Truck Accident – Frequently Asked Questions

 

America’s roadways are full of tractor trailers, semi-trucks, and other commercial vehicles.  These trucks help deliver goods and services to stores, neighborhoods and homes. While they are often operated by professionals, they are still no less likely to get into an accident than a passenger car. In fact, when you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck the injuries can be quite serious and even deadly.  Truckers are prone to blind spot related accident’s as well as fatigue accidents.

If you, or a loved one has been in a truck accident you may be left with a lot of questions.  We have prepared a short list of questions and answers to help you quickly begin to get answers you seek.  However, you may have questions that are likely to be complicated and differ from case to case.  To better understand your circumstances, we highly suggest that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible.  Truck Accidents are serious, and you need to get to the evidence before it starts to go missing.  If you have any questions about commercial vehicle accidents, please give Walker Texas Lawyer a call.  His case evaluations are always free and at no obligation to you.

How often do truck accidents happen?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, large commercial trucks are involved in injury accidents 779 times per 100,000 registered trucks.  They are involved in fatal accidents 37 times out of 100,000 registered large trucks.  These trucks account for approximately 8% of all fatal accidents on the road.  This may seem like a small amount, but consider that in 2016, 4,317 people were killed in big rig collisions. That number is a 5% increase over fatalities in 2015.  72% of those fatalities were from occupants of other vehicles. Texas had the highest number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes at 539, and the largest number of total vehicles involved in fatal crashes. In Texas 10.2% of the fatal car crashes occurred from large trucks.  This is well above the national average.

What is a commercial truck?

Commercial trucks are often referred to as “big rig”, “semi-truck”, or “tractor-trailer”. They are used by businesses to transport goods. Unlike other trucks, however, commercial trucks require a commercial driver’s license to operate and often serve a specific purpose. Examples include eighteen-wheelers, tractor-trailers, tanker trucks, cement trucks, delivery vehicles, and other large freight trucks.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration refers to them as trucks weighing over 10,000lbs.

What do I do if I am in a Truck Accident?

If you have just been involved in a truck accident you should first seek any medical attention you may need.  Your health, as well as the health and safety of others, should ultimately be your first priority.  Your next steps would be to call the police to get the accident documented.  Additionally, collect contact information for all parties and witnesses.  Also, take time to write down all the events leading up to the accident and the accident while you still have the events fresh in your mind.  Then talk with an attorney.  Do not fight the insurance companies alone.  They will try to get you to make statements that will relieve them of responsibility.  Make sure you contact a truck accident attorney that knows the rules and regulations of the trucking industry.

Should I report a truck accident to the police?

Yes.  In general, it is a good policy to have the police come to the accident and document the scene.  Not all police are trained in truck accident investigations, but they do provide a valuable starting point to your case.  They can provide emergency assistance, document the scene and question the witnesses.

How are truck accident cases different from car accident cases?

Commercial trucks as well as their drivers are more regulated than owners and operators of other types of vehicles.  This is due to their size and purpose. For instance, licensed drivers of commercial trucks are required to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules and regulations. These regulations are intended to prevent driver fatigue, maintain vehicle safety and provide accountability.  For example, the FMSCA requires that drivers log in a book their hourly and weekly driving hours.  Another difference is that commercial truck companies must carry at least $750,000 of insurance to cover the big rig.  If the truck carries hazardous materials, then they must have $5,000,000 in insurance coverage.

Are there laws and regulations that apply to truck drivers?

Yes, the FMSCA and Department of Transportation (DOT) have set forth regulations governing truck drivers.  These include hours a driver can be on a road, training, licensing and more.  You can learn more about the Truck Driver Regulations here.  Additionally, there are state regulations that drivers must abide by such as speed limit, weight and height on roadways.  A good truck accident lawyer will know all the laws and regulations that may have been violated in an accident.

What are common causes of truck accidents?

Due to their size and what they carry there are many causes of truck accidents. Commercial trucks cannot accelerate, brake, slow down or stop as quickly as a smaller, lighter vehicles. Common causes for serious commercial truck accidents include: Overloaded or oversized trucks, poorly maintained trucks, poor driving conditions (fog, snow, rain, or smoke). Also, Inadequate safety systems, negligent operation, jackknifes, unsecured cargo, driver fatigue can attribute to accidents.

Who is at fault in a truck accident?

At the scene of an accident a police report may determine the fault of the accident. However, an experienced commercial vehicle accident attorney would perform a full truck accident investigation.  This would include eye witness testimony, investigate the driver and the trucking company.  As well as review all the logs and more.  Therefore, while the police report may say one thing, fault can’t be determined until a proper investigation is provided.

In a trucking accident is the driver or the trucking company at fault?

As mentioned above, fault would be placed based on the results of an investigation.  However, in those case where a driver or the trucking company may be liable, trucking companies will naturally try to avoid liability. They may argue that the driver is not their employee, or the truck is not theirs but belongs to a third party.  Having a truck accident attorney on your side will help reveal the truth. Please visit this link to learn more about truck company employer or employee responsibility.

What is a truck Accident investigation?

A truck accident investigation is an important piece to the puzzle in determining fault in a commercial vehicle accident.  An experienced truck lawyer will request the driver qualification file from the company the driver works for.  This file is a requirement by the Federal Motor Safety Administration.  It includes the driver’s history records, and medical test results. Additionally, your lawyer should request the driver’s hours log.

Your commercial vehicle accident attorney will also review the on-board recorder and collect eye witness statements.  Your lawyer should also look at recalled parts, truck inspection records, and may hire an expert to review the accident scene.

Knowing what to look for and how to handle a truck accident investigation is why you need to be careful in the attorney you hire.

What is a truck’s “no-zone”?

The “No-Zone” is a term used by commercial truck drivers to describe the blind spots behind and beside a commercial truck. These areas are where the truck driver has limited or zero visibility. The “No-Zone” is typically the left rear quarter, the right rear quarter and directly behind the truck.

What can I recover from a truck accident?

Truck accident cases are tough to resolve.  There are a variety of reasons for their occurrence.  For instance, weather conditions, negligence of either party, faulty equipment, just to name a few, can cause or contribute to the cause of an accident.

If your vehicle was damaged in a truck accident, it is likely that you would be compensated for the costs to repair. Also, if you are hurt as a result of a truck accident, your attorney can pursue compensation for medical bills and related expenses. This all depends on the cause of your injuries. When people are killed in trucking accidents, lawyers typically seek to restore lost income, funeral expenses, and lost comfort costs to their loved ones. The key to what you can recover depends on the specific details of the case.  No two cases are the same.

If I was partially at fault for the truck accident, can I still win a lawsuit?

It depends on the degree of your truck accident fault. Under the legal doctrine known as “comparative negligence,” the amount of another party’s liability for the accident is determined by comparing his or her carelessness with your own. That party’s portion of liability determines the percentage of the resulting damages he or she must pay. Most states adhere to the principal of modified comparative fault, in which you can’t recover anything if your own carelessness was 50% or 51% (depending on the state) responsible for the accident.

I lost a loved one in a big rig accident. Do I have a claim?

Losing a loved one is difficult.  Sadly, due to the size and weight of commercial trucks, they have a higher rate of death than other motor vehicles. When a family member is killed in a commercial truck accident, you may be entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to see if you qualify to pursue a wrongful death claim.

What is my time limit in filing for a truck accident lawsuit?

In Texas, the statute of limitations for bodily injury claims related to a person’s recklessness or negligence is two years from the date of injury (or the date when the injury could have been reasonably discovered). In some cases, this period may be “tolled” because the victim had a legal disability, including being a minor at the time of the accident. In general, if both parties agree on the matter, then the time allotted for filing an accident lawsuit may be shortened or lengthened.

A trucking company's insurance wants a statement from me. Should I give them one?

No. Protect your legal rights. Please do not speak with the trucking company’s claims adjusters. Also, DO NOT agree to sign anything. Politely refuse and have your attorney speak with them instead. No matter how concerned for your well-being an insurance adjuster may seem, their ultimate priority is to protect the interests of their company, not yours.

Should I accept my truck accident’s insurance settlement?

No. A truck company’s insurer will offer what they feel is the lowest reasonable amount.  This is often not enough to cover the lifetime expenses of your injuries.  Hire a truck accident attorney to get the maximum possible compensation for your injuries.

When should I hire a lawyer for my truck accident?

Immediately.  Federal regulations require certain evidence from a truck to be held for a short period of time.  For instance, a driver log book can be destroyed after six months.  Also, many trucks contain a black box that records driving information.  If you wait too long that information could be lost.  It is best to hire an attorney that is experienced with commercial truck accident immediately.

Truck accidents are very serious.  They should be dealt with seriously.  Walker Texas Lawyer will answer any and all questions you may have.  If you are wondering rather you should file a claim, give us a call today!  Walker Texas Lawyer will do a FREE case review to let you know your potential outcomes.