertently causing an accident. A truck company may be liable for failing to maintain its trucks properly or for hiring unskilled drivers when these things led to an accident.
In other words, truck accident liability concerns who was at fault for a truck crash. Sometimes that is the driver of another vehicle, other than the truck, but often it is the truck driver who is at fault, or the truck line.
How do I establish truck accident liability?
It’s also important to know how to establish truck accident liability, along with negligence. Liability indicates who is responsible for an accident and should pay for its damages, while negligence concerns the failures which led to the accident.
Truck accident liability is the key factor in determining who should be the target of a truck accident lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances of the case, such liability can be applied to the trucking line or truck company, or to the truck driver, or to those who manufactured or were responsible for maintenance of the truck. Often, more than one party has liability in a truck accident.
Also involved in truck accident liability are the insurance companies representing those parties. Ultimately, though it may have been the truck company which was negligent, it is the trucking line’s insurance company which pays for liability in the case.
These things all make it clear that victims of truck accidents need experienced legal help to fight for their right to be paid for their injury losses. Contact Jim Adler & Associates today for a free legal review of your case. We will help you size up your chances for a successful truck accident lawsuit or settlement, and then you can decide how you want to proceed.
Who can bring a wrongful death case in Texas against a truck driver?
Unfortunately, we get this question a lot. If you’ve lost a loved one in an accident caused by an 18-wheeler, the first thing you want is just to have them back, safe and sound. Unfortunately, the law can’t grant you that, but you may still have important legal rights.
In Texas, the spouse, children, and parents of the deceased each have the right to file a wrongful death claim against the person who caused their loved one’s death. It does not matter what ages the children are; both minors and adult children have a wrongful death claim.
Unfortunately, these are the only family members that have this right. Siblings of the deceased, grandparents, and other extended family members like uncles, aunts, or cousins cannot file a wrongful death claim, no matter how emotionally close they were to the deceased. However, these other family members may be able to file what’s called a “survival” claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate, depending on what other family members the deceased had when he passed.
It’s important to consult a lawyer after a loved one’s death in an accident to ensure you know your legal rights. At Jim Adler & Associates, we know the law, and we know how to help you in your time of need.