If you have suffered injuries and other losses in a truck accident in Houston, TX, it may be possible to recover suitable compensation with the help of a good Houston truck accident lawyer. A truck accident can result in serious to critical injuries, given the sheer size of the vehicle in contrast to much smaller passenger vehicles. Such injuries entitled you to launch a personal injury claim against the trucking company, shipping company, manufacturer, or another liable party. Here at Calhoun, Meredith, and Sims, PLLC, our seasoned truck accident attorneys can help you file such a claim. Call us today to discuss your claim with our lawyers.
As truck accident victims, before you actually file a truck accident claim for severe injury, it is important to understand different aspects of such a claim. Here is a look at these.
Crashes involving big rigs are caused by a number of factors. In most cases, some kind of driver error is involved and contributes to the 18-wheeler accident. Following are some of the common causes:
- Driving Under the Influence: Impairment caused by alcohol or drugs remains a major cause of accidents caused by truck drivers. In many cases, the drugs used by truck drivers are legal and medically prescribed. However, such drugs may have side-effects and cause the driver to drowse or have a lapse in judgment. Even slight impairment can cause the driver to make a small mistake and result in a serious crash.
- Driver Fatigue: Many trucking companies disregard the federal limit regulations on the number of hours a truck driver can drive per day and per week. When drivers are allowed or made to driver longer hours, this can cause fatigue. The driver may then doze off for a moment or be otherwise drowsy, resulting in serious consequences for other motorists on the road. A trucking company can be directly held liable in such a scenario.
- Speeding and Reckless Driving: While handling vehicles that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, truck drivers have an extra obligation to drive safely and ensure their own safety as well as that of the other drivers. When they speed or indulge in reckless driving, they may end up colliding with other vehicles or losing control of the truck so that other vehicles collide into them.
- Driving Too Fast for Dangerous Conditions: This is also a kind of reckless driving. Dangerous road conditions may be created by adverse weather, construction or repair work on the road, or for a variety of other reasons. When this is the case, it is the responsibility of the truck drivers to slow down in order to minimize risk. If the driver continues traveling at a high speed, chances of a collision become significantly higher.
- Unsafe Cargo: In the case of commercial truck accidents, you should know that the cargo on board a truck must be secure and within the specified weight limits. If the cargo is above the limits or not securely positioned, it can fall off the truck or cause the vehicle to veer out of the driver’s control.
- Vehicle Defects: Vehicle defects can be broadly of two types. One type of defects is a result of poor maintenance of the vehicle – an inflated tire or a brake failure usually belongs in this category. The second type of defects is caused by the malfunction or failure of the vehicle parts. This is usually a result of a manufacturing fault in the specific part. Both type of failures can cause the vehicle to become unpredictable at a high speed and create risks.
In accidents with other vehicles, commercial trucks often tend to inflict catastrophic injuries. This is simply because of the sheer weight and size of these vehicles in comparison to other smaller vehicles such as SUVs or pickups. When laden with cargo, commercial trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. In contrast, a typical passenger vehicle weighs only about 4,000 pounds. In the event of a collision, the truck is very likely to cause extensive damage to the other vehicle, and harm to its occupants.
For this reason, it is common to see serious or critical injuries involved in most accidents involving trucks or semi-trucks. Some of the most common injuries that victim sustain in a truck wreck include:
- Damage to soft tissues and muscles. These are usually the most benign type of injury victims suffer in a truck wreck. Even so, damage to the muscles, tendons or soft tissues, such as in the case of a whiplash injury, can result in devastating pain. This is why it is possible to recover damages for such an injury.
- Head, Neck, and Back Injuries. These are critical injuries that can result in temporary or permanent disabilities which are partial or total. Such injuries include spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, as well as other head and back injuries. Even in the best of cases, if you suffer these, you will take a fairly long time to fully recover. This can mean lost wages and financial stress which can be offset only by seeking fair damages.
- Internal Injuries. These include damage to internal organs. Internal injuries are not immediately apparent, especially in the wake of a crash. This is why it is always essential to undergo proper medical treatment after a truck wreck, whether or not you feel you have been hurt.
- Burns. In many incidents of a collision between 18-wheelers and smaller vehicles, it is not uncommon for the smaller vehicle to catch fire. When this happens, the people inside the vehicle can sustain serious burns.
- Disfigurement. Many individuals suffer a truck accident injury in the form of disfigurement and scarring of the face, hands and other visible parts of the body in an accident. The law allows such victims to seek non-economic damages in lieu of such scarring and disfigurement.
In the more extreme cases, a truck accident can result in the death of one or more victims. When this happens, you will need to file a wrongful death claim instead of a personal injury claim. If the other driver or insurer refuse to honor the claim, you can consult with you lawyer to launch a wrongful death lawsuit.
After a trucking accident, you will be hard-pressed to prove your claim before you can receive any compensatory damages. When you file the claim, the liable party will fiercely dispute it, try to turn down your claim altogether, or trim down your damages to the smallest amount possible. However, if you can back with your claim with the right evidence, this will help you secure a good settlement. You will typically need the help of a good Houston truck accident lawyer when proving your claim.
As any truck accident lawyers will confirm, there are four legal elements of negligence that must be proved for your claim to be valid. These are as follows:
- Duty of Care: You must first show that the responsible party owed you a duty of care for medical bills and other damages. For instance, a driver on the road owes a duty of care to the other drivers. This duty means the driver must abide by traffic laws and be a responsible driver overall. Similarly, a trucking company owes it to other drivers that its vehicles should drive while ensuring safety of the other people of the road. Similar duty of care can be demonstrated for a shipping company, manufacturer, or any other negligent party.
- Breach of Duty of Care: The second essential element in proving negligence is to show that a breach of duty of care occurred. Using the examples above, if a driver is drunk or driving above the posted speed limit, this is a breach of duty of care. Similarly, a breach occurs when a truck is unsafely loaded or its brakes fail due to poor maintenance. The party which was responsible for the duty of care will be held liable in the event of a breach.
- Causation: It is not enough to prove a breach of duty of care in order to have a valid crash claim following accidents. You must further prove that the particular breach directly caused the accident. If a driver was drunk driving, this in itself is not enough. The drunkenness of the driver must be shown to be directly related to the crash that the driver caused. Similarly, the failure of brakes in a commercial semi-trailer is not enough. You must prove that the truck crash which occurred was precisely caused by this failure. Direct causation must be demonstrable between the breach and the crash.
- Damages: This is the final element of negligence in accidents. After you have proven the three elements above, it is time to show that the crash which was caused by a breach of duty of care actually resulted in damages for you. Such damages can be hurt to your person in the form of injuries, damage to your vehicle, and so on.
The party you are holding liable in a truck accident claim will naturally do its best to counter your claim. This is why it is critical that you gather the relevant evidence to back up your claim as soon as possible.
Following are the types of evidence you will need when filing for compensation:
- Police Report: Law enforcement officers typically reach a crash site, appraise the situation, gather the facts, take statements of the parties involved, and then file a report which sums up all this. This report may also indirectly state which party was at-fault. The police report is a vital piece of evidence that can support your claim and can also be helpful with insurance companies.
- Photos and Videos from the Scene: You or other people present on a crash scene may take photos of the damaged vehicles and other circumstances of an accident. Similarly, videos of the crash may be captured by bystanders, nearby CCTV cameras, or by you if you are up and able after the incident. In some cases, trucks have dash cams that record the precise moment of the crash. The footage from such cams can be invaluable in establishing how the crash occurred.
- Data from Black Box: Semi-trucks have a black box on board. This device records important information such as the speed at a particular time, position of the wheel, the use of brakes, and GPS coordinates among other things. This data can shed a light on the behavior of the truck just before an accident occurred. As such, this information can prove invaluable in the success of a claim.
On your own, it can be immensely hard to gather CCTV footage from cameras around the crash site, or data from the truck’s black box following road accidents. The insurance companies, trucking company, and other third-parties can use many tactics to prevent you from gathering this data. Worse still, if you are delayed, they may have this data erased for good to prevent it from being used as evidence.
This is why it is always a good idea to hire a personal injury lawyer at the earliest. A good law firm will act quickly to gather the relevant evidence before it is lost.
A number of parties can be held liable in a truck accident, from individual drivers to trucking companies. The actual party that is responsible depends on the precise cause of the crash. Following are the entities that are usually liable in such accidents:
A trucking company is most often the liable party in a truck accident. This is because the company is required to meet certain standards and regulations when it comes to the operations of its vehicles.
If the driver of the truck is found to be unqualified, working extra hours, maintaining incorrect logs, abusing drugs or alcohol, lacking a proper license, or otherwise negligent, the trucking company will be liable. This is because the company is responsible for ensuring that its drivers are trained, qualified and suitable for the job.
If accidents occur due to a failure that should have been foreseen during maintenance, the trucking company will be held responsible. This applies when the trucking company has in-house maintenance for the vehicle.
A third-party contractor, in the case of trucking companies, may be responsible for handling the maintenance, repair and service of the trucks belonging to a company. If the cause of a wreck is poor maintenance of the vehicle or the truck's many hours of service, the claim will likely be filed against the third-party contractor. The contractor may try to shift the blame onto the trucking company, and the company will reciprocate. A good Houston Texas truck accident lawyer will help you pin down the liable party so that there are no delays in your claim.
During the operation of a truck, it is usually the responsibility of a shipping company or that company's commercial driver to load and unload the cargo. The secure loading of the cargo is essential for the safety of the truck and other vehicles on the road. If the cargo is not secured properly, it may move around during transportation and cause the truck to veer out of driver’s control. If cargo weight is above the designated limit, it may prevent the truck from braking properly and create other risks. This is how accidents happen
When a truck crash occurs due to problems with the weight, positioning, or securing of the cargo, the shipping company will be typically responsible. For Texas, there are several federal regulations in place in case of such incidents, and your attorneys will be able to assist.
In some rare cases, an accident involving a truck may be caused by defective parts. Failures caused by defective parts can be charted up to the company that manufactured these parts. Even in the case of a fatal truck accident, the manufacturer can be held liable. They will be held liable for the defects and the consequent crash. In such a case, it is possible to bring a product liability claim against the company.
As victimes or families of victims, you should know: a truck accident can cause catastrophic injuries resulting in steep medical costs of treatment, rehabilitation, surgery, and therapy. You may also be prevented from going back to you job, or lose it for good. These are losses that can wreck you financially and emotionally. This is why it is so important to hold the at-fault party liable and make them pay up damages to cover these losses.
In general, you can seek the following types of compensation for your losses in trucking accidents:
Medical expenses: In the case of a commercial vehicle accident, these include the full medical costs of your treatment and rehabilitation. Depending on the nature and severity of your injuries, these may cover the doctor’s fees, the costs of prescription medicine, expenses related to any surgeries and medical tests that were required, the costs of any specialized equipment you may need in the short-term or long-term, as well as physical therapy and rehabilitation costs. You can also seek special damages if you need modifications to your car, home or workplace in light of your injury-related handicaps.
Lost Wages: Injuries from a commercial motor vehicle accident may prevent you from resuming work for a few days, weeks, or even months and years. This results in lost wages as you are no longer able to earn your weekly or monthly wage. As the lost wages are caused by the injury, which in turn was caused by the crash, you can seek damages in lieu of lost wages from the liable party. In addition, you can also seek compensation for lost earning potential. This is possible when an injury permanently prevents you from going back to your earlier occupation, forcing you to learn and master a new skill in order to earn wages.
Pain and Suffering: In addition to the tangible losses in a crash, for which you can seek economic damages, it is also possible to recover non-economic damages for your intangible losses. For instance, you can seek damages in lieu of the pain and suffering caused by a crash, whether this pain and suffering was physical, mental, or emotional. Many states place caps on non-economic damages, however, Texas has no limit on the maximum amount of pain and suffering damages you can seek. In most cases, a multiplier method is used to compute the amount of pain and suffering damages. The economic damages are multiplied by a figure and thus the non-economic damages are calculated. The more pain and suffering an injury caused, the higher is the multiplier figure that is used.
Loss of Consortium: A crash may significantly impact the quality of your life for good. You may no longer be able to enjoy relationships with your family as well, or interact as confidently in social situations. You can also seek damages for such losses.
Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are relatively rare in truck collision cases. However, when they are awarded, they are meant to act as a sort of punishment to the liable party. This particular type of compensation is awarded to crash victims only when the negligent party was guilty of deliberate recklessness, fraud, malice, malintent or simply under the influence of alcohol.
When victims or their families are filing a truck accident claim, you are up against trucking companies or insurance companies in most cases. As clients of an experienced attorney firm, you have more chances of success. These entities have legal teams and large resources at their disposal. You can file a claim on your own but it can be immensely hard to win the claim. This is why our clients are looking to us for help.
The defendants will come up with various objections and counter-claims so that you may be forced to give up on your claim or accept a much smaller amount of settlement.
This is where a good lawyer can help you. Reliable lawyers work with you during consultations to identify the at fault party, bring together all the relevant evidence, and pursue compensation. Personal injury attorneys are well aware of how such claims work, and they know how to counter the underhanded tactics of the other side. So a lawyer by your side can be immensely helpful.
Here at Calhoun, Meredith, and Sims, PLLC, we have been offering consultations and serving clients in Houston and neighboring areas for a long time. Our world-class lawyers have many decades of experience between themselves. When we take up your claim, our aim is to get you the compensation that you deserve. In doing so, we go the extra mile and stay with you even if the claim turns into a personal injury lawsuit. Call us today to schedule a free session with our attorneys.