Texas Truck Accident Lawyer
Victim of a Truck Accident?
Truck accidents are some of the worst traffic accidents we see today. There were approximately 475,000 truck accidents reported to the police in 2016 according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That is almost half-a-million 18-wheelers and commercial truck wrecks a year in the United States. More than 3,000 fatalities resulted from those truck wrecks. You need a truck accident lawyer on your side if you or your family fall victim to one of these serious crashes.
There are many reasons why truck accidents happen–most are preventable. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a truck accident, call 800-298-0111 to speak to a truck accident lawyer at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. today. We handle truck wrecks across the country. The consultation is free and we charge no fees unless we win your case. If you cannot come to us, we can come to you.
Steps to Take After a Truck Accident
If you have been in a wreck with a large semi-truck or other commercial motor vehicle, time is of the essence. You need to have someone taking 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 in a truck accident:
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.
What Should I Know Before Selecting a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Cases involving 18-wheelers and other commercial motor vehicles are drastically different than the typical run-of-the-mill automobile collision cases because the devastation is often greater and the resources available for the trucking companies and/or businesses operating the commercial vehicles are unmatched. Their "emergency response teams" will arrive quickly. They are fast talking and will seem like they genuinely care, but they are only interested in the best interests of their own business or insurance company. Tread carefully, and do not give any statements or allow them to take anything from the scene. We strongly urge you to call an 18-wheeler accident lawyer immediately after an accident involving a commercial vehicle before any evidence is removed, destroyed, or obtained solely to use against you.
The first thing you have to determine in order to even know which laws apply is whether the commercial motor vehicle was engaged in interstate vs intrastate trucking and commerce. There are volumes of Federal and State laws that apply to specific types of commercial motor vehicles as well as to the trucking industry. Does your case fall under Federal Motor Carrier Regulations or State Motor Carrier Regulations? It is absolutely critical that you hire a trusted tuck accident attorney who is familiar with the law and has experience in handling trucking and commercial vehicle collision cases specifically so that every potential violation is explored.
At Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., our law firm handles truck accidents involving 18-wheelers and other commercial motor vehicles personally. This is important to know because some attorneys advertise for truck accidents and then refer them out to other, more qualified, law firms. We handle these types of cases ourselves which is why some lawyers refer these cases to us.
Our attorneys will travel to the scene to investigate the truck wreck. We also have access to experts and professional investigators who regularly investigate semi and 18 wheeler accidents and evaluate serious accident cases to get to the bottom of what really happened. Call a truck accident lawyer you can trust.
Who is Liable for a Commercial Truck Accident?
Every truck accident case is different and must be analyzed based upon its own set of facts. 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?
There are volumes of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) that may apply in the event of a commercial truck accident. Finding them can be hard. 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.
Type of Truck Accidents
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.
Why Hire Simmons and Fletcher. P.C.?
With all of the lawyers out there claiming to know how to handle a truck accident case, here are some reasons why you should trust us with your case.
Robert Simmons has been in practice since 1966. Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. have fought trucking companies together since 1979. Come let us put our truck accident experience to work for you and learn why so many Americans have trusted Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. to represent their families at such a critical time of need.
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.
Most jurisdictions have a procedure that allows a foreign state truck accident lawyer to appear for the purposes of handling a matter in the state. This procedure is called a Motion to Appear Pro Hac Vice." This is a powerful tool that enables our truck accident lawyers to appear in foreign states to prosecute a case and go to trial.
For example, in the past, Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. used this in Arizona to enable Keith M. Fletcher to handle an Arizona runaway 18-wheeler case caused by the trucking company's failure to maintain the brakes properly. In that case, the truck driver was the victim of his own company. Keith M. Fletcher able to successfully make a recovery for the family of the victim. More commonly, the victims are the unsuspecting driver and passengers of other vehicles.
We understand the difficulty people face while recovering after a truck accident. Because of the hardship involved, we work on a purely contingency fee bases so that you pay nothing up front and only incur a fee if we win your case. Call us today for a free consultation: 800-298-0111.
Other Helpful Information: