Large commercial trucks can be seen on every road and interstate across the US, carrying goods from factories and large warehouses to a local store near you. However, the presence of these very large vehicles among passenger vehicles poses a serious risk. Trucking accidents are extremely severe, potentially involving several vehicles and leaving many people dead or with catastrophic injuries. With 15.5 million trucks in operation, a fatal truck crash can happen at any time. And, as we will show in this article, the state of Texas is leading an unfortunate list of the most dangerous roads for drivers. If you or a loved one were injured in an 18-wheeler accident, remember that a Houston truck accident lawyer at Calhoun Meredith law firm is available to offer you a free consultation and explain your legal rights.
For truck accident victims, the road to recovery is long and difficult. And it is made worse by the fact that a big insurance company representing a trucking company will try to block your honest attempts to recover the economic and non-economic damages you are entitled to recover from the liable parties according to the law. This is why truck accident attorneys exist - to fight on your behalf and negotiate truck accident claims, while you can recover and follow the doctor's recommendations in terms of medication and physical therapy.
A fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. By comparison, the average passenger vehicle weighs around 4,000 pounds. This makes the collision between a commercial vehicle and a passenger car so deadly. Moreover, improper loading may make a trailer swerve out of control even if the truck driver is careful and does not exceed the maximum speed.
In reality, truck drivers are frequently overworked and sleep-deprived, distracted, and sometimes under influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. Each of these factors makes a truck driver an impaired driver. When they are behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound vehicle, the consequences of any moment of not being fully focused on driving can be catastrophic.
We will detail some of the most significant facts concerning semi-truck accidents below, focusing on the factors that contribute to or facilitate them:
Fully loaded commercial vehicles need the average length of two football fields to come to a full stop after the driver applies the brakes if they are traveling at 65 miles per hour. This estimation takes into account that:
With each added factor (distracted commercial driver, poor road conditions, inclement weather conditions, etc.) the risk of causing fatal crashes increases significantly.
According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules, the hours of service for commercial drivers must be planned as follows:
In reality, as your Houston truck accident lawyer can tell you from previous experience and statistical data, many truck drivers do not comply with these mandatory break rules. The trucking industry is known for its poor treatment of employees, putting profits above safety. By giving them very short delivery deadlines, truck companies practically force their employees to skip breaks, miss hours of sleep, and drive without a stop for 18 hours or more. This qualifies as driver fatigue, a form of driver impairment as dangerous as driving under influence.
According to various statistical data collected by the Insurance Information Institute, fatigued driving was the primary cause of 697 motor vehicle fatalities across the US in 2019. Also, most crashes, including fatal truck accidents, take place between midnight and 6 a.m. and in the late afternoon. These findings correspond with the findings of the National Safety Council, which indicate that most truck crashes happen during the daytime (63.5%).
Why are trucking accident claims so frequent in the state of Texas? The answer is simple: our state holds a dark record in terms of fatal crashes. According to a global study on traffic accidents, I-45 in Texas is the most deadly road in the US, with 5 accidents taking place every 100 miles.
Other dangerous Texas roads, in the experience of trucking accident lawyers, are:
These are roads and highways frequently used by truck drivers to make their deliveries. Also, most of these stretches of roads are prone to accidents with semi-trucks passing through Houston.
Commercial truck drivers are not always at fault for the accidents they cause. Brake failure, engine failure, tire blowout, and other instances of vehicle malfunction are common causes of Texas truck accidents. In this case, the truck company is responsible for commercial truck accidents caused by their improperly maintained vehicle.
A truck that is not on the road, carrying goods, is not generating revenue. Thus, commercial motor vehicles are not sent for preventive maintenance check-ups as frequently as they should. By acting in this manner, the commercial trucking industry shows a crass disregard for the safety of both their truck operators and the other innocent drivers and passengers on the roads.
An experienced Texas truck accident lawyer will pursue all the liable parties for a deadly truck accident, starting with the negligent truck driver and ending with the company that kept an unsafe vehicle on the road, causing pain, suffering, and economic damages to innocent people and their families.
When driver error causes an 18-wheeler accident and the driver is on the job according to federal hours of service regulations, the driver's employer is equally liable for the accident victim's bodily injuries and property damage.
For this reason, many trucking companies try to remove liability by claiming that their truck operators are independent contractors, not employees. This means that the driver remains the only at-fault party in the truck or 18-wheeler accident and the victim may not recover all their financial losses (since individual insurance policies offer significantly less coverage than commercial insurance policies).
An experienced Houston truck accident lawyer will be able to prove that the company is actually using employees and make sure that they contribute to your truck accident settlement so that you receive the substantial compensation you deserve.
Both medical professionals and experienced truck accident lawyers know that common truck accident injuries range from severe to catastrophic. All types of accidents (head-on collisions, rear-end accidents, side-swipe collisions, and jackknife accidents) crush the driver and passengers inside passenger cars, causing them:
In some cases, commercial vehicles carry dangerous cargo (chemical substances, fuel, inflammable materials) which can cause additional chemical burns and other internal injuries from inhalation of vapors or fumes.
The injured party usually needs long-term hospitalization, surgeries, and specialized treatments - all of these adding up to very high medical expenses, as well as lost wages and the possibility of never making a full recovery, despite receiving the best medical care.
For this reason, commercial vehicle accident victims need to rely on a dedicated Houston truck accident attorney to negotiate the maximum compensation they deserve to receive from all the liable parties:
The shortage of truck drivers we've experienced leads some companies to skip one or several steps in the mandatory background checks on their drivers instituted through federal motor carrier safety regulations. An astute Houston truck accident lawyer will be able to prove that the negligent truck driver had a history of:
This data could have been available to commercial trucking companies if they chose to do their due diligence before hiring an employee or independent contractor. Thus, the company is also partly at fault for various types of truck accidents caused by the reckless driver they allowed behind the wheel of a fully-loaded 18-wheeler or semi-truck.
Insurance adjusters will try to take advantage of your vulnerability in order to prevent you from filing a personal injury claim. They frequently approach accident victims while they are still in hospital, in pain, and worried about their road to recovery.
In most cases, they appear friendly and willing to help you settle the case as soon as possible. But the quick settlement they offer is typically nowhere near your actual economic damages, to say nothing of the non-economic damages you deserve to receive for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish.
What insurance adjusters do is highly unethical, but not illegal. You need to remember that the adjuster is not your friend and refer them to your Houston truck accident lawyer to discuss your commercial trucking accident claim.
When the insurance company representative realizes that you will not agree to their quick settlement, they will stop being friendly and try to intimidate you instead. One of the most frequent tactics they use is telling you that you will be most likely found to be partly responsible for your crash, thus you do not have the right to seek compensation and they were trying to do you a favor.
In reality, the comparative negligence fault they are referring to states that as long as you are less than 50% at fault for an accident, you are eligible to recover economic and non-economic damages. With professional legal representation, you will be able to prove that the negligent truck driver or other liable parties were more than 50% responsible for your injuries.
A study conducted by the Insurance Research Council indicates that the total claim for damages obtained by people who hire a personal injury attorney is up to 40% higher than the amount accident victims can negotiate on their own.
The reason for this is that lawyers have access to resources and previous experience in similar cases to persuade insurance companies that a fair settlement is preferable to losing a case in court. A personal injury lawsuit represents a reputational loss for both the insurance carrier and the truck company, and in the end, they would have supplementary legal expenses to pay to the plaintiff.
So far, we have put the spotlight on the problems caused by the trucking industry with their lack of disregard for safety. We discussed factors that make truck accidents worse than other types of traffic accidents.
Now we will focus on you - the injured party - and what you can do to help your own case. You must understand that insurance adjusters will not overlook any aspect which may give them a reason to reduce your claim amount or even deny your claim.
For this reason, a Houston truck accident attorney will advise their clients to follow these steps after their accident:
If your car is no longer in driving condition, get out of it and try to get to the side of the road. If you are too severely injured, ask other drivers to call 9-1-1 and signal to other cars to avoid the crash scene. Do not let anyone except medical professionals move you if you suspect a head, neck, or spine injury - it may make your injuries worse.
An ambulance team should examine you at the accident scene as soon as possible. In many cases, they may have to immobilize your neck and transport you to the hospital. Do not refuse any type of tests or treatments recommended by doctors. The refusal to mitigate your damages is a legitimate reason for having your case dismissed.
While you are waiting for the ambulance and the police, use your phone to take photos and videos of the crash scene, including:
You should also talk to eyewitnesses and get their names and contact details. If they cannot give you a testimony at the accident scene, your personal injury lawyer will note it at a later date. Finally, find out the relevant details about the driver:
Yes, prescription drugs, physical therapy, and hospitalization are expensive. But you will recover these costs at the end of your truck accident claim. Failure to complete medical treatments may be used against you as proof that you were not as seriously injured as you claim. Your doctors may be called as witnesses and your medical record brought up before the jury, showing that you did not follow the doctors' recommendations.
As we explained above, insurance adjusters do not care about you and your best interests. You should not even discuss your case without legal counsel present. Adjusters are well known for their ability to trick accident victims into saying something self-incriminatory. When you try to deny it at a later date, it will all come down to whom the jury will believe: you or the insurance company?
You may believe that your social media pages are private, but they are not. Insurance adjusters have ways of finding out what you shared: updates on your health, photos, and videos. Even posts made by your friends and family members discussing your accident can provide an adjuster with ammunition to hurt your case.
The best advice any Houston truck accident lawyer would give you in this circumstance is: do not post anything about the accident on social media. Also, ask all your friends and family members to refrain from such posts. Explain to them that their good intentions can actually cost you the fair compensation you deserve.
In the state of Texas, the statute of limitations for taking legal action in a personal injury case is 2 (two) years from the date of the accident. It may appear to give you sufficient time to decide about hiring a personal injury lawyer.
But think about it: you may spend a month or more in hospital and then you will be moved to a rehabilitation center. There, you may spend several months until the doctors and physical therapists decide that you reached the point of maximum medical improvement. Also, you may develop complications from internal bleeding and various internal organ injuries.
Thus, by the time you believe you are in a fit state to take care of the legal process to recover your damages, a lot of time has already passed. If the insurance company knows you do not have a lot of time left, they will prolong negotiations until it is too late for your lawyer to prepare properly for a personal injury lawsuit. In all instances, you or a loved one should contact a Houston truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after the truck crash.
The lawyer works for you and has your best interests at heart. So have complete confidence in them and tell them the whole truth about the accident.
Calhoun Meredith is a law firm that stands for accident victims' rights to receive the fair compensation they deserve. Using cutting-edge methods, knowledge of the law, and experience in similar cases, we hold big truck companies and their insurance companies responsible for the pain, suffering, and financial losses suffered by 18-wheeler accident victims.
We work on a contingency fee basis because you know that, after a severe accident, you do not have the money to pay advance fees to retain professional legal representation. We will collect our fees from the settlement amount or jury award we win for you. Thus, we have a vested interest to win the maximum compensation you should receive.
Call today and schedule a free case review with one of our lawyers: 855-664-0273!