Commercial trucks are a key component of the supply chain of intrastate and interstate commerce in Texas. Although these vehicles have their economic value, they also pose a real hazard for other motorists. If you have been involved in a truck accident in Houston, Texas, our Houston truck accident lawyers can help you recover compensatory damages. Here at Calhoun, Meredith, & Sims, we aim to get you the maximum amount of compensation for your crash-related damage. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.
Commercial truck accidents differ from other traffic accidents in that they typically involve serious damage. This is simply because of the sheer disparity between the size of a truck and passenger cars.
In the event of a collision, a truck usually suffers little to no damage. In contrast, you may suffer serious to severe injuries, including loss of limbs, broken bones, spinal cord injury, as well as other as head or brain trauma. In some cases, negligence may also result in a fatal truck accident.
You can file a claim of damages against the negligent truck driver, the truck companies, truck manufacturers, or another third party with the help of a truck accident attorney. Here is a look at the situations and scenarios where you can hold the trucking company accountable for your losses.
Most truck accidents in Texas are caused by truck driver negligence. Such negligence may include distracted driving, drunk driving, speeding, and other behaviors that endanger other drivers on the road. For this reason, a truck accident claim is first filed against the truck driver. The driver's negligence is easier to prove, so you are mostly able to recover truck accident compensation.
However, truck accidents are often devastating. Truck accident victims may suffer injuries ranging from severe to critical and long-term pain, in some cases requiring lifelong help and support for the injuries or wrongful death. You may also face other losses such as property damages and lost wages.
You can file for such damages with the insurance company of the at-fault driver. But the truck driver may carry minimum liability insurance, which will likely not cover the full extent of damages. This is when you should consider including the trucking company among the liable parties and seek damages under the company's insurance policy.
It is important to note that you can recover compensatory damages from the trucking company's insurance provider only after you have exhausted the at-fault truck driver’s insurance coverage. In most accidents involving commercial motor vehicles, the trucker can be held liable. You may also want to hold the company accountable for punitive damages in the case of deliberate negligence. Here is a look at how you can hold the company liable and some example scenarios demonstrating the trucking company’s negligence.
An entity of the trucking industry can be held liable directly or vicariously for truck accident injuries. Direct liability is when the company is guilty of some form of negligence that directly contributed to the crash. For instance, if the company is responsible for maintaining its fleet, but a brake failure caused a truck crash, liability lies with the company.
Vicarious liability is when the company is held indirectly liable for a commercial vehicle accident. This involves a legal concept called ‘respondeat superior,’ which translates as ‘let the master answer.’ In most truck accidents, a trucker can be held vicariously liable for the acts of negligence committed by the truck driver.
This is simply because the driver is an employee, or a legal agent, of the trucking company. As the company is the responsible party for hiring and supervising the drivers, the driver's mistakes or negligent actions can be charted up to the company itself. If a driver is drunk and causes a truck accident, liability evidently lies with the driver.. However, the company can be held vicariously liable for hiring a driver with a substance abuse problem.
You will need relevant evidence such as medical records, employment records, witness statements, and the accident report for the incident to substantiate your claim in any case.
Trucking company negligence can take place in various forms. You may feel that the driver is liable when the liability actually lies with the company in many situations. Here is a look at some example scenarios involving the negligence of the trucking company.
- Hours of Services Rules Violations. Texas laws require all truck drivers to have consecutive eight hours off-duty before a driving shift. The shift itself must involve no more than 12 consecutive hours of driving. In addition, federal hours of service rules also apply. When a trucking company fails to ensure these time limits and a crash occurs, the company can be held liable.
- Negligent Hiring and Supervision. A trucking company is responsible for ensuring that any commercial drivers it hires have all the requisite driver qualifications. It must also do background checks to ensure that a driver has no history of substance abuse. In addition, the company also has an ongoing responsibility of supervising the drivers to ensure they abide by the relevant laws and regulations. If there is negligence in hiring or supervising the drivers, the company can be directly held responsible.
- Knowledge of Driver Violations. Trucking companies sometimes fail to adhere to the state and federal regulations for commercial vehicles. Such failure can be deliberate such as when truckers manipulate logbooks to allow drivers to stay on the road longer than they are allowed. A company may also set unrealistic deadlines for its drivers, forcing them to work long hours, suffer driver fatigue, and result in an accident.
- Cargo Loading Negligence. A trucking company tasked with cargo loading is also required to ensure that the cargo is secure and not above the designated weight and volume limits for different types of cargo. If the truck is overloaded or the cargo is not properly secured, any resulting crash will be considered a result of the company’s negligence.
- Truck Maintenance. A company that owns commercial trucks is also responsible for their routine inspection and vehicle maintenance. If any repairs are needed, these must also be performed promptly. If the company fails in this job and a vehicular failure results in a crash, the company is likely to be considered liable.
These are some of the many scenarios where a trucking company’s negligence is involved in causing a truck accident. An experienced truck accident lawyer can review your particular crash and see if you have a valid personal injury claim against the trucking company.
If it can be shown that the truck driver was operating outside the scope of their employment, you can’t use vicarious liability doctrine to hold the trucking company accountable. For instance, if the truck driver had taken the truck on a personal chore, the company is not liable as long as the truck and driver remain engaged in the personal trip.
Similarly, you need to prove that a driver is an employee of the trucking company before you can name the company co-defendant in a possible personal injury lawsuit for damages. If the driver is an owner-operator who owns the vehicle but works with the company under a contract or is clearly classified as an independent contractor, you may not be able to hold the company liable.
However, the issue of liability varies from one truck accident to another. Even if your truck wreck involves the above scenarios, a Houston truck accident lawyer may help you see if the trucker can still be held accountable for other forms of negligence.
As noted above, various parties accountable can be liable in a Houston truck accident. In some cases, more than one party may be liable for a given crash. In addition to a wide range of regular damages, you may also be eligible for non-economic damages for physical pain and mental anguish as well as punitive damages in cases where deliberate negligence, malice, or recklessness could be proved.
This is why it is critically important to get sound legal help before you can file a truck accident lawsuit or claim. A good personal injury attorney will first help you identify the party or negligent parties liable for your losses. The attorney will then work with you to gather the relevant evidence and file insurance claims for financial compensation. If a commercial trucking company turns down your claim, trucking accident lawyers can also help you file a lawsuit and take your claim to a court of law.
This is precisely what we offer here at Calhoun, Meredith, & Sims. We aim to work towards a suitable truck accident settlement that effectively covers all your losses. We also ensure that any insurance settlement you receive is a fair settlement and does not underpay your claim with our extensive experience. Get in touch with us today to discuss your claim with our lawyers.