As the population grows in Texas, so does the demand for more commercial goods, food, and products. These all require large trucks to bring them into the state.
As the trucking industry grows, more drivers and vehicles are on the road. Texas and U.S. economies continue to thrive but at a price. More large trucks and 18-wheelers on the road mean more congestion and traffic, and a greater risk of accidents.
In fact, in 2020 alone, there were 32,562 commercial vehicles involved in accidents throughout the state, as reported by the Texas Department of Transportation – a number that could very well increase in the future.
Truck accidents not only lead to expenses in terms of property damage, but they can also result in injuries that are fatal or life-changing. At the law offices of Flores, Tawney & Acosta, P.C., our Texas truck accident attorneys are passionate about representing those who have been harmed in a truck accident.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents in Texas
Numerous factors can lead to a large truck accident, including negligence by a driver or by the company who employs them. In some cases, another third party can share liability if there is something defective on the truck that contributed to the accident.
Some of the most common causes of truck accidents we see in Texas include the following.
Distracted driving is more than texting and driving; it is anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the road. Perhaps they are looking at a logbook, their GPS, getting something from the seat, changing the radio station, eating, etc. All it takes is a second of inattention to cause a devastating accident.
There are numerous safety rules for trucking companies and the drivers they employ. Unfortunately, some companies disregard the rules and let very inexperienced drivers behind the wheel of a large semi-truck.
Truck drivers are typically in a hurry to make a delivery since they are almost always paid by the load. That can lead to drivers speeding, running lights or stop signs, etc. In general, large trucks are more difficult to control. Driving too fast for conditions can have catastrophic consequences.
The other consequence of being paid by the load is that drivers are willing to push through, even when exhausted. That’s why there are regulations on how many hours and days a truck driver can work.
Not surprisingly, some trucking companies will instruct their drivers to ignore these rules or mandate they work longer than federal law allows. With exhausted drivers on the road, the risk of accidents is higher. Truck drivers who fall asleep at the wheel risk countless lives, including their own.
Driving Under the Influence
While this is not necessarily a widespread problem everywhere, all it takes is one intoxicated large truck driver to get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t. Driving under the influence is not limited to alcohol consumption either. It includes someone driving under the influence of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication, and illegal drugs.
Lack of Maintenance and Safety Inspections
Drivers have an obligation to ensure their trucks are in proper working order and safe to enter the road. Failure to do so could lead to a catastrophic accident if something stops working while the driver is transporting heavy cargo.
Failure to inspect the vehicles means a semi-truck driver runs the risk of being on the road when something malfunctions. Issues such as defective brakes or tires could lead to a blowout or another malfunction that winds up killing someone in an accident.
When a truck driver hits your vehicle and causes you injuries, you have the right to pursue a claim for reimbursement of your damages.
Types of Damages in a Truck Accident Claim
Truck accidents often leave those within the smaller passenger vehicle involved with life-altering harm. Our lawyers understand the range and the severity of damages that you can suffer in a truck accident. We will work hard to ensure that you get compensation for the full extent of your losses. Common damages that our lawyers see in truck accident claims include:
Disability and disfigurement
The injuries that a person suffers in a truck accident can be positively horrific. Some of the most severe injuries include amputation injuries, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. These can leave a person with a permanent disability, as well as potential disfigurement.
Injuries not only inhibit one’s ability and future opportunities; they are also very expensive to treat. Even if you have only suffered minor injuries, it is doubtful that your healthcare expenses will be “minor.” Healthcare services in the United States cost tens of thousands of dollars. If you stayed in the hospital, underwent surgery, or required other procedures and treatment, you may be looking at hundreds of thousands in medical expenses.
Loss of physical and cognitive abilities
Some injuries never fully heal. Residual injuries and pain can leave a person with a loss of physical abilities or/and cognitive abilities. Not only can this impair one’s day-to-day activities, but it can also serve as a barrier to working in the future and earning an income. Our lawyers will advocate for your right to compensation for the full extent of your lost wages and future lost wages.
Loss of enjoyment of life
Injuries, especially those that do not heal fully with time, often lead to a loss of enjoyment of life. While this is intangible and more difficult to calculate as such, you certainly deserve compensation.
Property damages expenses
Finally, if a large truck strikes your vehicle, there’s a very good chance it will be totaled. This means that you have likely suffered thousands of dollars in property damage expenses in addition to your other losses.
In certain instances, you could also be entitled to a punitive damages award. Courts can award punitive damages in cases involving gross negligence or malice. Texas law caps these damages at the greater of $200,000 or twice the amount of economic damages plus an equal amount of noneconomic damages, up to $750,000.
What To Do Following a Texas Semi-Truck Accident
The steps you take immediately following an accident can impact your personal injury claim. If you are not severely injured and can do so safely, try to get photos of the scene with your cell phone.
You should take photos of the vehicles in the position immediately following the accident, including any debris or skid marks in the area. Are there any other notable elements, such as weather, road hazards, construction, etc.?
Your vehicle may be totaled after the accident, but preserving it could be crucial to your claim as well. That is one reason why we recommend speaking to a Texas semi-truck accident lawyer right away. Your attorney will know what steps to take to have your insurance company not dispose of the vehicle until an accident reconstructionist can view it.
If you are not transported from the scene by an ambulance, it’s imperative you see a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t assume your injuries are minor. You could have internal injuries that are not visible to the naked eye.
Also, waiting to see a doctor gives the at-fault party’s insurance company added ammunition to use against you. When you wait to seek medical treatment, they will make the argument that your injuries weren’t severe or that something else happened in the interim to cause your injuries.
When you report the accident to insurance, be cautious in your communications with the insurance companies. The truck driver’s insurance will ask you for a recorded statement, hoping you will say something that puts liability on you for the accident.
You should not give a recorded statement without first speaking to a Texas truck accident attorney. Immediately hiring an attorney following a severe accident is the best way to protect your rights in the claims process.
How Does Insurance Work in Texas?
In order to recover the full value of the damages listed above, you will need to file a claim against the appropriate insurance party (while it is possible to file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault party, typically, damages are paid by an insurance company; most people cannot afford to pay personal injury claim damages out-of-pocket).
The state of Texas maintains an at-fault system of insurance, which holds that those who cause accidents are responsible for paying for them. If the truck accident you were in was due to the negligent actions of the truck driver or the trucking company, then you will file a claim against the trucking company’s insurance. If the cause of the accident was a third-party driver, then file a claim against this party’s insurance.
Of course, sometimes, other third parties (besides drivers) are to blame. This includes a shipper or loader of cargo or a vehicle part manufacturer. Our lawyers can assess your claim and help you to determine who should be held liable.
Proving Fault and Damages
It is not enough to merely file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurer; you must be able to prove that the negligence of the at-fault party was the proximate cause of your injuries. Our lawyers can help you to gather the evidence to do this, including:
● Truck ‘black box’ data;
● Driver’s logs;
● Truck maintenance and inspection reports;
● Eyewitnesses’ testimonies;
● Photograph evidence;
● Police reports; and
Texas is a modified comparative negligence state. That means you can still collect a portion of your damages, even if you are partially at fault for the accident. Your percentage of negligence cannot exceed that of the truck driver.
For example, if you are 49% percent liable, you can collect 51% of your damages. If a jury finds you 51% liable, you would not be entitled to collect any compensation.
Negotiating a Truck Accident Settlement
Once you file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurer, the insurance company will either reject your claim or offer you a settlement. Before you accept a settlement offer, know that first-time settlement offers are usually low.
It is very important that you ask a skilled personal injury lawyer to review your settlement on your behalf first. If the offer is lower than you think that you deserve, you have the right to reject the settlement offer. You can then negotiate for a higher compensation award. A Texas truck accident lawyer can also file a lawsuit and litigate your case if a settlement cannot be reached.
Truck Accident Statute of Limitations
Another reason to work with an attorney is so that you have a more developed understanding of the law and the various requirements associated with filing a truck accident claim.
One crucial element to remember is the state’s statute of limitations. This is the limit on the amount of time you have to pursue damages. Per Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 16.003, you have two years from the date of your truck accident to file a claim; if you wait longer than two years, you will forfeit your right to damages.
Frequently Asked Questions on Texas Large Truck Accidents
Understandably, prospective clients have numerous questions regarding large truck accidents in Texas. To better prepare you for your initial consultation, here are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.
Do I Need to Hire a Texas Truck Wreck Lawyer?
You are under no legal obligation to hire a lawyer to represent you in a truck accident, but it’s highly recommended. These types of claims are often very complicated. You may have multiple defendants who are all pointing fingers at each other, as well as multiple causes of action.
These large companies have experienced attorneys representing them and may try to bully you into accepting a lower settlement. Don’t risk your potential settlement amount by handling your claim independently. Let a skilled Texas truck attorney represent you.
Should I Accept the Insurance Company’s Settlement Offer?
As we mentioned above, the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster will do whatever is necessary to reduce their exposure. You need a legal advocate on your side who will help you pursue the maximum compensation possible. Don’t ever sign the release of all claims and agree to receive a certain amount without first speaking with an experienced Texas truck attorney.
Once you sign a release of all claims, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more money if it turns out you need additional treatment or a future surgery. When insurance companies suspect your case will be worth a significant amount, they may try to resolve it early on to avoid compensating you for future treatment or a permanent disability.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Texas Truck Attorney?
Most personal injury lawyers bill on a contingency basis. What that means is you don’t pay any hourly fees or costs up front. Instead, the attorney takes a percentage of any compensation they receive on your behalf. For example, a standard fee agreement might be 33% or 40% of your settlement. If your case settles for $100,000, they will take a third of it to cover their fees and court costs.
Remember, if your attorney recovers nothing in your case, you typically don’t owe anything, even for court costs. Because attorneys work on a contingency basis, you can feel more confident that your attorney will fight hard for you as their fees are directly linked with the amount of money you receive.
Call the Best Truck Accident Law Firm in Texas Today
Our Texas truck accident lawyers at the law firm of Flores, Tawney & Acosta, P.C. are here to provide you with representation and support. We have the experience you’re looking for, and a track record of success. Please contact our office today for your free consultation to get started.
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