Houston Truck Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one recently suffered harm in an accident involving a big rig, 18-wheeler, or another type of commercial vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation for the full extent of your medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Texas law provides an important avenue of recourse for individuals who become victims of negligence. An experienced Houston personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights and protect your right to full compensation under the law.
Brian White is an experienced Houston truck accident lawyer. He has assisted many clients in obtaining the medical care they need and fair compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, future lost wages, disabilities, and more. Our law firm will never charge a fee until we win your case.
The longer you wait to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney, the more difficult your case becomes to prosecute successfully. Don’t compromise your rights to recover the compensation you need and deserve by waiting to act.
Why Do You Need A Truck Accident Attorney?
When you are involved in a crash with a big rig, your accident claim will usually be handled differently than if you had collided with another car, van, or pickup. Commercial motor vehicles such as semi-trucks, bob-tail trucks, cement trucks, 18-wheelers, tanker trucks, and any other motor vehicle hired to deliver or transport goods carry commercial vehicle insurance, and it’s not unusual for a business owner as well as a commercial insurer to be involved in the claim.
Because the injuries are often more catastrophic and expensive, liability limits for these policies are much higher. That’s why truck collision injuries are some of the most complicated personal injury claims to settle. Truck accident victims require the guidance of a serious attorney, specifically one with prior experience with truck accident law. Learn more below.
Accidents involving commercial vehicles are subject to both state and federal laws. The nature of your case will depend on whether the truck was an interstate or intrastate vehicle, among other considerations. Our Houston truck accident attorneys know the trucking guidelines established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and can help determine negligence through log book violations, violation of hours of service, and more.
Brian White has extensive experience in litigating truck accident cases. As a result, he knows just how devastating these accidents can be and how the medical ramifications can last a lifetime. Our law firm knows not only how to evaluate a truck accident claim, but also how to account for future costs such as loss in earning capacity, continuing cost of rehabilitation and treatment, and more. We also know how to negotiate with truck companies and their insurance providers.
Aggressive Negotiating Skills
A truck accident claim may involve one or several parties: insurance companies, truck manufacturers, trucking companies, and even the state or federal government. A skilled Houston truck accident lawyer knows how to determine who is responsible and will aggressively fight for your right to fair compensation under the law. When negotiations don’t lead to a favorable outcome, we’ll take your case to trial – we’re willing to go to any length to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries, pain, and suffering.
How Should You Speak to Insurance Companies After A Semi-Truck Collision?
After the accident, you should find out more about how to report your accident with your insurance company. Many insurers require policyholders to report incidents within a specific timeframe. You may want to write out the facts of the accident or keep the incident report handy for your initial call. When you do report the incident to a representative, only provide basic information. At this time, cause and liability may need further investigation. Stick with the bare minimum of information and avoid discussing your opinion of the accident.
As commercial motor vehicles, most semi-truck claims involve truck companies. A truck company insurer may try to reach out to you in the days or weeks following the accident. You do not need to provide another insurance company with any information. If possible, refer any insurance adjuster or representative to your attorney. If not, politely decline to speak to the representative until you speak to a lawyer first.
Many people mistakenly believe mentioning legal help in an insurance conversation will make them look guilty or at-fault for the incident. In reality, most serious accidents involve two insurers trying to lower their financial responsibility. They can and will look for ways to make the other party appear partially or wholly liable for the accident to reduce their own payout. An attorney acts as a legal buffer to protect your legal rights and your best interests after an accident. Since trucking company insurers may routinely handle accident claims, you need a legal representative fighting for your rights.
What is the Truck Accident Litigation Process in Houston?
A Texas truck accident claim process begins as soon as a lawyer accepts your case. While you focus on your recovery, there will be a lot happening behind the scenes to protect your right to recovery. Here’s what you can expect from the process:
- An investigation. Your attorney, trucking company, and insurance companies will all conduct independent investigations into the accident to determine who is at fault. An investigation includes gathering forensic evidence as well as statements from witnesses and reading police reports.
- You may receive notification from an insurance company. Never sign any documents or agree to any recorded statements without the guidance or approval of your attorney. Remember, insurance adjusters and their companies are in the business of making a profit and paying as little out on a claim as possible. It’s common for an insurance company to approach auto accidents with low-ball offers that do not reflect the extent of a victim’s pain and suffering.
- Negotiations begin. Your attorney will begin to negotiate with the trucking company and their insurance company on your behalf. In some cases, trucking accident claims end here if the company is willing to pay a fair settlement in exchange for your medical bills, lost wages, future medical care, and pain and suffering.
- If negotiations fail, a trial begins. If your lawyer cannot get a fair settlement from the insurance company, they will begin the process of filing a formal lawsuit in court. This often results in a trial and a jury rendering a verdict in your case.
What Type of Compensation Can I Claim After a Truck Collision?
Victims of trucking accidents have several different types of damages available:
- Economic damages. These include the quantifiable expenses associated with a trucking accident, like medical expenses, lost wages, loss in earning capacity, ongoing therapeutic costs, and more. Determining future medical costs is an important aspect of gaining full and fair compensation for a victim’s economic damages.
- General damages. Reserved for the immaterial losses associated with a victim’s experience. Common examples include emotional distress, mental anguish, pain, suffering, and loss of life quality. In cases involving wrongful death, economic damages may also include loss in partnership or consortium.
In some cases, Texas law allows victims of trucking accidents to pursue punitive damages against at-fault truck drivers. These only apply when an accident results from intentional misconduct or gross negligence. An example might include a truck driver intoxicated at the time of the crash.
What Are the Current FMCSA Truck Driver Regulations?
Drivers of semitrailers are regulated by the FMCSA which provides a set of rules intended to help keep big rig operators safe.
Presently, those who drive 18-wheelers are limited by the number of hours they can work on a daily and weekly basis. According to the FMCSA, the following hours of service regulations are enforced around the country:
- 11-Hour Driving Limit: Commercial motor vehicle operators may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- 14-Hour Driving Window: Drivers may not work (work includes driving and activities for off-duty time such as taking a lunch break or a nap) for more than 14 hours per day.
- 30-Minute Rest Break: Regulations require that if more than eight consecutive hours have passed since the last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes, a driver must take an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes before driving.
- 60/70-Hour Duty Limit: Drivers cannot exceed 60 hours on duty over a week, or 70 hours on duty over eight days.
- Drivers must be provided 10 consecutive off-duty hours per shift.
What Should I Do After a Truck Wreck in Texas?
Your steps following a Texas truck accident can affect your future claim. To protect your right to compensation, take the following steps:
Get Immediate Medical Attention
Most commercial trucking wrecks involve injuries, given the sheer size and weight difference involved. Even low-speed crashes can lead to devastating consequences. In the moments following an accident, you might not realize the full extent of your injuries. Undiagnosed injuries such as head trauma, concussion, or herniated discs can lead to serious consequences without proper treatment and care.
One of the biggest mistakes some people make after a commercial motor vehicle accident is attempting to bear the pain and avoid going to a doctor. However, this “tough it out” approach could severely impact your right to compensation. Seeking appropriate medical care and following your doctor’s orders is not only essential to your recovery but also your truck accident claim. Avoiding or delaying treatment could cause a jury to think that your injuries are not as severe as you’re making them out to be – even if you’re suffering. Whether you have catastrophic injuries or minor injures, it is important to get treated regardless.
Preserve Evidence, If Possible
Some accident victims require emergency medical treatment and will not be able to take pictures of the accident scene or preserve evidence. However, forensic evidence is very important in a truck accident case and determining the extent of the defendant’s negligence. Evidence like vehicle damage, skid marks, debris, and data from the truck’s computer could prove invaluable in truck accident claims. If possible, take pictures of some of this evidence while waiting for the police to arrive.
In cases involving serious injuries or wrongful death, we often have response teams that can dispatch to the accident scene and conduct a thorough investigation on your behalf. Detailed data and measurements can prove valuable for accident reconstruction and other evidence that your attorney can use in a trial.
Contact a Houston Truck Crash Lawyer
As soon as you’re feeling well enough, contact an attorney with experience in truck accident law. Attorney Brian White can visit you wherever you’re most comfortable, whether it’s your hospital room or at home. Let him provide you with a free case evaluation and help you determine your next steps. Our law firm has extensive experience litigating trucking cases and we can aggressively protect your right to maximum compensation.
Why Do 18 Wheeler Truck Accidents Happen?
Commercial motor vehicle operators require specialized training in safety and follow strict regulations regarding their hours, vehicle maintenance, and more, specified by federal laws. Unfortunately, our nation has a trucker shortage and businesses often put their profit margins ahead of worker and public safety.
The FMCSA maintains that the leading cause of truck accidents is driver error. It cites fatigue, illicit substance use, and log book violations as some of the most common causes of crashes involving 18-wheelers. Other causes of crashes include improper maintenance, tire blowouts, and inclement weather conditions. Often, a combination of these factors comes into play in a commercial truck accident.
Truck drivers are not the only ones to blame in accidents. Trucking companies could be responsible for forcing their drivers to commit log book violations or failing to properly maintain brakes, tires, or other essential safety components. No matter how many safety regulations there are in place, accidents can still happen.
Common Factors in Commercial Truck Accidents
Investigating a commercial truck crash is much more complicated and time-consuming than a car accident. So many factors outside of the driver’s control, including work rules and equipment, have to be investigated in order to build a successful injury case for trial or settlement. Some of the factors our experts consider when compiling a case are:
- Inexperienced or untrained truck drivers
- Overloaded or oversized trucks
- Poorly maintained truck brakes
- Driver fatigue
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Truck drivers driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol
- Running off the road
- Driving at high speeds beyond the road and weather conditions
- Driving in conditions of poor visibility due to fog, snow, rain, or smoke
- Dangerous or reckless truck drivers with a long record of wrecks and fatal traffic accidents
- Aggressive driving
- Failure of truck owner to install an under-ride protection under-guard
- Unsafe safety systems, reflectors, lights, and other warning devices
Truck Driver Fatigue
Driver fatigue is a factor in at least 30% of truck crashes, and data has shown that the risk of a crash doubles after eight hours of consecutive driving.
In 2011, the FMCSA issued a new rule to decrease the number of fatigued drivers by making changes to its hours of service regulations for trailer truck operators. However, the FMCSA later discovered that the rules were not being enforced, with some truck drivers operating under the old statutes; some were even adding one full work shift per week. Many drivers were operating at the maximum hours allowed.
Big rig operators – who are compensated by the number of miles driven versus number of hours worked – were discovered to have been spending more time driving after the new rule changes were implemented. They even reported more instances of falling asleep at the wheel, with 20% of truck drivers admitting to dozing off at the wheel compared to 13% before the changes were implemented.
Additionally, there is a shortage of big rig operators around the nation. The American Trucking Association (ATA) reports a scarcity as large as 40,000 drivers. Trucks are responsible for transporting nearly 70% of all U.S. inland freights, and the scarcity of 18-wheeler drivers means current drivers are overworked and more likely to suffer from driver fatigue.
Drug and Alcohol Use
Legal and illegal drug and/or alcohol use is a component in an estimated 65,000 truck crashes annually.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reported gaps in drug and alcohol testing enforcement and the medical fitness of drivers operating 18-wheelers. Data from the NTSB also discovered that many big rig drivers were job hopping to avoid recognition of a positive drug test.
According to the FMCSA, drug and alcohol tests occur during the following phases:
- Reasonable suspicion
- Return to duty
Employers must receive a negative drug test result before permitting a CDL driver to operate a commercial vehicle. Drug and alcohol tests may also be required after certain crashes.
Nationwide Truck Accident Statistics
According to federal data from the NHTSA, truck accidents have experienced a steady increase since the early 2000s. In 2015, 4,311 large trucks around the nation took part in fatal accidents, which was an eight percent increase from 2014. This also represents a 26% increase since 2009. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of large truck fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled increased 1.7%.
Texas echoes these nationwide trends. Consider the following:
- There were 34,108 total crashes involving commercial motor vehicles in 2016.
- Of these, there were 499 fatal crashes leading to 584 fatalities.
- There were 1,426 incapacitating injuries caused by commercial vehicle crashes in 2016.
- An additional 4,704 people suffered non-incapacitating injury.
2006-2016 Truck Accident Fatalities in the United States
Truck accidents have a range of devastating effects, from incapacitating to permanently disabling injury. Why these accidents are increasing is not immediately clear – some believe it’s related to the trucker shortage and increased pressure from trucking companies, while others cite long hours of service and fatigue. No matter the reason, a truck accident arising from negligence requires the guidance of an experienced Houston truck accident attorney.
Contact Our Houston, TX Truck Accident Lawyers
Texas truck accidents have many unique considerations and are a matter of both federal and state law. Choose a lawyer who has extensive experience in truck accident litigation. Contact attorney Brian White for a free review of your legal options today. Our law firm commits to holding trucking companies and all negligent parties responsible, and ensuring fair compensation for the full extent of your injuries, pain, and suffering.