A trucking accident is one of the most shocking and devastating accident types. When a truck accident occurs, those involved are almost certain to suffer serious, if not fatal, injuries. Indeed, the Texas Department of Transportation reports that in a single year in Texas, there were more than 400 truck-tractor/semi-trailer vehicles involved in fatal collisions.
While there is hardly anything good to say about truck accidents, there is some hope for truck accident victims – filing a trucking accident claim or lawsuit can yield compensation for economic and noneconomic losses, helping victims and their families recover, gain a sense of closure, and move forward with their lives.
At the law offices of Fadduol, Cluff, Hardy & Conaway, P.C., our Texas truck accident lawsuit lawyers hope that this guide will serve in helping you to navigate the claims process.
What to Do After a Texas Truck Accident
Taking certain steps after a commercial truck accident is critical in ensuring that evidence is preserved, the details of your accident are recorded, and the chances of your claim for damages being successful are maximized.
After a truck accident in Texas, be sure to do the following:
Seek Medical Care if Needed
Seeking medical care is one of the most essential steps to take after a truck accident, both because receiving medical care is an important part of your own physical recovery, and because if you fail to seek medical care and later file a claim for injuries, the insurance company will likely doubt the validity of your harm. Be sure to keep a thorough record of all of the medical treatment that you receive, and follow your doctor’s orders.
File a Report with the Police
Large truck accidents are usually serious enough that they get police attention, which means that police will likely arrive at the scene (an ambulance and fire truck may arrive too if anyone is injured). If your injuries are not too incapacitating, talk to police and ensure that a report is filed, and that you receive a copy of it. If you do not have a police report, you will have a very difficult time getting an insurance adjuster to comply with your request for damages.
Collect and Preserve Evidence
If you are injured to the point where you are unable to collect and preserve evidence yourself, you should certainly hire a truck accident lawyer to engage in this part of the process on your behalf. (Even if you are physically capable of gathering evidence, working with an attorney is still recommended.) Your attorney will interview witnesses, collect physical evidence, review the police report, send spoliation of evidence letters, hire experts to collect evidence, and more.
Notify Your Insurer of the Accident
You should not wait more than 24-48 hours to notify your insurance company of the fact that you have been involved in an accident with a large truck. Do not feel compelled to give a written or recorded statement or to give details of the accident.
Prepare for the Claims Process
After an accident, you need to start to think about the fact that you will likely be filing a truck accident claim, if not a lawsuit. This means that you should start to think about, and record, various damages you have suffered, what happened to cause the accident, and who you believe to be at fault. You should further be conscious of the fact that an insurance adjuster may be looking for ways to diminish the value of your settlement, even going so far as to watch your physical activities or check out your social media pages.
Common Causes of Trucking Accidents
Once you have taken the steps above, you and your attorney will need to start working to take the evidence you have collected and analyzed to determine what went wrong and whose actions caused your accident, and therefore who should be held liable. Of course, the potential causes of a truck accident are infinite, and the list of potentially liable parties is extensive, too. Our lawyers will work hard to investigate your case and determine the root cause of the collision. Some of the most common causes of trucking accidents include:
Truck Driver Error
Truck drivers are tasked with a heightened duty of care as commercial carriers, and therefore have a higher responsibility to operate their vehicles carefully and safely. Unfortunately, truck drivers are not infallible and may make mistakes, like overcorrecting if a vehicle starts to skid or misjudging distance, that have tragic consequences. In addition to making errors, truck drivers’ negligence may also contribute to a crash. Examples of negligent behavior include operating while intoxicated or impaired, operating while fatigued or falling asleep at the wheel, operating the vehicle while distracted, speeding or traveling too fast for conditions, and operating aggressively.
Trucking Company Errors
Sometimes, the errors made by a truck driver, such as leaving too little time before beginning to brake, are not entirely the fault of the truck driver, but can instead be blamed on the trucking company. For example, if a trucking company fails to conduct a throughout background check on a driver or fails to properly train a truck driver, it may be held liable for accidents that result from these failures. A trucking company can also be liable for other errors, such as incentivizing drivers to work beyond federal hours of service requirements, failing to maintain or service trucks, and more.
Sometimes, a truck accident is a result of a shift in cargo within the trailer of a truck that is so severe as to cause the trailer to shift, resulting in the trailer swerving to one side of the road or even tipping over.
Other Drivers’ Errors
Of course, truck drivers are not the only ones who may make errors while behind the wheel; other drivers often cause or contribute to truck accidents by following too closely, changing lanes too closely, driving in a truck’s blind spot, attempting to pass a truck on the right-hand side, and engaging in other dangerous behavior.
Finally, sometimes, the crash is not the fault of either of the drivers involved, but can instead be contributed to a vehicle or vehicle part defect or even a lack of warning signs on the roadway (in the case of a road closure or highway construction). For example, if brakes go out while a truck is in motion, the consequences can be catastrophic. Or, a tire that has defective tread and suffers a blowout while a truck is in motion can lead to a serious crash.
Getting to the bottom of why a truck accident happened and what caused the collision can be extremely challenging. Let our lawyers handle the investigation for you.
What You Need to Know About Liability in Texas Trucking Accident Lawsuits
If you have been involved in a truck accident in Texas, have suffered injuries, and were not to blame for the crash, you may have the right to file a lawsuit.
Typically, before you file a lawsuit, we will help you file a claim with the appropriate insurance company, which may then offer you a settlement. You have the right to review, reject, and negotiate the settlement. If negotiations fail and a settlement agreement is not reached out of court, then you may file a lawsuit and litigate the case.
Here’s a look into what you need to know about trucking accident liability in Texas:
What You Need to Prove
The first thing to know is the four elements of a successful truck accident claim.
You will need to prove each element in order for your case to be successful.
Duty of Care
The first element is duty of care, which holds that the party against whom you’re filing suit (the truck driver, trucking company, third-party driver, etc.), owed you a duty of care.
Breach of Duty of Care
The second element–breach of duty of care–will require hard evidence to prove. A party breaches the duty of care owed to another when they do something that is clearly reckless and dangerous, or is outside of the realm of what a “reasonable” person would do. For example, speeding is a breach of the duty of care, as is failing to maintain a company’s trucks.
Third, you must establish that the breach of the duty of care on the part of the defendant was the proximate cause of your accident and injuries and that your crash would not have occurred but for the breach.
Finally, you will need to produce evidence showing that you suffered actual damages as a result of the crash. Medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering are all damages types.
Statute of Limitations for Truck Accident Lawsuits in Texas
Another detail that you must know about filing a trucking accident lawsuit in Texas is the state’s statute of limitations for bringing forth this type of claim.
As found in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 16.003, a person only has two years from the date of their accident to bring forth a personal injury claim for damages; if they wait longer than the two-year limit, they will be barred from compensation.
Understanding this statute and the amount of time you have to take action is critical.
Factors Affecting Your Trucking Accident Lawsuit Settlement
Once you file your truck accident claim, it is important to realize that there are numerous factors that may affect your truck accident settlement and that no two cases are exactly alike.
For this reason, it can be impossible to predict how much you may receive without a thorough review of your case and all evidence.
Three of the primary factors that will affect your case include:
If you cannot prove the liability of the at-fault party by establishing the four criteria described above, then you will likely be unsuccessful in your attempt to recover compensation. Further, if there are multiple partially-liable parties, then you may have a better chance of recovering a larger settlement. (Note that your own fault can reduce the value of your claim in proportion to your degree of negligence.)
Even if a court agrees with you 100 percent that the third-party driver who drunkenly ran your car into the path of a semi-truck is to blame for the accident, if that third-party driver doesn’t carry insurance, you may be unable to recover the compensation that you deserve. The amount of insurance coverage available is one of the most pressing factors in determining a settlement; if there isn’t enough insurance, then a settlement will be smaller, even when liability is clear and damages are severe.
Finally, the extent of harm that you have suffered will clearly have an effect on the value of your settlement. Those who suffer more severe injuries typically recover more than do those who suffer less severe injuries. This is true for both economic and noneconomic losses, the former of which is calculated based on actual financial loss, and the second of which is typically calculated based on economic damages and severity of injuries.
Call Our Texas Trucking Accident Lawsuit Lawyers Today for Your Free Consultation
Trying to figure out the steps to take after a trucking accident, especially when you are suffering from serious injuries and anxiety about the future, can feel overwhelming.
Our lawyers understand the pain that you are going through and the fear you are experiencing, and want to help. When you call our Texas truck accident lawyers at the law office of Fadduol, Cluff, Hardy & Conaway, P.C., we will get to work on your case fast. We offer free consultations where you can ask all of your legal questions, and we will provide you with accurate answers.
We are passionate about helping victims of serious accidents and have a strong reputation for success.