While the number of large truck accidents is small compared to passenger cars, the percentage of commercial vehicle crashes that result in serious injuries or fatality is very high. Because of the size of a tractor – trailer which can weigh 80,000 pounds the devastation from a collision is usually serious. Each year almost 4000 commercial vehicle crashes result in a fatality, and over 73,000 truck wrecks involved injury.
Texas has the largest percentage of fatal 18-wheeler crashes of any state in the country. Additionally, the latest reported cases, Texas had over 600 fatalities and 14,000 injury truck accident victims in one year. Travis County alone had 15 deaths and almost 400 truck injury crashes.
FEDERAL REGULATION OF TRUCKING COMPANIES
Trucking companies are known as “Motor Carriers” and are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which provide the minimum level of safe conduct by both the truck driver and the trucking company. These federal regulations have been adopted in the state of Texas. These safety rules provide the baseline conduct for drivers and the motor carrier and cover such things as driving in adverse conditions, maintenance requirements, hours that a truck driver may legally drive and qualifications of the truckers.
Two Frequently Violated Trucking Regulations
1. Log Book and Hours of Service Violations
Tractor-trailer drivers must keep a log of their activities including the following:
- the total number of hours they are behind the wheel each day
- the time they are on the job or the clock for their employer
- hours driving between destinations
- rest breaks and off-duty status
2. Commercial Driving Rules
Drivers must be proficient in the operation of the big rig that includes:
- safely maneuvering the tractor-trailer
- backing and parking the big rig
- pre and post-trip inspections
- special rules regarding the hazardous material transport
COMMON CAUSES OF TRUCK ACCIDENTS
The majority of tractor-trailer accidents are caused by driver error. This can be such things as:
- Following too close,
- not keeping a proper lookout,
- failing to maintain a safe distance,
- failing to yield the right-of-way,
- not seeing a vehicle in a blind spot,
- speeding or traveling too fast for the roadway conditions,
- driving while fatigued or after the driver was legally disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle,
- violating one of the safety rules or
- operating a dangerous vehicle.
Trucking companies share legal responsibility with their drivers who are operating the vehicle on the job. Additionally, trucking companies can be responsible for a crash by their actions in failing to hire qualified drivers, failing to implement safety policies, failing to properly maintain the truck and trailer or the components such as tires and brakes and also violating the safety regulations.
What you should do if you are injured in a commercial motor vehicle accident:
1. Call the police or wait for an investigating officer
If you can speak with the police officer investigating the crash, make sure you tell the officer your side of the story. Your only chance to talk with the officer may well be at the hospital. Truck drivers are very defensive in the protection of their commercial driver’s license and often deny responsibility when they, in fact, caused a crash.
Police reports can provide evidence, particularly in serious injury accidents because the officer may reconstruct or reenact the accident. Regardless of whether the officer’s opinions can come into evidence and a trucking accident lawsuit, the officer’s factual observations such as the scene of the crash, debris, and markings on the highway as well as witness information, weather, etc. may well be admitted in a trial.
2. Take photographs
Use your cell phone to take photographs of the accident scene, the vehicles and the resting position of the big rig and your vehicle. If you can, safely photograph the place where the impact took place and any skid marks or other markings on the highway.
3. Identify witnesses
Some of the most powerful evidence can come from independent witnesses to the crash. These are usually fellow motorists who were in the area at the time of the accident and saw it occur. It is important not to rely upon the officer investigating the crash to record the name and contact information from witnesses. Often, the officers are more interested in safety at the scene then they are documenting independent witnesses.
4. Record statements by the driver
If the truck driver talks to you regarding how the accident happened, it is important that you record those statements either by video on your smartphone or by writing down what the driver said. This can be something simple as the driver saying “I didn’t see you I’m sorry.”
5. Get necessary medical treatment
Most the time after an 18 wheeler collision, the surviving victims are taking to the hospital by ambulance. It is important that victims of commercial vehicle crashes follow their physician’s instructions to the letter. Do not “tough it out” or miss appointments because your health and happiness can be on the line. Additionally, it is important to understand that emergency rooms are for just that – emergencies. Many hospitals will not treat you for conditions that are not life-threatening even if they require surgery. The hospital will refer you to a specialist or your primary care physician for follow-up care.
TRUCK ACCIDENT ATTORNEY AUSTIN
While our primary office is in Houston, Texas, we maintain a satellite office in Austin to better serve our clients. We take appointments at both facilities and offer home and hospital consultations by appointment only to those who cannot travel due to their injuries.
Our years of experience in trucking accident litigation have proven time and again that we are the “go to” truck accident firm in Texas. Our results in truck accident lawsuits are unparalleled and speak for itself. While each case is unique and stands on its merit, our trucking litigation experience over the last three decades and. You do not want an attorney learning on the job in your case. We recommend you thoroughly research the attorney you are considering for a trucking accident case.
Do not let the insurance company handle your claim. Insurance companies for the truck driver typically contact an injured person quickly after the crash. The intention of the adjuster is to establish rapport with the victim and infer that the victim does not need an attorney to represent them in the case. Often words such as “we accept responsibility” are used, and people mistake that to mean we will pay you fairly. That is not the case; insurance companies are trying to pay as little as a possibly can on each claim to maximize their profitability. If an insurance company can pay you $.10 on the dollar, they will do so without batting an eye.
The only way to maximize your compensation is to hire the best truck accident attorney you can for your case.