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18-Wheeler and Truck Accident Lawyers in Texas
Commercial vehicles such as 18-wheelers cause some of the most devastating collisions on our nation’s roads. These collisions can be caused by truck drivers who are over-tired or under-trained, or by employers failing to make sure that the trucks in their fleet get the proper maintenance. Our Houston truck accident attorneys have consistently secured excellent recoveries for our clients through aggressive and smart lawyering.
A collision between an 18-wheeler and a passenger vehicle or another truck is likely to cause serious injuries or even death. Every year in the U.S., there are more than 400,000 accidents involving large trucks, including commercial box trucks, flat-bed trucks, and tractor-trailer trucks.
Texas has more than its share of fatal crashes involving trucks among states. In a recent report prepared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration titled “An Analysis of Fatal Large Truck Crashes,” it was observed that Texas leads the country in combination truck crash deaths. As stated in this report:
“Eleven states account for 51 percent of the combination trucks involved in fatal crashes, and ten states account for 52 percent of the single-unit trucks involved in fatal crashes. Texas had more combination trucks involved in fatal crashes than any other state.”
When large trucks are involved in crashes with other vehicles, passengers of other vehicles are killed four times as often as those in the trucks:
“The maximum injury level of all people in the vehicle varies greatly between large trucks and other vehicles. The “no injury” category is more than three times as likely to be seen among large trucks (52%) as opposed to other vehicles (17%) … The percent of vehicles where someone was killed is more than four times as high in other vehicles (7.4%) as compared to large trucks (1.6%).”
Trucking collisions resulting in serious injuries demand serious attention. The dedicated Houston truck accident lawyers of Lapeze & Johns, PLLC recognize this and are prepared to take your case to court if needed. Our experienced trial lawyers will fight for the rights of our clients and aggressively pursue the justice they deserve.
Common Types of Truck Accidents
While the most commonly recognized types of truck accidents are those involving 18-wheelers, there are plenty of other large commercial vehicles on the road that can cause serious damages, including:
- Bobtails (tractors without a trailer)
- Garbage and Dump Trucks
- Flatbed Trucks
- Tanker Trucks
- Box Truck
- Municipal Trucks
Some of the most common types of truck accidents include:
- Blind Spot Incidents: Large commercial trucks have blind spots known as “no go zones.” Driving in this space can quickly lead to an accident if the truck driver cannot see you when they change lanes or turn.
- Brake Failure or Improper Braking Technique: Brake failure caused by a lack of maintenance or manufacturing issues is a serious threat to drivers. On the other hand, because they take so long to slow down, a driver practicing improper braking technique can demolish another vehicle.
- Driver Error: While truck drivers should be properly trained and licensed, errors and mistakes do happen. Because of the size of these commercial vehicles, however, a simple mistake can lead to a big accident.
- Drunk Truck Driver: Just like no one else should drink and drive, truck drivers must be even more responsible. Alcohol and large trucks are a bad mix.
- Jackknifing: If a truck is traveling too fast on slippery roads or attempts to brake quickly, the brakes can lock, causing the truck to swerve at an angle and potentially roll over.
- Rear-End Collisions: Trucks require more time and space to complete a stop, especially when traveling with a heavy load. If the driver is not paying attention, they can cause a serious rear-end collision.
- Underride Accident: These types of severe accidents occur when a small vehicle becomes wedged underneath a truck.
Potentially Liable Parties in Your Truck Accident
Transporting goods often involves many parties. The trucking and shipping industries have many moving parts, and it can require significant investigation to successfully determine who all is liable for the damages you have suffered.
Depending on the specifics of your particular accident, the following parties may be held legally liable. Please note that on certain occasions, more than one party may be held liable.
- The Driver: A driver who acted negligently or recklessly, including speeding, driving while fatigued, or using a cell phone while behind the wheel, can be considered liable. If the accident happens as a result of truck or cargo maintenance failure, on some occasions the driver may bear responsibility.
- The Employer: If the employer failed to adequately vet the driver or lacked significant oversight over their employee (the driver), they can be held liable for your accident.
- The Cargo Shipper/Loader: Some companies work on contracts for other companies, aiding them in the loading process. If the cargo is improperly loaded, which results in a crash, then the cargo shipper/load – a third-party, could potentially be held liable.
- Truck Maintenance Company – If a trucking company uses a third-party to provide maintenance on their vehicles, and this party fails to repair or properly maintain the truck, they can be held liable for an accident.
- Other Third-Party Vendors: Some companies in the trucking industry are so large that they contract portions of their business to other third-party vendors. These third-party vendors can be responsible for a wide range of duties including recruiting and hiring drivers, background checks, performing drug tests, or any other part of the carrier’s operations.
- The Truck Manufacturer and Parts Maker: In many instances, truck accidents occur as a result of a part breaking down, such as a tire blowout, brake failure, or issues with the steering system. If your accident is the result of a faulty product, then the manufacturer or part maker can be held responsible.
- Government Agencies and Contractors: If your accident occurs as a result of bad road maintenance, then the party responsible for maintaining the road may be liable.
When the Trucking Company Is Responsible
Trucking and shipping jobs can be very dangerous, requiring long hours of work and unsafe working conditions at times. While the focus is often on the truck driver, their employer may actually be at fault for the damages you have suffered.
Truck company negligence includes a range of illegal behaviors, including:
- Forcing Truck Drivers to Work Dangerously Long Hours
Though there are regulations and safety requirements in place to limit the number of hours a truck driver may work per day, companies still try to skirt these restrictions and coerce their workers into breaking the rules. Whether it’s by threatening to fire them, pay deduction, or other means, some companies will work their employees into a state of fatigue, which can be especially dangerous when they are on the road.
- Hiring Unqualified Drivers
Truck companies are responsible for hiring legally qualified drivers. Qualified drivers need to:
- Have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)
- Be properly trained and receive updated training as necessary
- Have a thorough understanding of industry regulations
- Have a clean driving record and refrain from drug use
- Follow best truck driving practices
Employers are required to conduct a criminal background and driving record check. If a trucking company does not adequately vet an employee, then they could be placing irresponsible drivers on the road.
- Inadequate Truck Maintenance and Inspection
Trucking companies, affiliates, and third-party partners are responsible for taking appropriate preventative measures to ensure that all trucks are working properly. Routine inspections should happen every time before a truck hits the road, and any issue should be reported and corrected immediately. Whether it’s tires, brake pads, lights, the engine, or some other component that needs fixing, a trucking company can be held liable if they fail to perform these duties.
- Non-Compliance of Truck Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issues mandates and regulations to keep the industry (and drivers) as safe as possible. These regulation standards are in reference to hours worked, alcohol and drug testing, and other duties that trucking companies should abide.
If companies bypass the regulations or attempt to in an effort to save money or time, they can be held liable for these failings.
- Covering Up for Their Employees
When employees consistently violate traffic laws or federal regulations, they are putting the lives of others in danger. Employers are responsible for holding their drivers accountable for their actions, including:
- Traffic safety violations
- Drunk or intoxicated driving
- Exceeding truckload capacity
When a company attempts to cover up for their employees and overlook these types of behaviors, they are creating an unreasonable risk that can greatly affect other drivers on the road.
Steps to Determining Liability
Determining liability in your Houston truck accident can be complex because of the number of parties involved. The dependable and trustworthy Houston truck accident lawyers of Lapeze & Johns, PLLC, are determined to help you develop the strongest case possible.
In order to determine liability, we will help you to begin gathering substantial pieces of evidence needed to prove your claim. Some of the major components of evidence include:
- Police report – An official police accident report is an essential piece of evidence that will include information about who was involved in your Houston truck accident, where the incident occurred, who and what caused the accident, injuries, and other details.
- Evidence from the scene – Evidence from the scene can include photographs, video, examinations of your vehicle, as well as physical evidence such as torn and bloody clothing.
- Witness statements – Accidents very rarely happen with no witnesses. Your Houston truck accident attorneys can help you to gather statements from those who saw the incident first hand.
- The truck “black box” – This data recorder retains plenty of information and activity logs that can be used to prove exactly what happened.
- Medical records – Medical records are especially important to keep as they state exactly what you have suffered. This evidence should include medical bills, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs & other medical images, prescriptions, doctors’ notes, receipts, discharge information, documentation about treatment.
Alongside this evidence, we will prove that the negligent party breached their duty-of-care — their responsibility to others on the road — and that this breach caused you the damages you have suffered. We will thoroughly investigate the facts regarding the incident and help to determine liability.
In Texas, each party can be held liable proportionately to their responsibility for the accident.
Dealing with the First Offer from an Insurance Company
- A truck accident claim requires a knowledgeable attorney.
The first thing you should know is that truck accidents and car accidents cannot be treated the same. Truck accidents often result in far more serious injuries that may include burns, broken bones, spinal injuries, amputations, paralysis, and even the loss of a loved one.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is hiring a general car attorney instead of a reputable Houston truck accident attorney. Because the trucking industry is regulated by federal laws, and since truck drivers often cross state lines, you’ll need a Texas attorney who is familiar with how to navigate the entire process that comes with dealing with truck industry insurers.
- Accepting the first offer means you lose out on any opportunity to secure more compensation.
Insurance companies know that a serious accident can put in you a bad place financially. That’s why they may attempt to make an offer relatively quickly after the accident. While accepting an insurance company’s first offer would mean you have access to funds more quickly, you would also be nullifying your right to pursue legal actions in the future.
The financial burden can really add up over time if you have suffered a serious injury that requires frequent hospitalization, surgery, or other forms of treatment. The first offer will generally not take into account these costs.
- Wait for the right time to accept a settlement offer.
Knowing when to accept an offer is just as important as actually securing one. With guidance from your Houston truck accident lawyer, you’ll want to make sure that you have completely healed from the damages you have suffered. This way, you’ll be able to recover compensation for all medical costs and damages you have suffered – and you’ll have the paperwork (bills and medical documents) to prove it.
What Types of Damages Can I Seek?
Victims of a truck accident in Houston can receive compensation for a variety of damages they have suffered, including but not limited to:
- Medical costs
- Property damages
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Long-term medical care
- Emotional anguish
- Mental distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
In worst-case scenarios, if your loved one loses their life as the result of the accident, you can file a wrongful death claim to recover additional damages including the cost of funeral expenses.
A Houston Truck Accident Lawyer for You
There are many difficult decisions that need to be made after a truck accident, and it can be hard to know the best way to proceed.
HOW WE PROTECT YOU AND YOUR RIGHTS AFTER A HOUSTON TRUCKING ACCIDENT
The most important stage in any trucking accident case is the beginning, where the initial investigation is done. This is when we look at the evidence to determine how your accident happened and who is responsible. This includes gathering information from the accident and the truck involved, including reviewing the truck driver’s logbooks and the trucking company’s internal records, as well as electronic data from the truck’s onboard recorders, which are becoming standard in the industry.
Truck collisions can be complicated as they often involve issues such as causation, multiple parties, and insurance disputes. And remember, trucking carriers and insurance companies will do everything in their power to try to keep from being held responsible.
Our Houston truck accident lawyers actively process every trucking case we handle by working the case as if it is going to trial. Not only does this give us the edge in the courtroom, it also provides us with a strong bargaining position at the negotiating table where we fight for compensation on behalf of our clients. Our clients expect nothing less, and neither do we.
If you have suffered a serious injury as the result of a collision with a truck or if you have questions about truck accident law, contact us today to speak with a personal injury attorney in Houston.