Everything You Need to Know about Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Tractor Trailer Accident Lawyer in McAllen Texas

There’s little doubt that our day-to-day lives revolve around the goods that tractor-trailers transport. Roughly 70% of American resources are transported via truck or tractor-trailer at some point in the supply chain, and more than 5% of full-time jobs in this country are related to trucking.

Most of us don’t realize, though, that our safety often depends on tractor-trailer truck drivers operating their vehicles responsibly. These vast trucks fill American roadways, and a tractor-trailer accident can cause serious damage and injury.

What Are Tractor-Trailers?

Tractor-trailers are large vehicles used to transport heavy loads across the country. While rare, some tractor-trailers have 16 wheels, with the majority having 18 wheels. You may hear these trucks referred to as 16 or 18-wheelers, respectively.

Tractor-trailers constitute two distinct parts. The first is a front segment, which pulls the second piece — a truck trailer — behind.

Tractors are trucks, usually specifically designed and constructed to haul semi-trailers. Most tractors have five wheels (with the spare wheel mounted above the rear axles).

Semi-trailers are truck trailers hauled by tractors. A semi-trailer supports its rears with its wheels. The fifth wheel is usually mounted to the tractor to support its front end.

The tractor segment of a tractor-trailer also contains the cab. The cab — like in other vehicles — is the space in the truck where the driver and any other vehicle occupants can sit and maneuver the vehicle.

Tractor-Trailer Driver Fatigue

Tractor-trailers weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. These large vehicles pose an immense risk to other people on the road, and unfortunately, a tractor-trailer driver’s fatigue can lead to catastrophe.

Tractor-trailer drivers in America work long hours. Many even underreport their work so that they can continue to drive and meet goals — more on that later. In the US, federal guidelines dictate how long and often tractor-trailer drivers are permitted to operate their vehicles, but these regulations don’t always prevent accidents. Most truck drivers are still on the road for a long time, often driving hundreds of miles per shift.

Hours of Service Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created Hours of Service (HOS) regulations to improve safety for tractor-trailer drivers and those around them.

The HOS regulations include the following provisions:

  • Tractor-trailer drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours following a 10-hour break.
  • Tractor-trailer drivers must not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after returning to duty (following an off-duty period of 10 hours).
  • Tractor-trailer drivers may only drive if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of their last off-duty or sleeper-berth period (the period needs to be a minimum of 30 minutes).
  • Tractor-trailer drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.

The HOS regulations are meant to reduce truck driver fatigue, but as we said, many truck drivers do not adhere to these regulations. It’s common to drive near a tractor-trailer being operated by someone who has worked more than these regulations allow.

Tractor-trailer drivers often don’t do this maliciously, though — they’re just trying to do their jobs as best and efficiently as possible and are often under pressure to meet tight deadlines.

No matter why tractor-trailer drivers operate their vehicles fatigued, the fact remains that they do.

A study from the Journal of Public Health Policy (which involved more than 1,000 tractor-trailer drivers) sheds some light on the situation:

  • 75% of tractor-trailer drivers interviewed said they violated hours-of-service rules.
  • Two-thirds of respondents said they regularly drive more than the weekly maximum hours allowed.
  • Two-thirds of respondents also said that they under-report their driving hours in logbooks.

Truck drivers who work fatigued don’t just put themselves in danger — they put everyone else on the road at risk.

Much data points to the fact that tired tractor-trailer drivers are very dangerous:

Negligent Tractor-Trailer Drivers

Tractor-trailer drivers are often negligent in the operation of their vehicles. It’s the root of many truck accidents that happen every year.

Signs that point to truck driver negligence include:

  • Minimal truck driving experience
  • Failing to obey traffic laws
  • Failing to keep the tractor and/or the trailer in safe, working condition
  • Driving too long without breaks.

Other Frequent Causes of Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Why do tractor-trailer accidents happen?

Large truck accidents are caused by more factors than just these, but some of the most common causes include:

  • Poor truck maintenance: Everyone on the road must maintain their vehicle — even if it’s a bicycle! Tractor-trailers are no exception. These large trucks need even more stringent maintenance to help keep them safe and operational. Many tractor-trailer accidents each year are caused by improper truck maintenance. With many fleets comprising hundreds of vehicles — some include thousands — it can be difficult to keep up with adequate maintenance, but it’s no excuse.
  • Improper cargo loading: Sometimes, workers improperly load the cargo onto a tractor-trailer. These huge trucks can weigh as many as 80,000 pounds when they’re fully loaded, so the weight requires even distribution under cargo securement rules. Improperly loaded tractor-trailers can tip over, spill into roadways, and cause disaster during crashes.
  • Tractor-trailer driver error: Many roadway accidents occur because of driver error. If someone fails to pay attention behind the wheel or drives under the influence, they may cause an accident. Tractor-trailer drivers can make these same mistakes, and sometimes, the same mistakes are even more deadly since large trucks are so heavy and dangerous.

Tractor-trailer accidents also occur for other reasons. While less common, some accidents happen due to poor road conditions or inclement weather. It may surprise you that in some of these instances (especially those involving poor road conditions), you might pursue compensation from a liable party. Bumpy and problematic roads, for example, may mean the governmental entity that’s responsible for their maintenance faces liability.

Common Injuries Sustained in Tractor-Trailer Accidents

When someone is injured in a tractor-trailer accident, the results often vary. Many people sustain severe injuries in a tractor-trailer crash, and some may face permanent disability. Others receive minor bruising and lacerations.

Remember, regardless of the extent of your injuries, seeking medical and legal support is important. A medical professional can help confirm your well-being and treat your injuries. A lawyer or attorney can protect your legal rights and help you pursue compensation from the at-fault party.

People who are hurt in tractor-trailer accidents may sustain injuries including:

How Negligent Hiring and Training Can Lead to Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Some transportation companies fail to hire safe drivers. Some also (or instead) fail to train their drivers safely. Both of these practices are dangerous enough to cause accidents on their own. Together, unsafe drivers and poor training make for a disastrous scenario.

If one of these drivers instigates a tractor-trailer accident and causes harm, the transportation company that hired and trained the driver may face responsibility for what happened. Negligent hiring practices are taken very seriously in the eyes of the law.

Some examples of negligent hiring practices include:

How to Know if You Have a Tractor-Trailer Accident Claim

There’s no way to know for sure that you have a tractor-trailer accident claim until you successfully bring the claim. However, a lawyer can help you determine whether you should pursue a claim.

You can ask a tractor-trailer accident lawyer about your circumstances and your claim’s validity.

It’s important never to assume that you don’t have a claim. If you were involved in a commercial truck accident, you already meet the primary requirement to file a truck accident claim. Your accident also doesn’t need to have caused severe damage or loss for your claim to be valid.

Who Is Liable for a Tractor-Trailer Accident?

Many people and parties can be liable for a tractor-trailer accident.

Examples of commonly liable parties in tractor-trailer crashes include:

  • Truck drivers
  • Trucking companies (or their parent companies)
  • Truck part manufacturers
  • Commercial truck owners
  • Third-party maintenance and service companies
  • Motor vehicle occupants involved in the crash in separate vehicles
  • Auto insurance companies.

A truck accident lawyer can help you determine who is liable for your accident. Truck part manufacturers, for example, may face liability if they fail to produce safe parts. A maintenance service that provides inadequate maintenance may also face liability.

Should I Hire a Tractor-Trailer Accident Lawyer?

Retaining an attorney to handle your tractor-trailer accident has several advantages. One of the primary reasons to work with a lawyer is that they can help investigate your case. Gathering evidence and bringing a claim while you’re trying to recover from potentially life-altering injuries can be stressful. A personal injury lawyer can help you by:

  • Launching an investigation into the accident scene, the tractor-trailer involved, your vehicle, and logbooks from the trucker (as well as the transportation company’s records).
  • Working with industry experts who can help with your case, such as medical professionals, transportation experts, and mechanics.
  • Working with accident reconstructionists to help recreate accidents and determine liability.
  • Gathering eyewitness reports as evidence to support your claim.

No matter what you do, the trucking company associated with your tractor-trailer accident will also launch an investigation into the crash. Working with a lawyer will prevent you from falling behind and help keep your legal options open.

What Damages Can a Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorney Help You Recover?

After an accident, you will likely incur medical expenses and need to have time off work. As part of a tractor-trailer accident claim, you can recover these costs and additional compensation for pain and suffering and the overall impact of your injuries on your life.

Previous and Current Medical Expenses Incurred Due to the Accident

If you were injured in a tractor-trailer accident, you likely have medical expenses that mount quickly, especially if you have severe injuries that require surgery and rehabilitation. You have the right to pursue damages to account for these expenses. Medical expenses include emergency transport from the scene of an accident, therapies, surgeries, custom medical equipment, and more.

Projected Medical Bills Caused by the Accident

Many people know that they can pursue compensation for their medical bills after a truck accident. Still, not as many people are aware that they can also recover compensation for projected medical bills stemming from your accident. If someone caused an accident requiring you to pay medical bills well into the future, you should also seek compensation for these expenses.

Lost Wages

Some tractor-trailer accidents cause victims to miss time from work. If you’ve lost wages after an accident, you can work with a qualified lawyer to pursue compensation for those lost wages.

Diminished Earning Capacity

Unfortunately, an accident can do more than take someone’s wages out of the picture for days, weeks, or months. Severe injuries may permanently alter an individual’s ability to earn an income after a tractor-trailer accident. There are special damages available for cases like these.

Mental Anguish

Nobody deserves to suffer emotionally or mentally, but these feelings are common after truck accidents. Tractor-trailer crash survivors can pursue compensation for the mental anguish they experience due to their injuries.

Did a tractor-trailer accident injure you? Our personal injury lawyers in Texas can help you get the compensation and justice you deserve. Contact our truck accident lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio today for a free, no-obligation case review and find out if you have a claim.

Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501

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