What You Need to Know About Houston Truck Accidents and Protecting Your Legal Rights
As a Houston-based personal injury law firm with a national reputation, we receive a lot of questions about 18-wheeler truck accidents from friends, family, and, of course, our clients. We are honored to be a trusted source of information for vehicle accidents and lawsuits for those who know us.
Commercial vehicles like 18-wheelers are known to cause some of the most devastating collisions on the roads. These collisions are especially dangerous if they involve crashing with other passenger vehicles, so we take these incidents very seriously. We understand the impact these accidents may have on your life. We are here to give you answers, to be your allies, and advocate for your best interests during this hardship.
Here, we provide answers to some of the most common questions we get about 18-wheeler accidents. We truly believe that when it comes to legal issues, knowledge is power. When you know more, you can make better decisions about what to do following an 18-wheeler accident. If you have additional questions about your particular situation, please schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys by calling us at 713-800-1200 or contacting us online.
WHAT ARE 18-WHEELERS?
To specify, 18-wheelers are trucks that consist of a trailer and tractor. They typically have 18 wheels. Some terms interchangeably used to refer to an 18-wheeler are “big rig” and “semi-truck”.
WHAT CAUSES TRUCK ACCIDENTS?
Large truck accidents can happen for a number of reasons, however, there are 5 causes that are more common than others. The most common reason for big truck crashes is driver error. Due to the nature of being a commercial truck driver, drivers usually find themselves getting little to no sleep while driving long distances on the road, this causes driver fatigue. Drivers’ fatigue can then cause an error. The second most common reason for these crashes is inadequately trained truck drivers, especially when they are driving in bad weather. The third reason is the lack of truck maintenance such as brake pads being worn out. The fourth reason is equipment failure and the fifth reason is cargo from the truck falling out and endangering the person behind it.
HOW COMMON ARE TRUCK ACCIDENTS IN TEXAS?
Commercial trucks are frequently used on Texas roads and highways every day. Houston, Texas is known to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, which causes an increased need for larger industries to use commercial trucks to deliver supplies to different places.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Out of the 2.7 million tractor-trailers and 8.5 million straight trucks registered in the nation, The U.S. averages 450,000 police-reported commercial truck accidents annually, with 344,000 crashes resulting in injuries and 4,347 being fatal crashes. As stated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Texas leads the country in the total number of commercial truck crashes at 34,000 crashes a year, 621 of the crashes being fatal. Additionally, there were almost 6,000 commercial vehicle accidents in Harris County alone, which is more than any other county in Texas.
Despite efforts, road deaths due to commercial vehicles continue to rise. Road crashes are now expected to become the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. by 2030. Statistics like these can be scary, but should not prevent you from living and enjoying your day-to-day activities, including driving.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO AFTER A TRUCK ACCIDENT IN HOUSTON?
Getting in an accident with an 18-wheeler, regardless of whether or not there are injuries, is a jarring experience. As your body deals with the shock and trauma, it can be hard to think clearly about what to do. Yet, what you do next matters for your health and future financial well-being. We recommend taking the following steps after an accident involving a big truck:
- Stop and Get to Safety: Even if the accident seems minor, you must stop. Failure to do so is a violation of Texas state law and could result in a ticket or even jail time, depending on the circumstances. Stop your vehicle as close to the accident as possible without obstructing traffic or parking in a dangerous spot. Once your vehicle is parked and if your walking capacity is not too compromised to do so, get out and walk to a safe location away from the vehicle and oncoming traffic; this is especially important if the accident involves more than one vehicle.
- Get Police and Medical Support: Before you evaluate your vehicle damage, call 9-1-1 to report the accident and obtain medical and law enforcement support. The safety of yourself and everyone involved is the number one priority. Sometimes it takes a medical professional to identify signs of a serious medical issue, especially because you could be in shock after the accident and because underlying injuries not initially seen risk becoming increasingly fatal over time.
- Exchange Information and Document the Scene: Exchange names, phone numbers, and insurance information with any other drivers involved in the accident. If possible, get the employment information of the truck driver. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses, including passengers. Avoid the temptation of discussing the details of the accident, such as who was at fault, with other drivers. You do not want to inadvertently admit guilt or cause an issue for any future legal case you may have. Take photos and videos of the accident as well.
- Don’t Share Information: It is not uncommon for another person, especially an 18-wheeler operator, involved in the accident or their representative — like their attorney or insurance company — to call you shortly after an accident. Be polite, but only offer minimal information such as your name and contact information. Do not agree to a recorded call, and do not provide detailed information about the accident or injuries on the spot. You can tell them that you will give a written statement once you have gathered your information. By calling so early, they are sometimes hoping to catch you off guard. For example, if you later discover you had more injuries than you initially thought, such as whiplash — a common delayed-onset injury — they may try to hold you to your initial description of your injuries. Waiting and providing a written statement gives you time to gather your thoughts, investigate the accident, evaluate your injuries, and obtain an attorney.
- Document Accident Report Number: Once the police arrive, get the names and badge numbers of any officers at the scene, as well as the police report number. If available, get a copy of the accident report. You may have to ask the police for it. If it is not immediately available, you can order a crash report online through the Texas Department of Transportation’s Crash Records Information System (CRIS). A police report contains important information that can be useful for your claims, such as police violations towards truck drivers or other pieces of information.
- Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company: Once you have taken care of your safety, report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Some insurance companies now have phone apps that make it easy to report an issue. If not, you can simply call the number listed on your insurance card. Reporting the accident to your insurance company starts the claims process and is required for you to utilize some types of coverages under your policy. Reporting is important whether or not you were at fault because your insurance company may need to cover costs while it pursues recovery against the other driver’s insurance. You may need to use your own insurance coverage to receive full compensation if the other driver does not have adequate coverage.
- Contact an Attorney: You are not required to hire an attorney for your vehicle accident. Although, it is often recommended especially if your injuries and losses are severe. At a minimum, you should meet with one or more attorneys to learn about how they could help you before deciding whether to hire one. In a majority of cases, an attorney can assist you in maximizing your settlement and help you navigate through the legal world.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF 18-WHEELER ACCIDENT INJURIES?
Truck accidents are traumatic events that can cause physical and psychological injuries. You should assess your physical and mental well-being immediately after the accident. Continue to do so in the following weeks. Truck accidents are highly likely to cause more severe physical damage to you compared to car crashes, so it is extremely important for you to visit a doctor as soon as possible to tend to those injuries and regularly monitor them throughout healing.
Even minor accidents can cause serious injuries. Some injuries, such as whiplash, may not cause pain or other symptoms immediately.
There are too many possible injuries from a truck accident to list; however, the following are some of the most common injuries caused by big truck crashes:
Cuts, Scrapes, and Bruises
A truck accident can — and often does — cause cuts, scrapes, and bruises of varying levels of severity. They can be caused by contact with items such as the seatbelt, airbag, or armrest, or by flying items in the vehicle. Cuts and scrapes are visible immediately, while bruises may take some time to develop.
Broken or Fractured Bones
The trauma and impact of truck accidents can cause broken bones. The most common bones to break or fracture in a truck accident are neck bones, vertebrae, femur, collarbone, pelvis, ankle bones, and rib bones. The most common sign of a fracture or break is pain in the area. Other signs and symptoms include swelling or bruising, deformity, or inability to use the body part, such as being unable to walk in the case of a femur or ankle break.
Headaches are pains in the head or face area. They can range greatly in severity and type; for example, they may be mild and feel like head pressure or could feel like stabbing pain so severe it causes nausea. Headaches after a truck accident may be a sign of additional injuries, such as whiplash or concussion.
Whiplash is a neck injury that is caused by the head moving forward and then backward rapidly — in other words, whiplike movement of the head. Neck pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms but not the only ones. Whiplash can manifest itself in different ways, some of which are surprising. Other symptoms include loss of neck range of motion, headaches, arm tingling or numbness, blurry vision, memory problems, and ringing in the ears. Whiplash can take several days or more to begin showing signs or symptoms.
A concussion is a brain injury that occurs when your brain hits your skull. Concussions are severe injuries that can cause serious short- and long-term injuries, including death. You do not have to hit your head to get a concussion. The sharp back-and-forth movement of your head during a truck accident can be enough to cause a concussion. Concussion signs and symptoms after a truck accident include headaches, ringing in the ears, nausea, blurry vision, slurred speech, dizziness, confusion, light, and noise sensitivity, change in sleeping patterns, pale skin, convulsions, and dilated pupils.
Neck and Back Injuries
The neck and back are two commonly injured regions in vehicle accidents. There are countless types of head and back injuries that can occur. Common injuries include cuts and scrapes, soft-tissue injuries, disc injuries, fractures, mechanical pain, spondylolisthesis (a slipped vertebra), spinal stenosis, and spinal cord injuries. Neck and back injuries can range from minor to debilitating. Imaging, such as x-rays and MRIs, and evaluation by a doctor are often required to properly diagnose the cause of neck and/or back pain after a truck accident. It is common for multiple injuries, such as a disc injury and spinal stenosis, to occur that, combined, cause neck and back issues.
The trauma of a truck accident can increase the likelihood of a blood clot forming. A blood clot is a clump of blood. The dangerous kind forms inside a person’s veins. Blood clots can travel through the body and cut off circulation to vital organs, causing a stroke or heart attack. They are very dangerous, particularly if untreated. Signs and symptoms of a blood clot include bloody cough; lightheadedness; difficulty breathing; chest pain; rapid heartbeat; radiating shoulder pain; numbness or weakness in the face; difficulty speaking or understanding; vision changes; and swelling, redness, or pain in an arm or leg.
Vehicle accidents can cause internal bleeding — bleeding on the inside of the body. Internal bleeding can occur in the chest, abdomen, or head, and flow into muscles or joints. Because it is on the inside, internal bleeding is not typically visible without medical tools. Signs and symptoms of internal bleeding include chest pain, shortness of breath; severe pain in the abdomen, head, or chest; vomiting; diarrhea; blood in the stool; acute vision issues; low blood pressure; dizziness; weakness; and fainting.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is not just something military personnel suffers from — anyone can get it. PTSD is a psychological disorder that develops following a traumatic event of any type. It is common for people to develop after a truck accident. Some of the numerous signs and symptoms of PTSD are flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, mood swings, behavior changes, suicidal thoughts, sleep disruption, and avoidance. We recommend psychiatrist consultation since symptoms of PTSD vary.
DETERMINING LIABILITY IN A HOUSTON TRUCK ACCIDENT
In Texas, you must prove that another party was responsible for your accident to obtain compensation. This can be a complicated task as truck companies tend to be unforthcoming in admitting liability for damages. However, an expert 18-wheeler accident attorney can help you file a claim against one or more of the following parties:
- Truck Drivers: 18-wheeler drivers can break traffic laws and cause accidents. They can be found guilty of negligent acts such as drunk driving, distracted driving, or aggressive driving. When proven, these offenses can make them liable for accident damages.
- Truck Manufacturers: An 18-wheeler accident can be caused by a manufacturing or design flaw. In such cases, you can file a claim or lawsuit against the truck manufacturer for failing to ensure the truck is free of defects or malfunctioning parts.
- Truck Company: Truck companies are required to hire qualified drivers, supervise them, discourage unsafe behavior, and perform drug or alcohol tests on them. They are also expected to maintain the trucks in a safe condition. Failure to observe this could make them liable for damages.
- Third Parties: The safe operation and upkeep of an 18-wheeler truck depend on many people. These third parties can be held responsible for an accident caused by a failure to perform their duties. For instance, a mechanic can be sued for improper inspection, maintenance, or repair. Other potentially liable parties include cargo loading crews and independent contractors.
The more parties responsible for your accident, the higher your compensation amount. You may be able to recover damages from many of the parties involved. This is why you should always hire an attorney to examine your case and determine possible liable parties.
SHOULD YOU HIRE A TRUCK ACCIDENT ATTORNEY IN HOUSTON?
Accidents involving 18-wheeler trucks usually cause a lot of loss and damage to a person; they are more complex and higher risk accidents compared to car crashes. Damaged property costs and medical bills can be high, and an experienced attorney will help find resolutions to those issues that arise. Trucking companies are known not to play fair, therefore having a team of experienced lawyers on your side will help you have the best outcome.
Being in a major accident involving an 18-wheeler truck is already a traumatic and tremendously stressful event for someone to go through, a trusted lawyer will ease the process of progressing through a legal battle so you would not have to stress anymore. Hiring an attorney will help you by advocating for your best interests and holding big truck companies accountable. The following are some of the key reasons to hire a personal injury attorney to represent you after an accident:
Trusted Advice to Help You Make Decisions
Using an attorney will help you better understand your case and your options, which will help you make better decisions. For example, an attorney can:
- Explain the applicable insurance and truck accident law to you, so you understand your rights and obligations.
- Help you decide whether to accept a claim settlement because they can tell you whether the amount offered is fair.
- Help you decide whether you need to file a lawsuit based on their experience with other truck accident cases.
- Give you a general assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your case to help you decide whether to go to trial.
No Upfront Costs
When you think of attorneys, you probably think of lots of money coming out of your pocket. In some cases, such as divorces, that is certainly the case. But truck accident cases are different. Most vehicle accident attorneys, including our law firm, Husain Law + Associates, P.C., represent clients in 18-wheeler truck accident cases on a contingency fee basis.
In a contingency fee case, the client does not pay any legal fees upfront. If and when the case resolves in the client’s favor through settlement or lawsuit, the law firm that represented the client gets paid out of those proceeds. If the case is unsuccessful, the client does not owe any attorney fees. These types of arrangements allow clients to pursue their legal remedies when they otherwise would not be able to afford to.
Attorneys Know and Understand Trucking Laws
A good attorney will use their expansive knowledge of truck laws to help navigate your case. Because all commercial truck drivers and their companies are required to comply with federal and state-level laws, anyone violating these laws may be held accountable for their actions.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) are a set of standards, rules, and regulations established and enforced due to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 in an effort to keep our roads safe by providing certain guidelines for commercial trucking
companies and their drivers must follow. Some of the set FMCSR regulations include:
- Requiring everyone who operates a commercial truck to obtain a valid CDL driver’s license. The company is required to investigate the driver’s employment history and driving record.
- Requiring drivers to undergo drug and alcohol testing before a driver is hired, after the driver has been involved in an accident involving an injury or fatality, and whenever the company suspects the driver is intoxicated.
- Limiting the number of consecutive hours a driver can work in order to reduce the chances of them developing driver fatigue.
These are just a few of the regulations posed by the FMCSR. Aside from these regulations, all truck drivers are required to comply with Texas state laws when they are driving through Texas. Some examples of traffic violations according to Texas state and local laws include speeding above the allowed speed limit, running red lights, and tailgating. Attorneys will use their knowledge of FMCSR regulations and Texas state and local laws and apply them to your claim.
Insurance Companies Are in it for Themselves
Many people assume their insurance company will just handle their case for them. Unfortunately, insurance companies are notorious for taking actions that are in their best interests — not yours — including low-ball offers that are less than your claim is worth or refusing to pay a claim they should. Big trucking companies are also known to low-ball offers towards others impacted by their truck accidents.
Experienced Houston accident attorneys are very familiar with common insurance bad faith tactics. Attorneys serve as your adviser and advocate, protecting you against bad behavior by yours and other involved parties’ insurance companies. For example, if an offer is unreasonably low, your attorney will likely advise you not to accept it. They will work to get you an offer that will fully compensate you and can tell you whether you can take action against the insurance company for their wrongful behavior. Many people are surprised when they learn that Texas law allows you to recover some compensation as long as you weren’t more than 49% percent responsible for the accident. Hence, even if the crash was partially your fault, there is a chance to receive at least some compensation for your damages and losses.
Other Parties Might Blame You
Even if you think you were clearly the victim of a truck accident, other parties might see it differently and could accuse you of causing the accident. Determining who is liable in a case can involve complex legal and factual issues involving accident reconstruction, case law, and proof of causation. Your attorney will have the knowledge and resources, such as expert contacts, to defend you against allegations by opposing parties.
Medical Cost Management
If you are injured in a truck accident, you will have medical bills from the care and treatment immediately after and on an ongoing basis until you reach your maximum medical recovery.
If another driver was at fault, they are responsible for these costs, and accident attorneys will keep them accountable. However, they generally do not pay the expenses immediately, and you are responsible until they do. Your health care coverage might cover some of the costs, but in many cases, there are still thousands of dollars in medical bills left for you to pay.
Our Houston car accident attorney can help prevent medical bills from causing your financial setback or ruining your credit in a few ways. We can help you sort through what is often a tangled web to figure out who is responsible for the payments. Then, we can help negotiate with medical providers to hold off on collection efforts until your lawsuit is settled, and possibly get bill amounts reduced so that less money comes out of your settlement payment.
TYPES OF TRUCKING ACCIDENTS
Jackknife Truck Accidents
Jackknife accidents occur when truck drivers are going too fast to stop safely and the trailer rotates around to the side of the cab. This can cause multi-vehicle accidents, traffic jams, and hours of cleanup.
Side-swipe Truck Accidents
Sides-wipe accidents can result in serious bodily injury and even death. These occur when vehicles collide length-wise, typically when trying to pass each other.
Rollover Truck Accidents
It’s crucial to understand how dangerous trucks can be if they are at risk of rolling over. Trucks traveling at high speeds, carrying unbalanced loads, or taking turns too quickly can result in the trailer rolling over. These are some of the most common types of truck accidents.
Underride Truck Accidents
Many may not know what an underride accident is. This happens when smaller vehicles collide with a truck and end up underneath the trailer. These can result in horrible injuries and in some cases, death.
SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION
If you or someone you know has been in a truck accident in Houston, you probably want to know more than just general information about 18-wheeler accidents; you want to know how it applies to your situation. Our team of experienced, passionate attorneys is here for that. Contact us online or call 713-800-1200 to set up a free initial consultation to discuss your truck accident and potential legal claims.
Some questions you may want to prepare for your initial consultation are:
- Do you or your firm have experience in going to trial when needed?
- Will you be personally handling my case?
- What is your firm’s experience in handling these types of truck accident cases?
- Can you explain the process of filing my case and how we will work together?
- If the case does not succeed, will I have to pay any fees or costs?
Mr. Husain is a very well-prepared and aggressive trial attorney. The insurance refused to be fair with me. However, Mr. Husain made sure I received everything I deserved for my injuries. I highly recommend him and his firm.
Truck Accident FAQs
In Houston, we see large commercial trucks throughout our commute everywhere we go. Therefore, it is a common occurrence for people to drive near these large trucks on highways and other areas. Although you can not correct the negligence of another driver or party, there are measures you can take to be a safe driver and stay safe to avoid collisions with these large trucks. Some tips on how to stay safe while driving and sharing the road with other large commercial trucks include:
- Not cutting off a large truck or suddenly braking in front of them. 18-wheelers take a longer time to stop due to their heavy weight, so suddenly braking in front of them puts you at risk for getting rear-ended by them.
- Passing by trucks quickly to avoid being in their blind spots. Some trucks have large blind spots and being in these spots can put you at risk of getting hit by the truck.
- Staying away from any unusual driving seen from a large truck-like swerving. Call law enforcement to report the unusual driving. The driver can be experiencing medical issues, falling asleep, intoxication, or something else which may eventually cause them to hurt someone else or themselves.
- Always avoid distracted driving. It is common for truck drivers to make quick lane changes on the road and if you are not paying attention to them, you risk getting into an accident.
It is always unfortunate whenever accidents occur. We want everyone to do all they can to avoid ever being in an accident and following the few tips above puts you at lesser risk of getting into these dangerous crashes.
Texas has a two-year statute of limitations. Courts follow these statutes closely and rarely hear cases if the incident goes over the two years allowed by the statute. If you decide to hire an attorney to file a claim, you must do so without going over the permitted time.
Most of these cases are settled out of court. Attorneys strive to negotiate with the other parties involved in the claim in order to reach an agreement that compensates you fairly. In the case where the other parties are not willing to negotiate or admit fault, your attorney may represent you in the court of law to advocate for your best interest. This may cause you to testify in court. We know being put on trial can be a nerve-wracking situation. Your attorney will try to make the process as comfortable and easy as possible for you.
You must prove that you can hold one or more parties liable for the crash in order to obtain compensation for truck accident losses. Truck companies usually try to avoid admitting liability, however, a good attorney will make sure to hold each party responsible for the damages of their actions. Parties that can be defendants in truck accident claims include truck drivers, trucking companies, truck manufacturers, or other parties.:
- Truck drivers may be found liable if their mistake causes accidents, for example, distractedly driving the truck and causing a crash.
- Trucking companies may be held liable for truck accident damages if they act negligently. An example of a trucking company acting negligently is if the company hires an unqualified driver.
- Truck manufacturers may be held accountable if parts of a truck are defective or malfunction and cause an accident. An example of a part of a truck that can malfunction and cause an accident is the brakes or wheels.
- Other parties may also be found liable if they compromised the safety or upkeeping of a truck. An example of this is a mechanic repairing a truck incorrectly, causing the truck to crash.
Many insurance companies offer quick settlements to avoid large payouts. This is because trucking companies and truck repairs are so high cost, trucking companies are usually incentivized to offer you the lowest payout. These payouts seem enticing to a vulnerable person facing unprecedented costs such as medical bills. These payouts come even quicker if the insurance company knows their policyholder was at fault. Although it might be tempting to take the settlement offer, consider the possibility that your claim may be worth much more than what the insurance company is offering you. In order to avoid losing the compensation you deserve, you can speak to an experienced attorney who is familiar with these settlements so they can give you the best advice.
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