Understanding Texas Truck Accident Lawsuits
In the emotional time after an accident, the complex nature of a truck accident case often overwhelms the victims. Our experienced Texas truck accident lawyers will fight to get you and your family maximum compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and more.
At Liggett Law Group, our attorneys have more than 25 years of experience assisting injury victims and their families and we have secured multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements for our clients.
COMMERCIAL TRUCK ACCIDENT INVESTIGATIONS
One of the most important factors in winning a truck accident lawsuit in Texas is starting a thorough investigation as soon as possible after the crash. In our first steps of a truck accident investigation, our attorneys will fully observe the scene of the accident, collecting and cataloging all relevant and important evidence. Everything from photos of skid marks and vehicle damage to security videos will be collected and evaluated to help reconstruct the accident. Witnesses of the accident will also be interviewed.
Additional evidence that must be collected includes information about the truck and its driver, such as:
- Dispatch records
- Data recorders
- Hours of service logs
- Maintenance logs
- Vehicle inspection reports
- Weight reports
- Driver employment application and employment history
- Records of prior collisions
- Records of prior traffic violations
- Trucking company court records
- Trucking company safety records
- Truck driver’s criminal record
- Truck driver’s safety record
Truck drivers and trucking companies are governed by strict state and federal regulations. Our investigation will need to answer any related questions, including How much time the driver was behind the wheel? What had he or she been consuming? What type of cargo is the driver certified to haul?
Black boxes are typically known for their importance in airplane investigations, but our lawyers know that many big rigs are fitted with similar devices. They record information about the truck’s recent activity that can be critical in an accident investigation, from sudden braking to gear shifting and sudden changes in velocity.
If the truck was outfitted with a GPS device, we can reconstruct the vehicle’s location at any given time and use that information to determine its rate of speed. This is extremely useful in determining whether speed was a contributing factor in the crash.
It is not uncommon for crucial documents – such as maintenance records, driver logs, and black box data – to be “lost” or “accidentally destroyed.” Trucking companies may try to get the vehicle away from the accident scene quickly to repair vehicle damage and obscure evidence that may point to mechanical problems, defects, driver error, or poor maintenance.
To prevent this, our attorneys act quickly to send a preservation letter to the involved parties. This document informs the other parties that you intend to file a claim and instructs them to preserve all evidence. Failing to preserve this evidence after the letter is received can constitute a criminal offense. Our truck accident attorneys have the resources and experience to ensure that the evidence supporting your case is properly collected, preserved, and assessed.
DETERMING FAULT IN A TRUCK ACCIDENT
Truck accidents often leave victims with large medical bills, long-term physical and emotional trauma, and an inability to return to work. This is why it is so important to correctly determine who is responsible for the accident and identify all possible defendants so we can hold them accountable through civil litigation.
Determining liability in a truck accident case is often complicated because multiple parties may be at fault. Potential defendants in a truck accident lawsuit can include:
- The truck driver
- A trucking company
- The truck owner
- A vehicle service company
- The company that loaded the cargo for transport
- Another third party
Truck Driver Error
In our experience, one of the primary causes of 18-wheeler accidents is truck driver error. Driver negligence can come in many forms, the most common of which include:
- Driving aggressively
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Failing to signal when turning or making lane changes
- Driving while fatigued
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving while distracted (including talking or texting on a cell phone)
- Failing to adhere to traffic laws
- Braking suddenly
- Failing to secure loads properly
- Failing to attach the trailer properly
- Overloading the truck
- Failing to keep the truck maintained
Truckers are often paid based on how many loads they deliver. Completing routes faster means more money, which can be an incentive to speed and engage in other aggressive driving measures.
Addiction to controlled substances is another common issue for truckers. Overloading on caffeine, drinking while driving, and the use of prescription, over-the-counter, and illegal drugs can help a truck driver work longer and faster or just break up the boredom and loneliness of the road. Substance abuse can slow a driver’s reaction time, diminished reflexes, and alter perception while driving.
Fatigue can have similar effects when a truck driver is behind the wheel. While regulations set guidelines for the maximum amount of time drivers can operate a big rig, it’s not uncommon for companies to encourage drivers to push these limits to maximize profits, or for the drivers themselves to do so to increase their pay.
It is a trucking company’s obligation to perform a thorough employment screening before hiring a driver. Background checks should be conducted and certification and training should be checked.
The companies that employ truck drivers are also responsible for creating and maintaining a culture of safety. When companies put profit margins ahead of safety and place unreasonable demands for productivity on their drivers, it puts others on the road at risk.
These companies must ensure their drivers are operating within the state and federal regulations that govern the trucking industry, including time behind the wheel and the type and size of a cargo load. Pushing drivers to “doctor” their logbooks to haul more loads or encouraging overloaded hauls is sadly not an uncommon practice.
Not having proper inspection and maintenance protocols for these massive vehicles can also have deadly results. A trucking company can and should be found negligent when its practices lead to injury and wrongful death.
In some cases, the company that employs the driver also owns the rig. This is not always the case, though. There may be two different owners – one for the truck’s cab and one for the trailer.
The party that owns the truck, in part or whole, has a responsibility to ensure it is properly inspected and maintained. If those duties aren’t fulfilled, then the truck owner may also be held liable in a truck accident claim.
In some truck accidents, it is not driver error or company negligence that caused the accident, but defective machinery or hazardous roadways. Other times, truck accidents are caused by other drivers.
While a thorough investigation is a key to a successful truck accident injury claim, it’s not the only important factor. To be successful, a truck accident attorney must be able to successfully negotiate on behalf of their client and be willing to go to court if necessary.