Unfortunately, Texas has the leading amount of fatal semi-truck accidents in the United States, with 513 in 2020 that resulted in 581 people dying. That accounts for more than 13 percent of fatal trucking accidents in the country.
Even more unfortunate, if Texans are involved in an accident with a semi-truck, state lawmakers added an amendment to House Bill 19 in 2021, which protects commercial trucking companies from lawsuits if their driver caused an accident resulting in bodily injuries or death. Instead, the driver would be held liable separately from their employer.
What Causes an Accident with a Semi-Truck?
Because semi-trucks are physically large in size – they can weigh up to 80,000 pounds – the accidents they are involved in more often result in serious injuries and fatalities to the drivers and occupants of passenger vehicles and other smaller motorcycles, cars, vans, buses, and trucks.
How often are semi-truck drivers involved in serious crashes? According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of truck drivers at 32 rest stops across the United States, one-third of those surveyed said they had been in one or more severe semi-truck accidents over their career.
Driver-related causes of semi-truck accidents include:
- Driver fatigue: Federal regulations allow commercial truck drivers carrying property to be on the road up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive days off.
- Driving while intoxicated: Truck drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Texas cannot have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.04 percent or higher. Truck drivers also cannot drive under the influence of drugs, whether illegal or prescription medications taken in excess or at inappropriate times.
- Reckless driving: This could mean speeding, failing to follow traffic signs and/or signals, careless passing, and more.
- Distracted driving: Causes are cell phones, CB radios, radios, and more.
- Poor cargo loading: Cargo could fall onto the road at high speeds or cause a semi-truck to tip over. As many as 75 percent of fatal crashes involving large trucks involve a vehicle being transported as cargo. Improperly secured cargo, overweight cargo, and more can all cause or contribute to an accident with a semi-truck.
- Poor maintenance: Before heading out on any haul or drive, truck drivers should check for worn tires and wear and tear, as well as ensure their big rigs have been properly serviced and maintained.
Causes of an accident with a Semi-truck accident that can be unrelated to the truck driver include:
- Road conditions: Hazards on the road, construction, and poor road maintenance can all be factors in causing an accident with a semi-truck.
- Weather conditions: Bad weather that causes slick roads, making it difficult for trucks to brake, can easily cause Texas trucking accidents.
- Tight deadlines: If a truck driver is under unrealistic time constraints by the trucking company, they may be under pressure to move cargo too quickly and drive carelessly.
- Poor driver training: Trucking companies are legally responsible for providing the necessary driving training for all employees.
What Should You Do After a Semi-Truck Accident?
Here is a checklist of what to do after you have been involved in a semi-truck accident:
- Check for injuries and administer first aid if needed. Maintain a safe distance from the accident scene, but do not leave the scene.
- Call 911.
- Exchange information with the truck driver, including obtaining their operating number and company contact information.
- Admit no fault in the accident including even saying you’re sorry. Anything that can be perceived as statements of guilt can be used in your case later.
- Document everything.
What Kind of Proof Is Needed in An Accident with a Semi-Truck Case?
It is critical for drivers in Texas involved in an accident with a semi-truck to document everything as much as possible to prove that the truck driver and/or trucking company was negligent and that recklessness caused bodily injuries and other damages.
Evidence and documented proof that a plaintiff can use for a successful lawsuit include:
- Vehicle maintenance records from the commercial trucking company.
- A driver’s positive drug or alcohol test, which must be saved for five years, and a negative test, which is retained for one year.
- Records on the truck, driver, and company saved by government agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
- Law enforcement reports.
- Eyewitness reports.
- Nearby surveillance camera footage or video from the truck’s dashcam.
- Photographs and/or videos of the accident scene, vehicles involved, and the injuries of those hurt taken with a smartphone or personal device.
What Damages Could a Successful Trucking Accident Lawsuit Recover for The Injured Party or Parties?
While the amount of a successful lawsuit settlement or verdict varies by the facts of the case and depends on the level of injuries sustained, the long-term prognosis, and other factors, truck accident injury victims may receive funds that could cover damages from the semi-truck accident, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical costs
- Loss of earnings and earning capacity
- Property damage to the vehicle
- Permanent disability
- Punitive damages
What Damages Are Available After a Fatal Accident with A Semi-Truck?
An accident with a semi-truck, because of its extreme size and weight, can and often does result in fatalities. If a loved one was involved in a fatal truck wreck, the victim’s family may be able to recover compensation through a wrongful death claim, which could cover the following:
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Loss of care and support
- Loss of financial support
- Emotional distress
- Loss of love and companionship
How Complicated is Proving Liability in an Accident with a Semi-Truck?
A Houston personal injury attorney will be a vital asset to injury victims seeking financial compensation after an accident with a semi-truck because of the possibility that a commercial vehicle accident case will involve multiple defendants which makes for multiple liability claims. Thorough discovery and investigation are critical to revealing all of the details and all of the potentially at fault parties to prove liability.
The potentially liable parties in a trucking accident lawsuit can include but are not limited to:
- Truck driver
- Truck company
- Maintenance company
- Loading company
- Truck manufacturer
- Government agency
- Third-party driver
Our Houston truck accident attorneys will also be able to carefully evaluate any settlement offers from the defendants involved in your case before making a sound decision. Consultations are free and confidential and do not obligate you to hire a lawyer, so reach out to the Krist Law Firm today to get more information about your accident with a semi-truck.