Houston Truck Accident Lawyer
Houston Truck Accident Attorneys With Nationwide Reach
Our truck accident lawyers fight for you, against adjusters, investigators, and lawyers that are on the trucking companies’ payroll. The trucking companies’ lawyers will fight to minimize their liability for your injuries. You need an experienced lawyer to fight back and protect your rights. We fight trucking companies nationwide.
Do not let these big corporations sweep evidence and negligence under the rug. Specifically, evidence that will prove your case. You need a law firm with the resources and experience to fight these corporations. Schedule your free consultation with a Houston truck accident lawyer at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., Injury & Accident Lawyers today. Feel free to email or call 1-800-298-0111 today!
Why Choose Us For Your Truck Accident Case?
The law firm of Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., has the experience you need to fight the trucking industry’s defense team. Our attorneys have handled semi crashes ranging from bad brake cases to side underride collisions resulting in decapitation. The consultation is free and you pay no attorney fees unless we win your truck accident.
Do I Need To Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Yes. Hiring a lawyer as soon as possible is advised in order to ensure your rights are protected. Modern commercial trucks contain an electronic data recorder (often referred to as a ‘black box’) that contains valuable data about the truck’s motions, movements, and trips. There are also valuable maintenance and repair records, trip inspection records, logs, and other data that can provide important details and clues as to why the wreck happened. The sooner you get your lawyer and his investigation team on the job, the more likely they are to be able to preserve this information before it gets lost or destroyed. Hire a skilled attorney to stand up for you.
Large Truck Crashes Happen Often Everyday
Truck accidents in the United States accounted for 4,965 deaths in 2020 and 5,005 deaths in 2019 according to NHTSA reports. Additionally, the American Trucking Association reported that trucking profits rose by nearly 100 billion from 2017 to 2018 to $796.7 billion and that there are over 3.6 million heavy-duty trucks on the road competing for that revenue. That much competition and that much money at stake add up to an 18-wheeler accident just waiting to happen. Contact Simmons & Fletcher, P.C. for your truck accident before you take on these giants.
How Much Do Truck Accident Attorneys Cost?
If a recovery is made, attorneys fees are 33.33% if no lawsuit is necessary. 40% if a lawsuit must be filed, and 45% if an appeal occurs following a judgment. Our attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, which includes a free consultation. This means you pay nothing out of pocket for your consultation. If you decide to hire our team, we will front all the expenses. These expenses and attorneys fees come out of a settlement or judgment. In other words, you do not pay us a dime unless we obtain a settlement or judgment for you! We aim to win.
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Who is Liable In A Crash With a Commercial Motor Vehicle?
Liable parties often include the driver, the trucking company, the manufacturer, the customer, and other drivers. Every case is different and must be analyzed based on its own set of facts.
- The Truck / Commercial Vehicle 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 Vehicle 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 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. The actions of other drivers may contribute to the cause also.
In many cases, there are multiple responsible parties. Overlooking one of those parties when pursuing a truck accident claim can result in less-than-complete compensation or even an outright loss.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit After an 18-Wheeler Accident?
The Statute of Limitations to file a truck accident case varies from state to state and is governed by 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 statutes 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 lawyer about the best place to file your claim before any of the applicable statutes of limitations are at risk of passing.
How Much Insurance Do 18-Wheelers Carry?
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 $5,000,000. Non-bulk hazardous material transporters and buses 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.
What is a Commercial Insurance Policy?
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 motor vehicles are sometimes covered by commercial insurance policies. 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. Thus. if the limits are 1 million dollars, but the defense lawyer charges $70,000.00 to defend the 18 wheeler case, 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.
How is Insurance Coverage Affected if the Truck Driver is an Independent Contractor?
Coverage is not affected by a truck driver claiming to be an independent contractor. 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.’
How Long Does a Lawsuit Take in Houston for an 18-Wheeler Accident Case?
A lawsuit against a truck and/or trucking company arising from a commercial vehicle wreck can take a few months or it can extend out for several years depending upon factors such as:
- the complexity of the case,
- the degree of injuries involved,
- the number of potential parties, and;
- the judge and court assigned to the case.
Who Pays the Settlement or Judgment?
Usually, the insurance company for the trucking company pays the judgment or settlement. If a judgment exceeds the insured’s policy limits, the trucking company may have to pick up the rest of the debt. Who pays a settlement or judgment on behalf of the truck driver and or trucking company may also depend upon whether the truck was hauling intrastate vs interstate. Interstate truck drivers are required to carry a minimum of $750,000.00 in commercial motor vehicle insurance coverage for non-hazardous loads. Hazardous loads are required to carry 5 million in coverage. Intrastate trucks are regulated by state law. If you are in a state with low minimums, you could have no choice but to pursue the trucking company itself to pay the claim.
Learn the difference between interstate vs intrastate trucking.
Can I Sue if I am Partially at Fault for the Accident?
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 a lawsuit if you are unsure of what laws apply.
Truck Accident Investigation Infographic
Can I Get Punitive Damages Against the Trucking Company?
You may seek punitive damages in any case where the facts support it and the jurisdiction allows for punitive damages. In truck accident cases, the most common grounds for seeking an award of punitive damages include:
- drug or alcohol use on the job,
- habitual bad driving,
- excessive wrecks,
- violation of traffic safety laws,
- exceeding the maximum allowed service hours,
- negligent hiring,
- distracted driving such as cell phone use, and;
- logbook falsification.
Strict federal laws are prohibiting certain conduct like drug and alcohol use. Violations of these rules are grounds to seek punitive damages.
Who is Liable When a Truck’s Brakes Fail?
Several parties may be liable when a semi’s brakes fail, including the driver, the company, the manufacturer, and the brake shop or maintenance shop. Here is how each of them may be liable:
- The Truck Driver. The truck driver may be responsible if he/she failed to perform federally mandated pre-trip inspections of the truck, or took otherwise negligent actions involving the truck’s brakes.
- The Trucking Company. The responsible party may be the company that owns the truck if they failed to make reasonable inspections of the truck’s brakes or failed to perform reasonable maintenance on the truck. Ultimately, the trucking company is responsible for all conduct of their driver that is done while acting within the course and scope of his employment under the Doctrine of ‘Respondeat Superior’, which translates as ‘let the master answer.’
- The Truck Manufacturer. Finally, the responsible party may be the manufacturer of the truck and/or brake system if it can be shown that they produced and distributed a defective vehicle and/or defective brakes.
- The Brake Shop/Maintenance Company. If an independent company was hired to repair, replace, and/or maintain the braking system on the truck, that company may be held liable when the brakes fail due to negligence on their part.
Are Truck Drivers Liable For Hitting People in Their Blind Spot?
Truck drivers and trucking companies have an obligation to the public to be aware of these blind spots. After all, they are driving trucks on public roadways for a living. Failure to recognize and check any of these four blind spots can result in an accident that could have been prevented. The four blind spots of 18-wheelers are:
- directly behind the trailer,
- directly in front of the nose of the truck,
- to the left rear of the truck cab, and;
- to the right side and rear of the truck cab.
Most blind spot truck accidents can be prevented by the truck driver having the required mirrors and taking the time to do a thorough check before changing lanes.
Are 18-Wheeler Drivers Liable When a Tire Blowout Causes a Collision?
A truck driver and or his company may be liable when a tire explodes and causes a wreck if the truck driver and/or his employer knew or should have known the tire was a dangerous condition. Truck drivers are required to conduct pre-trip and post-trip inspections to evaluate whether the truck, including the tires, needs repair. A truck accident lawyer can force the production of driver and maintenance logs after filing a lawsuit.
Are Truck Drivers Liable If A Tire Falls Off the Truck?
A truck driver, his company, and any maintenance company responsible for installing the tire may be liable when a tire simply falls off a truck. If the tire was put on recently, then this is an indication someone did not tighten the lug nuts properly. If not, then one must question why the truck driver did not detect a problem with the tire during the pre-trip inspection. Failure to conduct a pre-trip inspection can be grounds for a negligence finding.
Who Is Liable For Truck Equipment Failure?
While equipment may fail due to a manufacturing defect, it is more commonly the failure to maintain the equipment that results in equipment failure. Every trucking company and every truck driver shares a duty to make sure that the trucks they operate on the roads are maintained in good safe working order. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require that the truck and tires be inspected before and after every trip in a pre-trip and post-trip inspection. Any deficiencies must be repaired timely. Brake failure of any of the steering axle, trailer axles, or drive axles can result in an imbalance in the way brakes are applied and thereby cause a jackknifing incident. Additionally, defective or worn tires can cause a loss of traction that results in a jackknifing trailer. Thus, proper inspections and maintenance of the truck must be performed timely to prevent accidents.
Are There Restrictions on How Long an 18-Wheeler Driver Can Drive?
Federal law limits the hours a truck driver may operate an 18-wheeler to help prevent driver fatigue. A truck driver hauling a load has the following restrictions:
- They may only drive a maximum of 11 hours total after having taken 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- They may not drive beyond the 14th hour after having been off-duty for 10 consecutive hours.
- They may drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes. (This is a mandatory break that applies unless certain exceptions apply.)
- They may not drive for more than 60 hours in one week or 70 hours in any 8 consecutive days.
- Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must spend at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.
What If The Truck Driver Is Not Licensed?
To operate a commercial motor vehicle, the driver is required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). No truck driver should be behind the wheel without a valid license. Any company or person who entrusts a person with a truck without checking that the person has a valid CDL is a potentially liable defendant when that person causes a collision.
The longer you wait, the more this evidence that may disappear. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., for a free consultation with a truck accident attorney about your case at 1-800-298-0111.
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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 as take care of your case. I would recommend anyone to use Simmons and Fletcher as their attorney.” – Amber R., an actual client.