Semi-truck accidents are considered one of the most horrifying types of crashes. Why? Because even when these trucks travel at speeds as low as 10 miles per hour, a collision can result in catastrophic injuries to all involved.
Victims who survive these deadly crashes are not only left with excruciating pain, severe injuries, and skyrocketing medical expenses, but many of them also face significant uncertainty regarding their futures. In this post, our experienced truck accident lawyers dive into the common causes of semi-truck accidents, what to do if you’re involved in an accident, and the settlement you might receive if you make a personal injury claim.
The Most Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents
Semi-truck accidents can occur for numerous reasons. They may be the driver’s fault or out of a driver’s control — for example, if another driver on the road makes a mistake or if a truck hasn’t been inspected and has defective parts. However, in almost all cases, semi-truck accidents are entirely preventable.
Semi-truck drivers are often under tight deadlines to reach their destinations, make deliveries, and then be back on the road again, and it can lead to drivers going faster than is appropriate.
Speeding in any vehicle is dangerous, but it can be particularly disastrous when a semi-truck is involved.
Semi-trucks require more time to stop than other motor vehicles. A loaded truck weighing 80 thousand pounds and traveling at 65 miles per hour in ideal conditions takes 525 feet — almost the length of two football fields — to stop. Even if the truck driver hits the breaks, it may not be enough for them to stop in time and avoid a collision.
Speeding semi-trucks can also indirectly cause accidents. If a car driver sees an 18-wheeler fast approaching them from behind, they’re likely to swerve off the road to get out of the way — often onto another lane swarming with traffic.
Distracted Driving and Fatigue
Distractions are everywhere, and many semi-truck drivers are on the road for long hours. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces regulations that govern the maximum number of hours a driver should be on the road, boredom can set in. A driver might be tempted to check their phone, eat or drink, or tune into the radio.
It only takes a moment while a driver takes their eyes off the road for an accident to happen. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is responsible for an average of 920 thousand total accidents per year.
Likewise, driver fatigue is a serious issue. Trucking is a high-pressure job, with many companies relying on drivers to arrive on time. Long days and demanding schedules combined with poor-quality sleep on the road result in many drivers feeling tired and being slower to react to traffic.
Improperly Loaded Cargo
In Texas, commercial truck drivers must abide by specific state regulations that dictate a truck’s height, weight, and speed. If a semi-truck has a load even the slightest bit too heavy, it can compromise a driver’s control of the vehicle or cause the truck to tip over, resulting in catastrophic damage. Drivers may also be carrying hazardous materials that could easily ignite or release toxic fumes if the truck is compromised.
Driving under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Driving under the influence is always dangerous, but studies show that it’s more common in truck drivers than you might think.
Recent data reveals an overall prevalence of drug consumption of 27.6% among truck drivers, with amphetamine use particularly high at 21.3%. Stimulants like amphetamines and cocaine naturally stimulate drivers to keep them awake during long drives, but such substances delay cognitive function and can impair driving.
But it’s not just illicit substances that can pose a threat and cause accidents — certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs, such as opioids, can make drivers drowsy and reduce reaction times.
Inadequate Inspections and Maintenance
Maintaining a fleet of semi-trucks can get expensive. If a vehicle isn’t road-worthy, it might burden another driver with additional deliveries, result in some deliveries not being made at all, and lead to steep repair costs. But by law, trucking companies are required to regularly inspect and maintain vehicles to ensure they’re safe, both for drivers and others on the road.
Although a mechanical failure may not be the driver’s fault, it can often be prevented from causing an accident if spotted early. Common issues include brake failures and tire blowouts, which can cause a truck driver to become a passenger unable to control their vehicle. Tire defects ultimately account for approximately 30% of all truck-related accidents.
Lack of Training and Safety Programs
Any individual with a license can’t legally drive a semi-truck. Truckers must undergo a rigorous application process and training to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Even then, drivers are only qualified to operate a specific class of vehicle, as designated by their license.
But holding credentials doesn’t necessarily mean a driver is qualified. Some semi-truck drivers manage to hide bad habits that would exclude them or even sneak around the strict requirements and evade critical training. Others might be qualified to drive single-vehicle trucks but not a loaded semi-truck plus a towed vehicle, for example.
When a driver isn’t properly qualified, whether through a lack of training or because they don’t adhere to safety regulations, they’re far more likely to cause a semi-truck accident.
Bad Weather Conditions
Bad weather is a common occurrence on the road. High winds, snowstorms, and heavy rain can impact visibility and make conditions tricky to navigate, even for experienced drivers. However, the difference is that qualified truckers are trained to drive safely in poor weather conditions. Those who aren’t — or who neglect to drive at a slower pace to prevent skidding, jackknifing, and hydroplaning — put themselves and others at significant risk of being involved in an accident.
Who Is Responsible for My Injuries Following a Semi-Truck Accident?
Many people assume that semi-truck accidents are similar to automobile accidents in terms of liability, meaning that one of the drivers is responsible. However, if you are injured in a semi-truck accident, several parties may share liability for the collision.
These parties include:
- The semi-truck driver: The truck driver may be at fault for the accident if their negligence caused the crash. This could be due to any one or multiple of the causes of semi-truck accidents listed above, such as driving while intoxicated, distractions, or falling asleep.
- The trucking company: A trucking company may face responsibility for an accident if the business violates any state or federal laws, such as requiring the driver to be on the road for longer than what is permitted. The company may also have negligently hired a driver — for instance, if they knew the driver had a history of driving problems. The company may also be liable under the respondeat superior theory — when a truck driver is an employee and acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident.
- The manufacturer: When a semi-truck accident results from a defective truck or truck part (such as a poorly designed trailer hitch), the manufacturer will be held responsible.
- The cargo company: If cargo is not secured properly or a load is too heavy, the cargo company will face liability for any resulting accident and injuries.
As you can see, it is not always clear who is responsible for a semi-truck accident. In some cases, there may be more than one defendant, while in other situations, both the victim and the truck driver may share responsibility.
What Should I Do If I Am Involved in a Semi-Truck Accident?
Accidents often lead to chaos and confusion, which is why it is so important to take specific actions following a semi-truck accident.
The following guidelines will not only help keep you safe but also protect your legal rights.
You should call 911 immediately following a semi-truck accident. The responding police officers will provide you with necessary emergency medical help and investigate the accident, indicating what happened in their police reports. These reports can provide you with vital information if you decide to pursue a claim.
Even if you think you only suffered minor injuries, you should always get checked out by a medical professional as quickly as possible. Some injuries, such as concussions, may not present immediately but can have a lasting impact on your health. Even if you do not pursue a claim until later, having medical reports from the accident will provide valuable evidence for your case. This will be especially relevant if the insurance company or defense decides to argue that your injuries result from a superseding event and not the trucking accident.
Investigate the Scene
If it is safe to do so, start taking pictures and videos of the crash. Include photos of your visible injuries, the semi-truck and any other vehicles involved, any road hazards, skid marks on the road, traffic signs near the accident, and the weather conditions at the time of the accident.
Take down Driver Information
Ensure you get contact information for all other involved drivers, including their names, contact information, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and insurance company information. Also, try to write down or photograph any distinct markings on the truck that may indicate what caused the accident.
Collect Witness Information
If any witnesses were present at the accident scene, get their names and phone numbers. Their statements or photographs may provide you with crucial evidence when you are trying to prove fault.
Contact a Skilled Truck Accident Lawyer
Do not wait too long to contact a truck accident attorney following your semi-truck accident. Critical evidence, such as GPS data, the truck’s black box data, and driver’s logs, tend to go missing following a crash, and it is vital information that can help you succeed in your lawsuit. Your attorney can get to work right away, gathering this type of evidence before it is too late.
What if the Insurance Company Wants a Statement?
Typically, one of the first things that will happen after a semi-truck accident is an insurance company will send an adjuster to take a statement from you. Many mistakenly think that insurance companies want to help injured parties, but the opposite is true. They want to make money, and they will use this opportunity to try to get you to admit fault or say something that can help them deny your claim or reduce the amount they owe you.
Before you give any statement to an insurance company, speak with a skilled truck accident attorney with experience with semi-truck crashes.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Semi-Truck Accident Cases?
The Texas statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is two years from the date of the accident. This means that injured individuals will likely be barred from pursuing any further legal action if they do not file their claims within this period. However, depending on the facts of the accident, the statute of limitations may prove shorter or longer than two years.
That is why it is critical that you promptly speak with a Texas personal injury lawyer about your case. They can help you figure out if your case is viable and how much time you have to file. Generally, you do not want to wait too long to file a claim, as there is a higher chance of evidence getting lost, witnesses not being able to testify, and memories fading over time.
What Compensation Will I Recover in a Semi-Truck Accident Settlement?
Semi-truck accidents often result in devastating injuries. These types of cases will likely involve substantial compensation. According to Texas laws, if you have been injured in an accident, you are entitled to the following damages, depending on the circumstances of your accident:
These are quantifiable damages to compensate you for any monetary losses you suffer because of your accident.
Economic damages include:
- Medical costs and bills (including past and future expenses)
- Lost wages (including past and future wages)
- Lost earning capacity
- Household services expenses
- Rehabilitative costs
- Medical devices, such as costs for a wheelchair
- At-home care expenses
- Personal property expenses
- Other out-of-pocket expenses.
These subjective damages are more difficult to quantify because they can’t be measured in the same way as out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills. These include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of reputation.
Texas law also allows for punitive damages, awarded when a defendant acts with gross negligence or actual malice. In these situations, the court may decide to punish the defendant to deter others from committing the same act in the future. For instance, a court may award punitive damages when a semi-truck driver causes an accident while intoxicated.
What Happens if I Lost a Loved One in a Semi-Truck Accident?
Unfortunately, due to the sheer size and weight of semi-trucks, accidents involving these vehicles have a higher fatality rate than other motor vehicles. If your family member died in such an accident, you might be able to file a wrongful death claim.
When a wrongful death occurs, the decedent’s family is entitled to compensation. However, there are specific regulations and requirements that claimants first must meet. This is why you should speak with a knowledgeable truck accident attorney who can determine whether you qualify to file a wrongful death claim.
Why Do You Need an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Helping You after a Semi-Truck Accident?
Semi-truck accidents are complicated and extremely detail-oriented, and they require an in-depth understanding of trucking laws.
When you retain an experienced truck accident attorney, they can help by:
- Conducting a thorough investigation into the accident, gathering vital evidence, interviewing relevant witnesses, and going after critical reports
- Determining all the liable parties, which can help ensure that you pursue maximum compensation before the statute of limitations expires
- Analyzing your case and determining the best course of action to help you seek compensation
- Promptly filing the required motions and legal documents
- Handling the negotiation process and ensuring your case is treated with fairness and respect
- Calling in experts to help prove liability and damages, including accident recreationists, engineers, and doctors.
Semi-truck accidents often involve complex circumstances, multiple defendants, and high-powered insurance companies, so it’s vital to retain a personal injury attorney if you or a loved one has been injured. They will help determine your eligibility to file a claim, develop a strong legal case, and set you on the path toward financial recovery.
Don’t try to seek justice alone. Contact an experienced Texas truck accident attorney today to discuss the details of your case, gain a better understanding of truck accident law, and determine your best options moving forward.
Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501