How Common Are Commercial Truck Accidents in Houston?
Commercial trucks are a common presence on the roads of Texas. They carry various goods from warehouses to stores, ensuring that consumers find everything they need when they go shopping. Unfortunately, when a driver loses control over a vehicle 40 times larger than the average passenger car, terrible commercial truck accidents happen. Innocent people die or are left with catastrophic injuries, some of which will result in permanent disabilities. If you or a loved one suffered bodily injury and property damage in such a horrific event, the experienced truck accident lawyers at McDonald Worley Law Firm encourage you to contact us and tell us about your case.
We cannot undo the terrible injuries and emotional trauma you suffered. However, we can make sure that you receive the fair compensation you deserve from the insurance company and the trucking company employing the negligent commercial drivers who caused the accident. Many of these drivers are driving under influence, without paying full attention to the road or in breach of federal regulations on hours of service. While truck drivers are the main responsible parties in commercial vehicles accidents, their employers, big players in the trucking industry, are also liable for their employee’s actions. An experienced truck accident attorney will make sure that all the responsible parties will pay the maximum compensation allowed by law, to cover your medical bills, economic losses, as well as non-economic damages.
Sobering Commercial Vehicle Accidents Statistics
You may wonder: “what are the odds of being involved in a truck crash? Surely, it is not a daily occurrence.” We would like to agree with you, but the statistical data collected by various federal and state agencies paint a very different, grim picture.
Thus, according to the National Safety Council, in 2019, 5,005 trucks were involved in fatal accidents across the US. This number represents a 5% increase from the previous year. The total number of injury victims was 160,000, representing, as follows:
- 69% occupants in other vehicles
- 29% truck occupants
- 2% non-occupants.
As you can see, the vast majority of people hurt in semi-truck accidents are passenger vehicle drivers and their passengers. Now, these are national statistics. But what happens in the state of Texas? Perhaps the situation is slightly better than the national average? Unfortunately, that is not the case. On the contrary, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, the state of Texas is in the top 10 US states for fatal truck accidents. Truck crash fatalities have been constantly increasing from 502 in 2006 to 649 in 2017.Common Truck Accident Causes
As you can see, it is all too easy for any car driver and their passengers to become truck accident victims. But why exactly do these terrible accidents happen? Why are there so many commercial truck accidents on the roads of Texas?
In our experience as personal injury attorneys, the most common causes of truck crashes are:
Distracted drivers are drivers who do not focus their entire attention on the road. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three types of distracted driving:
- visual distraction, when the driver takes their eyes off the road
- manual distraction, when the driver takes their hands off the steering wheel
- cognitive distraction, when the driver’s mind is no longer focused on the act of driving.
Even a second of distraction can cause fatal crashes with many victims. When an 18-wheeler plunges into heavy traffic, several passenger cars can be crushed, together with the people inside them.
Reckless drivers can be found everywhere. They change lanes suddenly, tailgate other cars, speed in inclement weather conditions and fail to yield right of way. When the vehicle they drive is an 8,000 pounds truck, the reckless commercial vehicle driver can cause mayhem and devastation on the roads.
In this case, the truck company is likely to be liable for the accident. Trucking regulations state that companies need to screen their drivers’ background and give them proper training in safe and defensive driving. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and drivers with a record of reckless or aggressive driving end up behind the wheel of a large and heavy commercial vehicle.
Driving under influence is an offense in the state of Texas. For the first and second offenses, DUI drivers are charged with a misdemeanor. The third offense becomes a felony. There is an exception: if the drunk driver causes an accident resulting in severe injury or death to a person, they will be charged with a felony, even if it is the first offense, according to the Penal Code of Texas.
Despite the serious legal consequences of driving under influence of alcohol, many commercial truck drivers take the steering wheel after drinking. And, because their capacity of reaction and of processing visual images is impaired, they frequently lose control of their vehicle and crash it into oncoming traffic.
Federal regulations require a commercial truck driver to take a 30-minute break after every 8 consecutive hours of driving. Also, they must be off-duty for 10 hours after 11 hours of service. Unfortunately, truck companies force their drivers to break these rules by giving them very tight delivery deadlines.
Truckers who fail to meet these deadlines may get written up or even fired effective immediately. For this reason, we have many fatigued drivers behind the steering wheel of large trucks. A sleep deprived person has reduced ability to react and may even doze off. In these conditions, a fatal truck accident is a disaster waiting to happen.
I some cases, trucking accidents happen because the driver could not control their vehicle due to a defective part or component: tire blowout, defective brakes, steering system malfunction. Unfortunately, truck companies are more interested in keeping their vehicles on the road, bringing them big profits, instead of making sure that they are safe to drive.
In other instances, the respective part or component was defective from the start, due to a design or manufacturing error. In this case, the personal injury attorney representing the accident victims will identify all the parties responsible for the defective part or poor maintenance of the truck.
Who Is Liable in a Truck Accident?
The comparative responsibility principle used in personal injury law in Texas states that a party may file a truck accident claim or lawsuit if they are less than 50% at fault for the accident. If a speeding or drunk truck driver crashed into your car or caused rear-end accidents, the liable party is clear: the truck driver.
In reality, things are more complex. Although driver error is the main reason for the accident, the parties liable for it may be:
- commercial trucking companies
- the company whose goods are transported in the truck
- the truck repair shop where the vehicle receives regular maintenance
- the manufacturer, distributor or dealer of a malfunctioning part.
It is in your best interests to identify all the liable parties and name them in a truck accident lawsuit. The driver’s insurance alone may not cover all your economic and non-economic damages. By contrast, big trucking companies have large insurance policies.
However, they will fight you as much as they can, relying on teams of insurance adjusters and attorneys. You need to hire an experienced truck accident attorney to help you win the maximum compensation you deserve.
Reasons to Hire an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
Truck accident victims usually suffer from severe injuries, and need to spend a long time in hospital. During this period, they accumulate medical bills and are unable to take care of the necessary legal procedures to file their truck accident claim or a personal injury lawsuit.
Hiring an truck accident attorney is the only way of ensuring that you will see justice served and you will be paid the adequate compensation you deserve. While you are recovering in hospital, the attorney will:
Investigate the Truck Crash
Commercial vehicle accident attorneys know where to look for the evidence needed to prove your case and justify the types of damages you seek. Investigating your accident may involve:
- looking over the accident report prepared by the police at the crash scene
- checking the trucker’s driving record and driving hours log
- checking the maintenance log of the truck to check whether it is up to date
- hiring accident reconstruction experts to analyze the crash and give their opinion on how it happened
- finding eyewitnesses and getting their testimonies
- asking for your medical records to establish that you suffered your injuries as a result of the truck crash.
Identify All the Liable Parties
Even if you know that an employer is vicariously responsible for their employees’ actions. However, it is difficult to prove it. Many truck companies state that they work with independent contractors, not employees. In this case, they are not liable for their actions.
An experienced attorney can find evidence proving that the truck driver was actually an employee and, thus, the truck company is liable for your injuries.
Calculate all the Types of Compensations You Are Entitled to Receive
When you file legal claims in a personal injury case in Texas, you may request compensation for:
- economic damages
- non-economic damages
- punitive damages.
Economic damages are probably the most significant part of the total financial compensation you may receive. They cover your hospital bills, physical therapy and recovery costs, loss of wages, out of pocket expenses and so on.
The medical bills can be overwhelming for the average person after a truck accident. The majority of commercial vehicle crash victims suffer severe injuries, such as:
- loss of limb
- spinal cord injury
- brain injury
- internal organ damage.
These injuries usually require a long hospital stay, surgeries and complex treatments to heal. In some cases, the victim is left with permanent impairment or disability, requiring life care services or assistive devices (wheelchair, walking frame) and home modifications. The costs to cover all these will also be included in your personal injury claim.
Non-economic damages are a form of compensation for your mental anguish, emotional trauma, physical pain, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium.
Finally, punitive damages will be awarded at the end of a truck accident lawsuit, if you can prove that the responsible driver acted with gross negligence in causing the crash. The state of Texas places a cap on punitive damages. The amount will be the greater amount between:
- two times the economic damages plus the amount for non-economic damages
What to Do If You Were Hurt in a Truck Accident
In the final part of this article, you need to know that the final outcome of your case greatly depends on what you do or fail to do after the truck accident. Many truck accident victims hurt their cases by saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.
In order to help you avoid falling into a trap, we will detail below the correct conduct you should have after being involved in a truck crash:
Your safety and that of the other accident victims is of paramount importance. The first thing you should do is call 9-1-1 and ask for an ambulance and the police to investigate the accident scene. Even if you do not believe that you are seriously injured, accept the ambulance ride to the hospital and the medical examination. The initial report issued by first responders will be a valuable piece of evidence in your personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Document the Accident Scene
While you are waiting for the police and ambulance, start collecting your own evidence at the crash scene. This means:
- taking pictures of your injuries and damaged car
- getting the truck driver’s details: name, drivers license, insurance policy, name of the employer
- identifying eyewitnesses and asking them fro their contact details.
All these pieces of evidence will be extremely useful when your truck accident attorney starts working on your case.
Do Not Talk to the Insurance Adjuster
One of the biggest mistakes many truck accident victims make is talking to an insurance adjuster who comes to investigate the accident on behalf of the trucking company. This person’s job is to make sure that you don’t have a case.
Insurance adjusters are skilled in tricking injured people to:
- sign a low-ball compensation deal, which includes a waiver to pursue any further legal action
- admit that they were partly at fault for the accident
- make a statement about their health (a simple and polite “I’m getting better” can be interpreted as a confession that you were not seriously injured in the crash).
The only thing you should tell the insurance adjuster is that your personal injury attorney will contact them in due time to negotiate your claim.
Hire an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Who Fights for Your Rights!
McDonald Worley is an award-winning personal injury law firm founded by an attorney with over 20 years of experience. We are not afraid to take big truck companies to court and make them pay for the negligence of their drivers.
We believe that any person deserves the best legal counsel to negotiate their truck accident claim or represent them in a personal injury lawsuit. For this reason, we work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not have to worry about upfront legal fees. We only get paid when we win your case, out of the compensation amount.
Remember that the statute of limitations in Texas for personal injury actions is only 2 years after the date of the accident and contact us as soon as possible to start analyzing your case. Call us now for a free case review: 877-721-3423!