Tractor-trailer wrecks pose a significant threat to road safety, causing thousands of fatalities and injuries every year. In 2019 alone, over 5,000 truck accidents resulted in fatalities, and more than 101,000 people were injured. These unwieldy semi-trucks, with over 118,000 involved in injury-causing collisions, present a real danger to all other vehicles on the road. In Texas, where interstate highways such as I-10, I-20, I-30, and I-35 see high tractor-trailer traffic, the risks escalate. Texas led the nation in fatal collisions involving tractor-trailers in 2019, with a staggering 579 fatalities. The next closest state, California, recorded 355 deaths, followed by Florida with 311. Texas accounted for over 12% of the nationwide fatalities in collisions involving large trucks that year. Given that I-20, I-30 and I-35W run through Fort Worth, the risk increases for tractor-trailer collisions with passenger cars given the amount of large trucks traveling these roadways.
Why is a Truck Collisions Different than a Car Collision?
When it comes to tangles with tractor-trailers or other large trucks, the likelihood of severe injuries or death significantly increases. Truck accident collisions are more likely to result in fatal multiple-vehicle collisions. The weight and size of large trucks make them unable to stop quickly, leading to more severe accidents that cause more damage to passenger vehicles compared to collisions with other vehicles.
Furthermore, most 18-wheeler tractor-trailer operations are governed by federal regulations (interstate), making it crucial to have an attorney with experience asking the right questions and conducting investigations based on these federal regulations—not solely relying on state laws applicable to passenger vehicles.
Without proper questioning and considering federal regulations governing tractor-trailer operations, essential information may be overlooked, hampering the pursuit of a truck accident case. It is best to leave the investigation to experienced professionals who can ensure nothing crucial is missed.
Common Causes of 18-wheeler collisions
Some of the common causes of a collision involving a tractor-trailer are:
- Tire defects on the tractor-trailer. They account for around 30% of all truck-related accidents.
- Driver fatigue. Truck drivers are often pushed by companies to get the load delivered quickly. Despite the federal regulations which limit the amount of time a commercial driver can legally operate a truck, driver fatigue is a leading cause of 18-wheeler crashes.
- Aggressive reckless driving
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence
- Failure to maintain a safe distance
- Improper load distribution
- Inadequate training
Finding the Liable Party in a Truck Accident can be Challenging
Determining the party responsible for a collision is not always straightforward, especially in truck accidents, which present unique challenges. In a semi-truck wreck, both the driver and the owner of the vehicle may be liable. Often, 18-wheeler drivers do not own the truck; they are hired by a company to operate the vehicle. In case of an accident, both the driver and the company may be held accountable, with each party possibly disputing their share of liability to avoid responsibility.
In a truck accident, it becomes necessary to gather information about the driver's driving record, the company's hiring process, and the company's training of its drivers. Federal law requires tractor-trailer companies to carefully screen their drivers and driving records, but there are instances where the company's screening process is flawed. An experienced 18 wheeler accident attorney can uncover instances where the company hired a driver with a criminal history, alcohol/drug problems, or a history of poor driving habits. Additionally, some trucking companies exert pressure on their drivers to deliver loads on or ahead of time, leading to fatigued driving. A proper investigation of the collision can reveal whether the trucking company created an unsafe condition that caused the accident.
The Importance of Prompt Investigation
Prompt investigation is critical in truck accident cases. Evidence can disappear quickly, and memories may fade over time. A skilled attorney understands the urgency of gathering evidence, such as photographs of the accident scene, skid marks, and vehicle damage. Eyewitness statements are essential but need to be secured as soon as possible before recollections become distorted or unreliable. Furthermore, the tractor-trailer's black box data, which can provide crucial information about the truck's speed and actions leading up to the crash, should be obtained before it is overwritten or lost.
Proving Negligence in Truck Accident Cases
To succeed in a truck accident claim, the injured party (plaintiff) must demonstrate that the truck driver or trucking company acted negligently, and this negligence was the direct cause of the accident and the resulting injuries. Negligence can take many forms, including speeding, distracted driving, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or failing to properly secure the truck's cargo.
Establishing negligence in truck accident cases often requires expert analysis and testimony. Accident reconstruction experts can recreate the events leading up to the collision and determine who was at fault. Medical experts may be needed to testify about the extent of the injuries and their impact on the plaintiff's life.
The Role of Comparative Fault in Truck Accident Cases
In some truck accident cases, both the truck driver and the injured party may share some degree of fault for the collision. Texas follows a modified comparative fault system, which means that the injured party can still recover compensation even if they are partially at fault for the accident. However, their recovery will be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if the plaintiff is found to be 20% at fault for the accident, their compensation will be reduced by 20%.
The Importance of Experienced Legal Representation
Given the complexity of truck accident cases, it is essential to have experienced legal representation to protect your rights and pursue fair compensation. A skilled truck accident attorney will thoroughly investigate the accident, gather evidence, interview witnesses, and consult with experts to build a strong case on your behalf. They will negotiate with insurance companies and, if necessary, litigate in court to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, and other damages.
Understanding Trucking Company Liability
In many truck accident cases, the trucking company may also be held liable for the actions of its drivers. Under the legal doctrine of "respondeat superior," an employer can be held responsible for the actions of its employees if those actions occurred within the scope of their employment. In the context of truck accidents, this means that if a truck driver was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident, the trucking company may be held liable for the driver's negligence.
Additionally, trucking companies have a legal duty to hire qualified and competent drivers, conduct proper background checks, and comply with federal regulations governing the trucking industry. If the trucking company failed in these duties and their negligence contributed to the accident, they may be held liable for the resulting injuries and damages.
Seeking Compensation in Truck Accident Cases
Victims of truck accidents may be entitled to various types of compensation, depending on the circumstances of the case. Some common types of compensation sought in truck accident cases include:
- Medical Expenses: This includes current and future medical costs related to the injuries sustained in the accident.
- Lost Wages: If the injuries prevent the victim from working, they may seek compensation for lost wages and diminished earning capacity.
- Pain and Suffering and Mental Anguish: Victims may be entitled to compensation for the physical pain, emotional distress, and suffering caused by the accident.
- Physical Impairment
- Property Damage: Compensation may be sought for the repair or replacement of the victim's vehicle or other property damaged in the accident.
- Wrongful Death: If a loved one was killed in a truck accident, their surviving family members may seek compensation for their loss, funeral expenses, and the emotional toll of the loss.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, it is essential to seek the guidance of an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible. A skilled attorney can help you navigate the complexities of truck accident litigation, protect your rights, and pursue the full and fair compensation you deserve for your injuries and damages.
At our Fort Worth based law firm, we have a proven track record of success in handling truck accident cases in Texas. We understand the devastating impact these accidents can have on victims and their families, and we are dedicated to fighting for the rights of those who have been injured due to the negligence of others.
Our Fort Worth based team of experienced truck accident attorneys will conduct a thorough investigation, gather critical evidence, and consult with experts to build a strong case on your behalf. We will aggressively negotiate with insurance companies to seek a fair settlement, and if necessary, we will not hesitate to take your case to court to pursue justice and the compensation you deserve.
Don't delay seeking the legal representation you need. Contact our firm today at 817-500-0990 for a FREE CONSULTATION to discuss your case and learn more about your rights and options. We are available to answer your questions, address your concerns, and provide the skilled advocacy you need during this challenging time. Remember, time is of the essence in truck accident cases, so don't wait to take action to protect your rights and secure the compensation you deserve. Let us be your trusted advocates and fight for the justice you deserve.
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