Texas is a large state with lots of open roads and an infamous reputation for terrible traffic. Auto accidents are the most common cause of personal injuries in the Lone Star State. It also boasts more trucking accidents than any other state in the country. Each year, millions of people in the state incur severe injuries from motor vehicle accidents, with an average of 500 trucks being involved in fatal accidents. Can I sue the trucking company after a truck accident?
While being involved in any motor vehicle accident is frightening, it can feel devastating when it involves a large truck, especially if a fully-loaded truck or one moving at high speed is concerned. Even when empty, commercial trucks can cause significant damage to other drivers involved in an accident as they're much larger and heavier than other vehicles on the road (they can weigh in at over 80,000 pounds when fully loaded).
Whether you're an unfortunate soul that's been involved in a truck accident or are simply gathering facts for precaution, this guide will tell you the steps you need to take to protect yourself if you're ever the victim of a truck accident in Texas.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
It's not easy to operate a 40-ton vehicle with 18 wheels. Regardless of how much experience and training a truck diver has, accidents can still occur. Sometimes truck accidents are the fault of the driver, but sometimes they're unavoidable. Here are some of the most common causes of truck accidents:
- Driver fatigue - Truck drivers are infamous for trying to cover vast amounts of space in short periods to get goods delivered by a deadline. Longer driving hours, little sleep, and a lot of stress is a disastrous recipe in many cases.
- Inexperience - As is the case with any profession, experience makes all the difference in the world. Hands-on experience is the best way to learn a skill, especially regarding how to master the operation of a behemoth vehicle safely.
- Poor vehicle maintenance - In some cases, truck manufacturers produce defective products that can cause trucks to malfunction resulting in an accident. In other cases, the trucking company may be at fault for neglecting to provide routine truck maintenance.
- Driving under the influence - Although truck drivers are responsible for operating their rigs with the utmost care and attention, some aren't so responsible. Drug and alcohol abuse while driving a truck is another recipe for disaster.
- Speeding - Trucks need to maintain the speed limit because driving even 10mph above the limit can cause severe issues with braking times. Driving the speed limit in good weather requires 315 feet for a truck to brake correctly. 10mph over the speed limit increases that number to 400 feet, and driving in wet weather requires 720 feet to reach a full stop safely.
- Following too closely - 18 wheelers measure an average of 65 feet long, which means that the stopping distance dramatically exceeds the recommended following distance of one car length for every 10mph. Truckers rarely follow this rule, which can result in an accident that could have been avoided.
- Loss of control - It's easy to correct minor errors in driving when you're behind the wheel of a passenger vehicle. The same minor mishaps can turn into fatal errors on a tractor-trailer. Things like heavy loads balanced on the trailer, too little breaking room, and over-correction can each result in a major accident.
- Improper loading - There's a specific way cargo is supposed to be loaded and secured to prevent accidents. Sometimes trucks are packed in a hurry or by inexperienced workers, which can lead to shifting, resulting in uneven weight distribution, making it more difficult for the driver to control the truck. An overloaded truck can be just as dangerous.
In many of the cases above, negligence is the underlying cause of the issue. If you're involved in a truck accident that was caused due to one of the common factors above, the chances are that you can file a solid claim against the truck company or driver for personal injury compensation.
What to do if You're Involved in a Truck Accident
If you've been involved in a truck accident in Texas, you have the constitutional right to hold the negligent driver responsible. You have every right to file a personal injury lawsuit and claim both economic and non-economic compensation for whatever injuries occurred and losses you suffered. In addition to medical expenses and costs of future medical treatment, other common damages that can be claimed for in a commercial truck accident include:
- Vehicle replacement or costs for repair
- Loss of potential earning capacity
- Lost wages
- Loss of consortium for a partner or spouse
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damage
To maximize your chances of winning a personal injury claim and being compensated for everything that you deserve, there are specific steps you should follow as soon as the accident occurs. If the time has passed and you're missing some of the steps below, an experienced truck accident lawyer can help put the missing pieces together for you.
Call the Police Immediately
Even if you don't think you or your passengers were injured in the truck accident, you must call the police as soon as it happens. The officer will conduct an appropriate background check, and a police report will provide a detailed account of the accident. It's a critical piece of evidence in an insurance claim. Don't let a truck driver talk you out of calling the police, and don't forget to get the officer's name that takes the report in case you need to contact him or her later.
Exchange License and Insurance Info with the Truck Driver
As is the common rule, when any motor vehicle accident takes place, you should exchange contact information, insurance information, and license numbers with the truck driver. While you may be frightened or emotionally overwhelmed, control yourself. Never apologize or discuss any details of the accident with the driver, and don't mention whether you're injured or feel like you aren't. The most seemingly insignificant details can harm your claim.
Contact Your Insurance Company within 24 Hours
If you're unable to contact your insurance company to report the truck crash within 24 hours, have someone else do it for you. Whether you or someone else call, make sure the conversation is documented with all the details, including the time of the conversation and the agent's name.
If the trucking company's insurance company contacts you, don't agree to a recorded statement. You must speak with a personal injury lawyer before making any recorded statements or sign a settlement offer.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer
An experienced personal injury lawyer who specializes in truck accidents will be able to evaluate your case and get you the highest compensation you deserve. Make sure you look around and contact a good personal injury attorney before following any legal advice, agreeing to make any recorded statements, signing any forms, or accepting any settlement offers from another party's legal team.
The Importance of Gathering Evidence from the Accident Scene
Collecting evidence from the truck accident scene is essential to recovering the highest settlement amount possible through legal action. The closer to the accident time that you can collect evidence, the stronger your case will be. The crash scene should be documented in photos, videos, and written reports before anything is changed or memories about the accident fade.
Do Not Decline a Medical Evaluation
When you're severely injured in a truck accident, you'll be transported to a hospital in an ambulance. But if you're not severely injured, don't decline a medical evaluation. Even if you think your injuries are slight or that you're not injured at all, a visit to a doctor for a medical assessment may uncover injuries you didn't notice you had. Being involved in a truck accident is a devastating experience, and you may not feel pain immediately after due to shock. Having a medical evaluation done will not only ensure you're healthy and safe, but in the case that injuries from the accident are uncovered, they'll be well-documented for a strong case proving that they were caused by the accident.
File a Truck Accident Claim
Under Texas law, there's a statute of limitations that give you two years from the accident date to file a civil lawsuit for compensation.
You can work with a truck accident attorney to file a claim as soon as possible to collect the maximum compensation you deserve following a truck accident. A truck accident claim consists of seeking settlement negotiations or bringing the case to trial to have the truck company and its insurer cover the maximum amount of damages sustained due to the collision.
Can I Sue the Trucking Company After a Truck Accident? How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Working with an experienced truck accident attorney can make all the difference in settling your case fairly. Attorneys who have experience taking these specific accident claims to settlement or trial can make sense of and explain complex facts in a way that a jury can understand easily. They will also be able to walk you through complicated processes concerning compensation requests, settlement negotiations, and pursuing legal actions.
If you or someone you know are a truck accident victim in Texas, contact a personal injury attorney at Glenn Law Firm. They have more than 35 years of experience fighting for compensation for injuries caused by big truck accidents, auto accidents, and motorcycle accidents. Find out what they can do for you.