Each year, thousands in the United States are injured or killed in trucking accidents. Due to their weight and size, trucks that are involved in accidents may cause catastrophic injuries. In fact, one of every eight traffic deaths in the nation is the result of a trucking accident.
As a truck crash lawyer in TX, I can tell you that a “truck accident” is defined as an accident involving a large trailer – that is, a trailer that weighs 10,000 pounds or more – that crashes into another vehicle or into a pedestrian.
If you are injured in a trucking accident in the state of Texas, what is your legal recourse? Can you be compensated for your injuries? And who can be found liable in a trucking accident? In other words, who can be sued for compensation?
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW ABOUT TRUCK CRASHES?
But first things first. The most important thing to remember is that if you are injured in an accident that involves a large commercial truck, you must put your case – as quickly as possible – in the hands of a top-rated San Antonio personal injury attorney.
An attorney with trucking accident experience will protect the rights of an injury victim and will fight aggressively for the compensation that you are entitled to by Texas law.
Permanent disabilities, catastrophic injuries, and wrongful deaths are far too frequently the end results of trucking accidents. The most frequently-suffered injuries include spinal cord injuries, bone fractures, soft tissue injuries, chest and head bruises, and traumatic brain injuries.
If you sustain a traumatic brain injury or a spinal cord injury in a truck crash, or if you lose a leg or an arm to amputation after a trucking accident, you will need the maximum available compensation amount for long-term or life-long care.
WHAT CAUSES TRUCK ACCIDENTS?
In 2015, more than 3,800 highway fatalities involved accidents with large trucks. Thousands more were seriously injured. After a collision with a big commercial truck, even if the truck driver was clearly at fault, it may be difficult to establish who is legally “liable.”
Unrealistic schedules, mechanical problems, and substance abuse cause plenty of trucking accidents, but almost every study of truck collisions has determined that truck driver fatigue is the top reason for trucking accidents in the U.S.
WHAT TYPES OF RULES GOVERN THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY?
Federal rules prohibit truck drivers from working beyond eleven hours a day or seventy hours a week. The violation of this rule is a key element in many truck accident cases. Texting, drinking, and other distractions to truck drivers also cause trucking accidents.
Truck companies and independent drivers also must adhere to a number of additional state and federal regulations. The amount of weight a truck may carry and the type of training a truck driver must receive are just two of the many matters governed by federal and state law.
If you are injured by a negligent trucker, any direct violation of a state or federal regulation will be powerful evidence in your favor and will increase the chance that your injury claim will prevail or will be settled out-of-court to your satisfaction.
WHEN IS SOMEONE OTHER THAN A DRIVER LIABLE FOR A TRUCK CRASH?
However, someone other than the truck driver may be held liable for a trucking accident when:
- a truck hasn’t been maintained properly or loaded properly
- the truck or a truck part is defective
- the roadway where the accident happened was negligently maintained or constructed
A Texas personal injury lawyer will uncover all of the potential sources of compensation after an accident, hold the negligent party or parties accountable, and fight for the compensation that an injury victim needs and for the justice that such victims deserve.
HOW IS LIABILITY FOR TRUCK COLLISIONS DETERMINED?
How is liability determined after a trucking accident? Is the trucking company liable for a truck driver’s negligent driving? In some cases, it is, provided that the negligence occurred within the “course and scope” of the driver’s employment duties.
Respondeat superior is the Latin phrase for the legal principle that imputes or transfers a worker’s liability to that worker’s employer, but applying the principle to a particular accident will depend on the answers to these key questions:
- Was the truck driver an employee or an independent contractor?
- Did the negligence occur in the “course and scope” of the driver’s employment?
- Was the negligence unintentional or intentional?
WHAT IF A TRUCK DRIVER IS AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR?
When a trucker drives his or her personal truck, carries his or her own liability insurance, and is paid with no taxes withheld, that trucker is probably an independent contractor, and liability for that trucker’s negligence cannot transfer to an employer.
In a personal injury case, the injury victim (or plaintiff) can only receive a judgment or a settlement if the defendant (the negligent party) is able to pay.
In a truck accident case, the insurance required for a large commercial truck makes it more likely that a plaintiff will actually receive the compensation that he or she needs.
WHAT PARTIES MAY HAVE LIABILITY FOR A TRUCK ACCIDENT?
More than one defendant can be sued in a personal injury case generated by a trucking collision. Leasing companies, contractors, and subcontractors play important roles in the trucking business.
If a truck’s brakes or tires were defectively manufactured, if the cargo wasn’t loaded properly, or if a truck’s maintenance has been improper or entirely neglected, a number of defendants may have partial liability for causing the accident and the injuries.
A case with more than one defendant may be more difficult to resolve out-of-court because defendants often cannot agree regarding who owes what. In some cases, an injury victim may settle with one defendant while a lawsuit continues against other defendants.
WHAT IF A TRUCK DRIVER’S NEGLIGENT BEHAVIOR IS INTENTIONAL?
It is important to know that employers, in most cases, cannot be held liable for an employee’s intentionally wrong behavior. If a trucker crashes intentionally into a specific vehicle – for example, as a hate crime or as an incident of road rage – the employer probably has no liability.
That is because such an intentional action by a truck driver would be entirely outside of the “course and scope” of that truck driver’s employment duties.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT A TRUCK ACCIDENT LAW FIRM?
If you sustain a personal injury or injuries in a trucking accident here in Texas, don’t sign any insurance forms or make any statement to an insurance company before speaking to an experienced San Antonio truck collision attorney.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck accident, speak to a good personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible. Your lawyer will review the case and provide the legal guidance you need. Compensation for your injury – and a good lawyer’s help – are your legal rights.