Houston Truck Accident Lawyer
Serious Injuries Require Serious Experience
Truck accidents accounted for 4,136 deaths in 2018 and 4,889 in 2017. When an 18-wheeler collides with a passenger vehicle, it is never a fair fight. Similarly, when you make a claim against a trucking company after a truck accident, they have entire teams on staff whose job it is to minimize their liability and your damages. That is not a fair fight either. Don’t let a truck wreck victimize you twice! Hire a skilled truck accident lawyer to stand up for you. Level the playing field by calling personal injury attorneys with experience in truck accident claims. At Simmons and Fletcher, P.C, we have been fighting trucking companies for 40 years and we take pride in fighting exclusively for injured victims like you!
What Should I do After a Truck Accident?
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:
- Call the police and report the collision.
- Seek immediate medical attention – not all injuries manifest themselves immediately, so if there is any doubt you are ok, seek professional help.
- Photograph the vehicles and the scene.
- Obtain a motor vehicle crash report – Texas crash reports are available in about 8 days from the Texas Department of Transportation Website for a nominal fee.
- Photograph all of your injuries.
- Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. at: 1-800-298-0111.
Trucking companies have immediate accident response teams whose job is to get out to the scene and try to shield the company from liability. Evidence has a funny way of disappearing and crash data can get lost. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. today so we can start to fight for your rights immediately.
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 Truck Driver. 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. 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.
- The Truck Manufacturer. 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.
- The Trucking Company’s Customer. 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.
- Other Drivers. 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.
Duties of Truck Drivers Involved in an Accident
Anytime an 18-wheeler driver is involved in an accident involving serious injury or property damage, he is obligated to stop and render aid. But, in addition to this duty, there are other obligations that may arise under civil law. For example, when a big rig jackknifes in the early morning while it is still dark, the driver may be obligated to make an effort to warn of other drivers of the hard-to-see danger.
Side Lights Can Be Rendered Ineffective
Traffic rules and regulations require that 18-wheelers have certain lights and/or reflectors in place on the rear and sides of the truck and trailer. Most trucks have lights and/or reflectors running down the side of the trailer to comply with this. However, when a trailer is tipped-over and the truck jackknifes, these reflectors are rendered useless.
Obligation to Warn
Federal and State Laws require truck drivers to maintain and carry certain items for emergencies of this nature. Those items include: 6 fusees or 3 flares and a minimum of three reflective triangles. (See FMCSA Sec. 393.95.) If the company fails to ensure the truck is equipped with these devices so that a truck driver cannot warn unsuspecting motorists, both the trucking company and the driver may be liable.
Preserving Evidence of Negligence
In cases of this nature, it can be very important to secure and download the data from an electronic data recording device that the truck has on board. This information may give insight into how far and how long the truck had been on the road—revealing whether fatigue was a factor. An 18-wheeler collision attorney can issue notice letters and temporary restraining orders to prevent the destruction of this sort of critical evidence.
Common Causes of 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 houston truck accident attorney who will investigate all of the potential causes and determine who may be liable.
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
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 a part of larger 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. Most states require local trucks to carry a minimum of $500,000 per occurrence. Federal law requires higher amounts for vehicles involved in interstate commerce that differ depending on what they are carrying. Normal cargo may only require $750,000 in coverage, while a truck transporting bulk hazardous cargo is required to carry at least $5,000,00. Non-bulk hazardous material transporters and busses must carry $1,000,000 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.
n the context of big-rig trucking accidents, a commercial insurance policy 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 policies 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 a 18 wheeler accident 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 18 wheeler 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 18 wheeler 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.
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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.