Houston Truck Accident Lawyer
When an 18-wheeler collides with a passenger vehicle, it is never a fair fight, and when you try to make a claim against a trucking company they have entire teams on staff whose job it is to minimize their liability and your damages? If you or someone you love is injured in a collision with a big rig, you should hire a truck accident lawyer with the experience in truck accident claims, and has the skill and resources to take on a big trucking company and fight for the compensation you deserve. Level the playing field by calling personal injury attorneys with experience in truck accident claims.
An 18 Wheeler Hit Me What Should I Do Next?
If you have been in a wreck with an 18 wheeler or other commercial motor vehicle, time is of the essence. You need a Houston truck accident attorney taking immediate action to protect your interests so the trucking company’s accident investigation team is not unchecked. Below are the steps you should take immediately to protect your rights if you have been involved in an accident with a truck:
No matter how small the wreck may be, you need to call the police and report the accident. Truck drivers can only have so many accidents before they are deemed unfit to drive. Trucking company insurance providers raise trucking company insurance rates due to “at fault” accidents. Both of these things are bad for the truck driver and his employer. This means that if you leave the scene without a report, the truck driver and his company have every incentive to change their story and deny responsibility leaving you with an uphill battle to prove you were not at fault. Call 911 and report it ASAP.
Obviously, if your injuries are serious you should go to the emergency room without hesitation. However, if you suspect you are injured as a result of an accident someone else caused, you should also seek medical care immediately for two reasons:
- Some injuries do not manifest immediately, and;
- Truck insurance companies use delays and gaps in care against you.
If you are physically able, snap photographs of the vehicle and scene with your cell phone. Scene photos are helpful when it comes to documenting what was there and what was removed from the scene after the accident. They can also provide critical evidence.
You or your attorney will need to promptly obtain a crash report. Generally, the Texas crash reports are available from the Texas Department of Transportation Website for a nominal fee of $6.00. They are usually available with approximately 8 days unless there is a fatality.
Photographs speak much louder than words when it comes to proving what you have suffered through. If possible, have someone else take photos of your injuries often. Some of the best times/places to take photos include:
- at the scene while the wounds are fresh
- at the emergency room while you are undergoing painful care
- after you arrive home
- daily the first week
- weekly thereafter or as new treatment is done or new healing occurs, whichever is shorter,
Try to take pictures to document any and all changes in the condition of your injuries, treatment and/or healing process to help tell your story. At least once a week you should be snapping new photos to preserve what you endured.
Trucking companies have immediate accident response teams whose job is to get out to the scene and try to shield the company from liability. Not all of those on these teams are honest people. Evidence has a funny way of disappearing and crash data can get lost. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. today so we can start fight for your rights immediately.
Issues Related to Specific Types of Trucks
Below are links to pages discussing the nuances of different types of truck accidents. Please visit these pages for more specifics about your truck wreck.
Common Injuries Caused by Truck Accidents
A truck carrying a full load can outweigh a car tenfold. The passenger vehicle will always be on the losing end of the impact when it collides with an 18-wheeler, bus or other large commercial motor vehicle. As a result, some of the most serious injuries we see are a result of trucks. These injuries are often catastrophic and result in a need for life-long care. Some of those injuries include:
- Amputation/Limb Loss
- Back, Neck and Spine Injury
- Bone Fractures
- Disfigurement & Scarring
- Herniated, Bulging & Protruding Discs
- Sever Lacerations
- Severe Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Tempomandibular Joint Injury (TMJ)
- Ruptures Spleen
Common Reasons for 18 Wheeler Accidents
18-wheeler accidents are caused for a number of reasons. Both the trucking company and the driver have duties to maintain the truck and to ensure that the driver is fit to drive a commercial motor vehicle. Some of the most common causes of 18-wheelers and other commercial motor vehicle accidents include:
- Failure to maintain the vehicle’s braking system
- Driving with an oversized or overweight load
- Failure to monitor the weather
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Driving too fast for the driving conditions
- Fatigued driving
- Distracted driving
- Failure to maintain a proper lookout
- Failure to secure the load
- Failure to properly inflate and/or maintain the tires
- Jackknifing due to failure to control the vehicle
The real cause of a truck wreck is often not clear. This is why it is critical that you hire a qualified attorney who will investigate all of the potential causes and determine who may be liable.
Who is Liable in a Crash with a Commercial Truck?
Every truck accident case is different and must be analyzed based upon its own set of facts. But many times, the truck driver is one of several liable parties. However, some of the potential responsible parties include:
The other driver is the first and most obvious possibility in any motor vehicle accident, whether it involves passenger cars or big rigs. However, where commercial vehicles are involved, that analysis is more complicated. Who bears responsibility for the driver’s actions depends on a variety of factors, including whether the truck driver is an employee or an independent owner-operator.
The trucking company may be responsible for a commercial motor vehicle accident in many possible ways. For example, if the truck driver is an employee of the company, the company may have vicarious liability—that is, the company may be responsible simply because the driver who was responsible was acting on behalf of the company. The trucking company may also be responsible if inadequate training, poor policies, failure to comply with the law, faulty maintenance of the vehicle, or other negligence created or contributed to the problem that caused the accident.
If a defect in the design or manufacture of the truck caused or contributed to the accident, the manufacturer, the seller, and anyone in between them in the supply chain may be liable for resulting damages. The same is true for the manufacturer, seller, and others in the supply chain for any defective part that may have contributed to the accident.
Commercial trucks routinely carry goods and materials throughout the state and across the country. If those goods are unreasonably dangerous or present a hazard due to improper packing, inadequate information provided to the trucking company, or other negligence, the customer may bear or share legal responsibility for the accident.
Actions of other drivers may contribute to the cause of an 18 wheeler accident.
In many cases, there are multiple parties responsible for an accident. Overlooking one of those parties when pursuing a truck accident claim can result in less-than-complete compensation, or even an outright loss.
Which Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Apply?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) are the rules that govern commercial vehicles. Below is a list of many of the various causes of truck accidents and the FMCSR that apply in each situation to enable you to find the FMCSR that may be applied in your case to hold the truck driver and/or trucking company responsible.
Trucks don’t lose their loads as the travel down the roadway, negligent truck drivers do. Loads may shift, settle or become unbalanced on turns and speed changes of the truck. However, the drivers are supposed to be trained to know this and take appropriate corrective action BEFORE it becomes a problem. If you are the victim of an accident due to a truck that lost its load, you should be aware that there are numerous Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that impose responsibility of truck drivers and their companies for failing to properly secure their load. The Federal laws include:
FMCSR 393.100(b) mandating that trucks be loaded and secured in such a way as to prevent the cargo from spilling, leaking, blowing or otherwise falling from the trailer.
FMCSR 393.100(c) requiring cargo be secured so that any shifting does not affect the vehicle’s stability or maneuverability.
FMCSR 393.102 mandating that all tie-down devices meet the minimum manufacturer’s breaking strength or working load limits under anticipated forward, reverse and sideways acceleration and deceleration pressures.
FMCSR 393.104(b) prohibiting the use of any load-securing devices that are damaged or weakened including cracks or cuts.
FMCSR 393.104(c) setting minimum structural requirements of the truck and tie-down equipment.104(e) setting minimum manufacturing standards for steel straps, chains, webbing, wire rope and cordage.
FMCSR 393.104(f) defining accepted use of tie-downs.
FMCSR 393.106(c) requiring the use of chocks, wedges, cradles or other preventative devices if the cargo is capable of rolling.
FMCSR 292.108 defining minimum working load for tie-downs
FMCSR 393.110 setting standards to determine the minimum number of tie-downs required for a load.
FMCSR 393.116 setting minimum standards for logs, wood and wood debris.
FMCSR 393.118 setting rules for securing dressed lumber.
FMCSR 393.120. setting rules for securing metal coils.
FMCSR 393.122 setting rules for paper rolls.
FMCSR 393.124 setting rules for securing concrete pipe to prevent rolling.
FMCSR 393.126 setting rules for securing intermodal containers on chassis vehicles.
FMCSR 393.128 setting rules for securing hauled passenger vehicles.
FMCSR 393.128 setting rules for securing transported heavy vehicles.
FMCSR 393.132 setting rules for securing crushed vehicles.
FMCSR 393.134 providing rules for securing roll-on/roll-off and hook lift containers.
FMCSR 393.136 providing special rules for hauling boulders.
Additionally, state laws such as Texas Transportation Code Ch. 725 impose fines on truck drivers who transport loose materials without securing that the load cannot spill, blow or fall from the vehicle.
The use of alcohol and drugs while operating a vehicle the size of an 18 wheeler is reckless. Operating a truck while using drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited by the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Title 49, Subtitle B, Chapter III, Subchapter A which reads:
§392.4 Drugs and other substances.
(a) No driver shall be on duty and possess, be under the influence of, or use, any of the following drugs or other substances:
(1) Any 21 CFR 1308.11 Schedule I substance;
(2) An amphetamine or any formulation thereof (including, but not limited, to “pep pills,” and “bennies”);
(3) A narcotic drug or any derivative thereof; or
(4) Any other substance, to a degree which renders the driver incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.
(b) No motor carrier shall require or permit a driver to violate paragraph (a) of this section.
(c) Paragraphs (a) (2), (3), and (4) do not apply to the possession or use of a substance administered to a driver by or under the instructions of a licensed medical practitioner, as defined in §382.107 of this subchapter, who has advised the driver that the substance will not affect the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
(d) As used in this section, “possession” does not include possession of a substance which is manifested and transported as part of a shipment.
This rule, is clearly intended to be extremely broad to prohibit a truck driver from even possessing any controlled substance while on duty unless it was given to him by a medical doctor and it will not affect his ability to operate a motor vehicle. All Schedule I substances are prohibited as enumerated by CFR 1308.11. That list includes: 55 opiate drugs, 23 opium derivatives, 47 hallucinogenic substances, 3 depressants, 8 stimulants, 15 cannabimimetric agents, plus an additional unclassified substances. In addition to that exhaustive list, the rule goes on to specifically prohibit any narcotic or narcotic derivative. As if that is not enough to cover every intoxicant known to man, they rule has a catch-all phrase to snare any new substance that one might try to argue is not on the list as follows: “Any other substance, to a degree which renders the driver incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.”
Thus, there is no excuse for a driver who is taking drugs or using alcohol while on the job.
When a truck driver and/or loaders fail to distribute and balance the load properly or fail to tie it down properly, this poses great safety risks to others. Over-sized and over weight loads cause affect the truck's stopping distance, balance, and traction. 23 CFR 658.17 sets the maximum highway loads at:
- 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight,
- 20,000 pound single axle weight, and;
- 34,000 pound tandem axle weight.
Any vehicle wishing to exceed the above weight must seek a permit for every State the vehicle intends to travel across.
Federal law regarding length and width of a truck trailer vary by state due to grandfather clauses. The various regulations can be found under 23 CFR 658 as broken down here. Exceeding these limits must also be permitted by state.
In addition to the above, FMCSR 393.87 mandates the use of 18 inch square fluorescent red or orange warning flags on loads extending more than 4 inches from the side or 4 feet from the rear of the trailer. If the load is over 2 feet wide and extends beyond 4 foot in the rear, it must have at least 2 warning flags.
Additional Federal laws applicable to accidents caused by failure to maintain the brakes include:
- FMCSR 393.40(b) setting requirements for service brakes, hydraulic brake systems, air brake systems, vacuum brake systems, electric brakes and surge brake systems.
- FMCSR 393.40(c) requiring all commercial motor vehicles to have parking brakes.
- FMCSR 393.40(d) setting minimum requirements for emergency brakes.
- FMCSR 393.42 mandating that there be braking systems on all wheels.
- FMCSR 393.43(a) setting minimum brake requirements for vehicles with towed trailers in the event of breakaway or emergency.
- FMCSR 393.43(b) requiring a manual and an automatic (upon disengagement) way to activate the air brakes on a trailer equipped with air brakes.
- FMCSR 393.43(b) requiring a manual and an automatic (upon disengagement) way to activate the vacuum brakes on a trailer equipped with air brakes.
- FMCSR 393.43(c) requiring all trailers to have automatic braking features upon disengagement.
- FMCSR 393.44 mandating busses have a rear wheel braking system that can be used in the event front wheel brake lines fail.
- FMCSR 393.45 regulating braking hoses, tubes and equipment.
- FMCSSR 393.74 specifying requirements for brake actuators, slack adjusters, linings, pads, drums and rotators.
- FMCSR 393.48 requiring that all brake systems be operational.
- FMCSR 393.49 requiring brake control valves.
- FMCSR 393.50 requiring brake reservoirs.
- FMCSR 393.51 setting requirements that trucks have a warning device in the event of brake failure.
- FMCSR 393.52 requires that the brakes on a truck meet minimum performance standards.
- FMCSR 392.7 prohibiting a truck driver from driving a truck unless he is satisfied that the brakes are in good working order.
Additionally, FMCSR 392.6 prohibits a trucking company from setting a driving schedule that would require a truck operator to speed to meet the schedule.
Part of the reason 18 wheelers have so many tires is to prevent a catastrophy if one fails. If multiple fail, this is a sign of negligence. It is the responsibility of every truck driver to ensure that his truck has safe tires on the vehicle before embarking across country.
Federal laws that may apply when a truck accident is the result of tire failure include:
- FMCSR 397.17 requiring truck drivers to inspect their tires every time the vehicle is parked and to immediately replace any tire found to be leaking, flat or improperly inflated.
- FMCSR 392.7 prohibiting a truck driver from operating a truck unless he is satisfied that the tires are in good working order.
- FMCSR 393.75(a) prohibiting driving on tires with exposed belts, signs of tread separation, leaks, or cuts.
- FMCSR 393.75(b) setting minimum tread depths and groove patterns.
- FMCSR 393.75(b) prohibiting the use of regrooved, recapped or retreaded tres on busses.
- FMCSR 393.75(f)&(g) prohibiting over-loading of tires.
- FMCSR 393.75(h) prohibiting the use of tires with too low inflation pressures for the load.
If you or your loved ones have suffered from any of the above due to a truck accident, contact us. Our Personal Injury Attorneys have fought for victims since 1979 and continues the fight today. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. for a free case consultation.
Big Rig Business Are Big Fights for Big PI Law Firms
There are over 2,000,000 tractor-trailers operating in the United States today. There is an estimated 13,500,000 additional commercial trucks in the United States. A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration concluded that there were over half-a-million accidents involving large trucks or buses annually.
Serious truck accidents usually result in serious injuries and damages that the trucking company may be held liable for. Also, when a truck driver causes an accident, his commercial driver’s license and his livelihood is in jeopardy. Due to this both the truck driver and the trucking company have reasons to fight tooth and nail. You need to be prepared for a fight when you take on a trucking company. You need an attorney with decades of experience and a team of staff that can handle the fight that is coming.
Our Truck Accident Case Results Speak for Themselves. Especially Tough Cases.
We have resolved many truck accident claims for our clients, one is most notable. Not for the settlement size, but for the amazing result in the face of insurmountable evidence. In 2015, Christopher Fletcher recovered a 1.264 million dollar settlement in a truck accident case where the investigating police officer placed our client at fault. The officer incorrectly reported that our client was stopped in a moving lane of travel rather than on the shoulder where he really was and put the blame on our client for an 18 wheeler rear-ending him. Our client suffered serious fractures to his knee and both forearms necessitating surgery as well as a post-surgical infection. Christoper Fletcher was able to prove that the truck driver was, in fact, the cause and that his company knew he was a dangerous driver. (Attorney fees on the $1,264,113.60 settlement were $492,644.63 and case expenses were $14,806.72.)
Don’t let the trucking company railroad you! Hire a law firm with a proven track record of fighting the trucking companies. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. today.
Frequently Asked Questions involving Truck Accidents
The Statute of Limitations to file a truck accident case varies from state-to-state and is governed by the state tort law. Some states give as little as a year while others give two or three years. Thus, your truck accident statute of limitations will depend on which states you are allowed to file a lawsuit in. When a truck accident occurs, you are allowed to file your lawsuit:
- in the state where the collision occurs,
- in the state where the negligent truck driver resides,
- in the state where the trucking company is incorporated, or
- in the state where the trucking company is domiciled—the place where it primarily does business.
Each of the above places may have separate statute of limitations. You can determine the exact statute of limitations for any state here.
There are advantages to filing in specific places, thus you should consult a truck accident lawyer about the best place to file your claim before any of the applicable statute of limitations are at risk of passing.
The amount of insurance any particular 18 wheeler may carry varies widely from truck-to-truck. Some 18 wheelers are parts of large corporations that have substantial assets and large interstate commercial motor vehicle fleets with large commercial motor vehicle policies. Others are local independent owner-operators that carry only the minimum amount of liability insurance required by law for trucks. The majority of states require local trucks to carry a minimum of $500,000 per occurrence. Federal laws require higher amounts for vehicles involved in interstate commerce that differ depending upon what they are carrying. Normal cargo may only require $750,000.00 in coverage whereas a truck transporting bulk hazardous cargo is required to carry at least $5,000,000.00. Non-bulk hazardous material transporters and busses must carry $1,000,000.00 if they travel across state lines. In addition to the minimum coverage required, large companies may carry an umbrella policy to protect the company’s assets from large verdicts.
If the truck that hit you was engaged in interstate trucking, you can find out how much truck insurance they reported to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from the U.S. Department of Transportation FMCSA website.
In the context of big rig trucking accidents, a Commercial Insurance Policy or Commercial Policy for short, is an insurance policy that is issued to cover many or all of the vehicles that are operated by a company’s employees for business purposes. Commercial policies vary in many ways. Typically, commercial policies provide a million dollars in coverage or more for damages caused to others by the company employees in the regular course of doing business. Some of them are commercial general liability policies that specifically only cover others for damages caused by the employee. That is, if you are an employee of the company, the policy will not cover you for bodily injuries in an accident.
Some commercial insurance policies are “withering” policies. This means that the insurance limits include the cost of defending a claim. This if the limits are 1 million dollars, but the defense cost is 70,000.00 at the time settlement costs begin, then there is only $930,000.00 left in insurance proceeds to pay to the injured victims. This is important to know not only because the longer a case drags on, the more money you lose in coverage, but it also affects the validity of any Stowers demand that your lawyer sends if he is not careful about the wording of his demand.
Absolutely nothing. We offer free consultations on truck accident cases. In fact, if we take your case, we work on a contingency fee basis. This means you only pay us if we make a recovery in your case.
You would be wise to seek the advice of an attorney with your interests in mind before speaking to the trucking company. Your attorney will likely advise you not to speak to them at all. This is because risk managers for large commercial truck operations are highly skilled in tricking and trapping people into saying things that hurt their own case. Their job is not to help you, it is to protect the company. Speak to someone who is on your side by hiring an experienced truck accident lawyer.
The answer to this question depends upon where the wreck happened, where you have a right to bring a claim and what laws apply to those jurisdictions. If you are in Texas, we go by comparative negligence. This means that the injured victim must not be found to be over 50% at fault for the collision to be able to make a recovery. Thus, being 50% at fault or less, does not bar recovery in Texas as well as other comparative negligence states. In contributory negligence states, the plaintiff cannot be any percent at fault. You should discuss the comparative/contributory negligence laws with an 18-wheeler accident attorney before filing lawsuit if you are unsure of what laws apply.
Every case must be evaluated upon its own merits. How the case should be investigated is determined on a case-by-case basis. In a serious truck accident, ideally you would want to be able to get to the scene while it is still fresh and photograph the evidence before it can disappear. You would also want to have a professional download the electronic data from the electronic data recorder (EDR) or “black box” as it is known colloquially. This information can be very valuable in establishing the location, route, driving distance, speed and other details that can be important to understanding what led to the crash.
While the above is ideal, it can also be very expensive. The expenses themselves of this investigation are often not recoverable. Thus, your attorney must make a judgment call as to whether the expense is warranted and whether there are other less-expensive investigation methods that may be employed. Obtaining driver’s longs, pre-trip and post-trip inspections, receipts, bills of lading, toll records and other documents can sometimes serve the same purpose at a lower cost.
When you hire one of our truck accident attorneys on a contingency fee basis, we front the investigation expenses and then recoup them out of any settlement we recover for you. If we are unable to make a recovery for you, then you do not have to pay us back.
Under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation, 49 C.F.R. § 390.5, a truck driver is considered an employee of the company for which he drives, regardless of what they call him. This is called being a “statutory employee.” The regulation specifically reads:
Employee means any individual, other than an employer, who is employed by an employer and who in the course of his or her employment directly affects commercial motor vehicle safety. Such term includes a driver of a commercial motor vehicle (including an independent contractor while in the course of operating a commercial motor vehicle), a mechanic, and a freight handler. Such term does not include an employee of the United States, any State, any political subdivision of a State, or any agency established under a compact between States and approved by the Congress of the United States who is acting within the course of such employment.
Other Helpful Information:
- How to Report Unsafe Truckers in the United States
- Preventing Pedestrian and Cyclist Injuries with Truck Side Underride Guards
- Developments in Truck Accident Litigation: Side Underride Guard Non-Use
Review: 5/5 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Simmons and Fletcher law firm went above and beyond for me. I was in a bad wreck that requires neck surgery. They constantly called and checked on me to see how I was doing. They showed that they cared about me not just my case. I was also going through a rough divorce case at the same time. They helped me out in so many ways I couldn’t have asked for a better attorney to fight for me. Chris Fletcher made sure I got what I deserved. Stephanie Quinn was amazing, she always so caring and checked on me. If I needed anything she acted quickly and made sure things were taken care of. I didn’t have as much stress through this whole process thanks to the hard work and effort they put in. Not many attorneys care about you as a person as well take care of your case. I would recommend anyone to use Simmons and Fletcher as their attorney.” – Amber R., actual client.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.